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Ashley Judd: Sexual Assault Survivors Have the ‘Birthright’ to Heal Themselves

Ashley Judd has never been hindered by fear — not in 1997 after she was sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein and not when she took the stage Saturday at Tribeca Film Festival’s Time’s Up Day of Conversation and Action.

The day was stacked with panels featuring women — actresses, activists, business leaders, and poets — who are paving the way toward equality in the workplace. Proceeds will go to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, an organization dedicated to providing legal and public relations assistance to victims of sexual misconduct. Since Jan. 1, over 2,500 people have contacted the fund, and more than 700 attorneys have signed up to help them.

“You should not have to choose between speaking out for a safe workplace or retaining your job,“ Marisa Tomei said of the Fund’s efforts.

With the wave of victims now breaking their silence, Judd recognizes that true closure goes beyond legal action. She sat down with Tarana Burke, founder of the Me Too movement, to discuss the power and importance of healing. “Self care isn’t selfish,” she said. “It’s self esteem.”

Judd was living proof of that mantra Saturday, harnessing her vulnerability to share a deeply personal letter she penned to survivors of sexual assault. “It was not our birthright to be sexually harassed or assaulted or raped based on social constructs of gender, biology, sex, identity, orientation, ethnicity, race, ability, or any intersection thereof,” she said. “Healing, damn it, is our birthright.”

The actress and activist acknowledged that there’s no one-size-fits-all healing process. For some, it’s speaking up and seeking justice against those who have wronged them; for others, it’s quieter but no less effective.

Judd added, “When we change ourselves, we change the world.”

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