Angelina Jolie gives powerful speech about sexual abuse – and everyone needs to hear it

Angelina Jolie gives powerful speech about sexual abuse – and everyone needs to hear it

Angelina Jolie was one of the first women to come forward with her own story of sexual harassment from shamed movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Since then, many more have found the courage to speak up about their own encounters with Weinstein, as well as a number of other powerful figures in the industry.

For Jolie, the issue of sexual abuse is one she's extremely passionate about, and not just because it hits close to home. The 42-year-old has recently raised an important call-to-action on the same issue that affects parts of the world we don't hear about as much as Hollywood.

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In a powerful keynote speech she delivered at the United Nations Peacekeeping Defence Ministerial Summit in Vancouver in 2017, Jolie called on international conflict negotiators to combat sexual violence that happens so frequently around the world.

The actress is also a special envoy for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and has been speaking out about sexual violence for many years now, in 2014 pointing out how rape is a "weapon of war" done "to torture and to humiliate innocent people, and often very young children."

Appropriately, she didn't mention her own encounter with Weinstein during the speech – which happened in the late 90s when he made unwanted advances on her in a hotel room – but she did touch upon the matter within her field of work in Hollywood.

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"Sexual violence is everywhere – in the industry where I work, in business, in universities, in politics, in the military, and across the world."

Jolie said sexual abuse is "a critical obstacle to achieving women's equality and our full human rights" and suggested the belief that "this behavior is sexual" is one of the key reasons these crimes still occur.

"All too often, these kinds of crimes against women are laughed off, depicted as a minor offense by someone who cannot control themselves, as an illness, or as some kind of exaggerated sexual need. But a man who mistreats women is not oversexed. He is abusive."

She referenced the most "extreme form" of sexual abuse where it is used "as a weapon of war". In the Democratic Republic of Congo, she said, militia fighters raped children because they were told "that blood of virgins would grant them supernatural protection". She added that all female Rohingya refugees in Bangladeshi camps had either survived sexual violence or had witnessed it.

But Jolie also debunked another myth – that it is an issue impossible to resolve. Pointing to efforts from military leaders in recent years, she highlighted the efforts where the taboo issue has not only been addressed but where action has also been taken.

"Look at how hard it is in our own societies, the argument goes. How could we possibly prevent sexual violence in the extreme conditions of war?

"It is hard, but it is not impossible. We have the laws, the institutions, and the expertise in gathering evidence. We are able to identify perpetrators. What is missing is the political will."

After highlighting that sexual violence can be combatted with the cooperation of senior military officers, Jolie concluded her speech by emphasising that it is possible.

"I am determined to do everything I can to support your efforts," she said, before exiting the stage.