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Anika Noni Rose takes on sexual assault: 'No one has the right to touch me'

Dana Oliver
Beauty Director
Actress Anika Noni Rose has opened up about experiencing a sexual assault on a plane in 2017. (Photo: Nathan Johnson)

Anika Noni Rose is a sexual assault victim, but she will not be silenced.

The Tony Award-winning actress and singer stopped by SiriusXM’s “Make It Plain with Mark Thompson” show Thursday and revealed that she had been assaulted by a stranger on a plane.

“I have never spoken of this, but I will say this out loud now: I was assaulted on a plane last year,” Rose said. “And I haven’t been able to get this person’s name; they won’t give me [his] name.”

The actress, who is the voice behind Disney’s first African-American princess, Tiana, says she was asleep before the flight took off. “That engine started and I’m like a baby in the car. I’m out. He ruined it. Ruined it,” she said. Once she told the crew what had occurred, the plane returned to the airport and the man was removed from the aircraft.

Rose admitted that she initially struggled with taking immediate action against her assailant, as she didn’t want to make the airplane turn around and inconvenience the passengers. However, she said, she “made a report right then with the FBI, and they dropped it.” Even though Rose has not been able to get the name of the man from the airline and the “police did nothing,” she hasn’t given up on seeking justice or encouraging other sexual assault victims from doing so.

This dialogue surrounding sexual assault also carries over into Rose’s role as the president of a fictional historically black college on BET’s The Quad. Her character, Dr. Eva Fletcher, finds herself in a difficult position when her daughter (who is a student at the school) is allegedly raped by the star football player. She wants to protect her child but also remain “neutral” to get all the facts and respond effectively.

Rose spoke with Yahoo Lifestyle exclusively on Wednesday after her live interview on BUILD Series, where she spoke candidly about how this storyline hits so “close to home.”

“I think it’s really important for us to tear the lid off what is sexual violence on campus,” she says. “Because so many women and men suffer silently because of that, and they’re walking around decomposing every day.”

Instead of saving face, Rose believes the focus should be on saving souls.  “The more we coddle the perpetrators and ignore the victim, the more we ruin our society, the more we hurt our society, the more we set ourselves up for another president who is a sexual offender and a disgusting beast,” she said.

Rose reflected on hearing a showrunner for The Quad elaborate on why they specifically chose the “party girl” over the “innocent one” for this episode, and she agreed that it was a crucial detail to illustrate that anyone can be a victim of sexual assault.

“It doesn’t matter if I walk out of this [BUILD Series] building naked, no one has the right to touch me.”

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, help is available 24/7 through the National Sexual Assault Hotline. Call 800-656-HOPE or visit online.rainn.org.

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