In an offending quote, Twilight saga star Kristen Stewart compared paparazzi photos of herself to images of a woman being raped. Almost immediately, everyone from fans to spokespeople for rape victims' advocacy organizations were publicly criticizing the actress.
"I really made an enormous mistake – clearly and obviously," Stewart, currently in Korea to promote the new installment of the Twilight series Eclipse, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "And I'm really sorry about my choice of words."
Stewart, 20, is not known as one to mince words. "I've made stupid remarks before, and I've always reasoned: 'Whatever. They can think what they want,' " she says.
But in this instance, the Los Angeles-born actress feels compelled to address the situation. " 'Violated' definitely would have been a better way of expressing the thought," she notes.
In fact, the issue of violence against women is one that has been close to Stewart since playing a victim of rape in the 2004 film Speak. She has done public service announcements for the advocacy group RAINN and for SOC.
The irony of the situation in which Stewart now finds herself is not lost on the actress. "People thinking that I'm insensitive about this subject rips my guts out. I made a big mistake."
On Friday, the spokeswoman for RAINN issued a statement saying, "We appreciate Kristen Stewart's sincere apology regarding these comments. RAINN looks forward to continuing our work with Kristen to raise awareness and ensure that all victims are connected with the care they deserve through the National Sexual Assault Hotlines."