(JTA) — Jewish actress Natalie Portman told thousands of marchers at the Women’s March Los Angeles that she experienced “sexual terrorism” at the age of 13 following the release of her first movie.
She said her first fan letter after the release of “The Professional,” in which she played a young girl who befriended a hit man in hopes of avenging the murder of her parents, was from a man describing his “rape fantasy,” involving the young actress.
Portman, 36, said she rejected movie roles including a kissing scene, began to dress in an “elegant” style, and built a reputation as a “prudish, conservative, nerdy, serious” young woman “in an attempt to feel that my body was safe and that my voice would be listened to.”
“At 13 years old, the message from our culture was clear to me,” Portman, the first speaker of the afternoon, said. “I felt the need to cover my body and to inhibit my expression and my work in order to send my own message to the world that I’m someone worthy of safety and respect. The response to my expression, from small comments about my body to more threatening deliberate statements, served to control my behavior through an environment of sexual terrorism.”
In November, the Israeli-born actress was named the winner of the 2018 Genesis Prize, the so-called Jewish Nobel, and said the $1 million prize will go to programs that focus on advancing women’s equality.