Angelina Jolie, actor, activist and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Special Envoy, is fighting to crush the stigma that survivors of sexual violence must face. And she’s not afraid to have the hard discussions at home first with her six children. She and her ex, Brad Pitt, share Maddox, 16, Pax, 14, Zahara, 13, Shiloh, 12, and twins Vivienne and Knox, 10.
Jolie spoke with Marie Claire recently and said she believes any conversation about sexual assault and violence must include dialogue with men and boys.
“I don’t just speak to my daughters. I speak to them with their brothers,” she said. “That is maybe the first most important distinction. This is not just a problem for women, and the solution is working with women and men. And girls and boys. Not only are men and boys also victims of these crimes, but those who are perpetrating these crimes need to have other men remind them what it really is to be a man. A man with a healthy relationship to women. And all societies need to be clear about not tolerating this behavior.”
Jolie has been working tirelessly on her global initiative, Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict, since 2012 with former U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague.
“Sexual violence in conflict is still a taboo subject,” Jolie explained. “Female and male survivors, and children born of this rape, are often treated as if they are the ones who have done something wrong. They are rejected and stigmatized, while their attackers go unpunished. That’s what has to change, and breaking the taboo is part of that.”
Jolie also believes the movie industry can make a difference by taking responsibility for how it portrays sexual violence (or opts not to) in films. She recently met with the Countess of Wessex at the “PSVI Film Festival: Fighting Stigma through Film” reception at the British Film Institute.
“I do think film has the power to make us live inside another person’s experience in a way that is unique and different. But it is also a really important way of opening up a conversation, and saying that yes, these things happen or happened in our country and we need to address them,” Jolie stated in her Marie Claire interview. “Too often after a war, sexual violence is the subject no one wants to talk about, that gets swept under the carpet. And if no one talks about it, there is no justice and no healing and no closure.”
We commend Jolie for taking a powerful stand on a very difficult subject — both in the world at large, and at home.