Jada Pinkett Smith Takes on Cause of Sexual Assault After Family Incident
07/22/2014 AT 07:00 AM EDT
Pinkett Smith is speaking up for rape victims, a cause that nearly hit close to home for the actress, who revealed her niece was recently drugged, though fortunately not assaulted.
Appearing at Sunday's Fox TCA panel for the upcoming Caped Crusader origin series Gotham in Los Angeles, Pinkett Smith had first addressed the topic of sexual assault earlier this month after the hashtag #justiceforjada started trending following an incident in which a 16-year-old named Jada was drugged and raped.
"My niece was given a date rape drug that weekend," the actress, 42, told reporters at the Gotham panel. "She's 20 years old – thank God nothing happened because she was with some responsible guys that took care of her."
The actress explained, "She was safe because she was with a group of friends that realized – she said, 'Oh, my god, I can't feel my …, " and she started losing consciousness."
Taking the larger view, she said, "There is an epidemic going on out here in regards to the treatment of women. We have to figure out how we can empower people in different ways."
Pinkett Smith is already at work to empower and educate her 13-year-old daughter, Willow.
"I had my niece sit down with my daughter and a couple of her friends and tell her about that experience," Pinkett Smith said.
"It's one thing to sit with me as her mother: It's like 'Okay, Mom, yeah, I get that.' But when you have your 20-year-old cousin that comes in, and she's like, 'This is what happened,' and it was somebody you looked up to as well, it's like, 'Oh, man, this is really real.' "
Pinkett Smith expressed confidence in her daughter.
"I give her the opportunity to be empowered by having herself first, because when you allow a person to be an individual and you allow a person to have power within and have confidence with who they are, she'll never have to look in the eyes of a man and question whether it's a 'yes' or a 'no' – she's going to be very clear."
Reporting by NICOLE SANDS