Angelina Jolie Kicks Off Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict—Watch Her Moving Speech

"War zone rape is a crime that thrives on silence and denial," the UN special envoy says in London

By Zach Johnson Jun 10, 2014 2:49 PMTags

Angelina Jolie is speaking out for those who are afraid to do so themselves.

The Maleficent star, who is a UN special envoy, kicked off the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in London Tuesday. The 39-year-old Oscar winning-actress and mother of six is co-hosting the four-day conference with her frequent collaborator, William Hague, England's Foreign Secretary.

"It is a myth that rape is an inevitable part of conflict," Jolie said. "There is nothing inevitable about it. It is a weapon of war aimed at civilians. It is nothing to do with sex, everything to do with power. It is done to torture and humiliate innocent people and often very young children. I have met survivors from Afghanistan to Somalia and they are just like us, with one crucial difference: we live in safe countries with doctors we can go to when we are hurt, police we can turn to when we are wronged, and institutions that protect us. They live in refugee camps or bombed-out streets in areas where there is no law, no protection and not even the hope of justice. They struggle to keep their children safe, and if they admit to being raped, they are likely to face more violence and social rejection."

Yunus Kaymaz/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

"Other survivors live in countries where the war is over but the peace has brought no justice. And as an international community, we are responsible for that. We need to shatter that culture of impunity. And make justice the norm—not the exception—for these crimes," the humanitarian continued. "We need political will replicated across the world and we need to treat this subject as a priority. We need to see real commitment to go after the worst perpetrators, to fund proper protection for vulnerable people and to step in and help the worst affected countries. We need all armies, peacekeeping troops and police forces to have the prevention of sexual violence in conflict as part of their training."

"More than 100 countries will be represented at this summit, and we are asking them to take these measures, but we really do need your help," the Unbroken director said. "This whole subject has been taboo for far too long, war zone rape is a crime that thrives on silence and denial. The stigma harms survivors and causes feelings of shame and worthlessness, it feeds ignorance, such as the notion that rape has anything to do with normal sexual impulses, but most of all, it allows the rapist to get away with it. They feel above the law because the law rarely touches them and society tolerates them."

"As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, 'The destiny of human rights is in the hands of all of our citizens and all our communities.' And this evil will continue to ruin the lives of millions of people unless we make this summit a turning point—and we can. We can send a message across the world that there is no disgrace in being a survivor of sexual violence, that the shame is on the aggressor. We must work together in new and unprecedented ways across borders and religions bringing governments and people together and tackling the problem from every possible angle and by doing this we can end the use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war once and for all. We really can do it. So, thank you so much for joining us today, for joining us in his fight, and I wish us all a very productive summit."

The Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict took two years to organize.

Jolie, who wore a white Michael Kors blazer and skirt from the Spring 2014 collection, told reporters that she and Hague had discussed a woman they met in Bosnia, who was still too ashamed to tell her son she'd been raped. "This day is for her," Jolie said. "We believe it truly is a summit like no other."