04/06/2006 at 06:00 PM EDT
An emotional Teri Hatcher, speaking publicly about being a sexual abuse victim, said Thursday she planned to use the painful experience to become an outspoken advocate for other victims.
"It's the choice to not remain silent," she said, tears welling up, at a Beverly Hills press conference to announce the Women’s World Awards. "It's a choice to raise our voices in a strong way to say to perpetrators that we are not going to be silent anymore."
Also at the event was former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who runs the awards which honor women's achievements.
"Recently I had the honor, really, of being able to come forward and," Hatcher said then paused and began to cry, "…help raise awareness of some violence against women."
The 41-year-old Desperate Housewives star was referring to her recent interview with Vanity Fair in which she revealed that she'd been molested by an uncle between the ages of 5 and 9. That same uncle also allegedly abused a teenage girl who committed suicide in 2002.
Afraid that her uncle might avoid prosecution, Hatcher came forward after finding out about the case in newspaper. Santa Clara, Calif., Deputy District Attorney Chuck Gillingham told Vanity Fair that Hatcher's testimony helped save the case and eventually led to a guilty plea from Stone and a 14-year prison sentence.
The actress, who said during the press conference that many victims blame themselves for being abused, stopped at one point to compose herself, saying: "You’ll excuse me, this is the first time I’ve kind of gone to this personal place for myself."
Resuming, she added: "These experiences that we have in our lives, both personally and professionally, leave us with a choice: The choice to use our experiences to enlighten and empower and change people's lives, and that is the choice that I am getting behind."
Other past recipients of the Women's World Awards include Oprah Winfrey, Catherine Deneuve, Donatella Versace and Christiane Amanpour. This year's ceremony will be held Oct. 14 in New York.