Ashley Judd

Actor and Activist

Ashley Judd is woman amongst women and a feminist amongst feminists, and she is humbled and grateful to be a part of World Without Exploitation. A global advocate for freedom from male sexual violence, she staunchly supports female agency and autonomy.

First molested by a man at age seven, Ashley immediately told two adults, who replied, “Oh, he’s a nice old man, that’s not what he meant.” Assaulted again, this time while in a store with her mom while in middle school, Ashley was then commercially sexually exploited at age 14 for two months while so-called “modeling" in Japan. Enabled by systems of government, capitalism, and patriarchy, she barely made it out of Tokyo.

Ashley was introduced to radical feminist scholarship at the University of Kentucky when she signed up for Women’s Studies courses. She caught fire by the power of her professors` example and unflinching courage. At her sorority house, the beloved Black cook, Barbara, became her mentor and taught her about intersectionality and Liberation Theology. Ashley became radicalized about sex and race and found the hill on which she was willing to die.  

Ashley went on to become a Golden Globe and Emmy-nominated actress. Her first movie, Ruby in Paradise, won the Sundance Film Festival award, and was very much a feminist film about a young woman leaving her closed Appalachian culture to find her agency, explore herself, and live independently. 

In 2002, Ashley began traveling the world with NGOs, visiting grassroots programs that focused on sexual and reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, malaria, safe drinking water, and more. She found herself on day one in brothels and realized that all public health crises at their root are bound with gender inequality and stem from male oppression and sexual violence. She doubled down on public feminism. 

Eventually, she traveled to 22 countries, visiting brothels, refugee camps, hospices, and slums. Her New York Times bestselling book, All That Is Bitter & Sweet, chronicles the sacred stories with which the vulnerable and resilient have entrusted her. 

In 2010, Ashley earned an MPA from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her paper, Gender Violence: Law and Social Justice, was awarded the Dean’s Scholar Award at Harvard Law School. She has been Leader in Residence at the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. 

Ashley is Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and she has traveled worldwide on behalf of the UNFPA, with upcoming trips to Slovenia, Ukraine, and the Sahel.

She serves on several boards, including the International Center for Research on Women, the Rape and Incest National Network, Demand Abolition, Apne Aap Worldwide and the Gloria Steinem Equality Fund to End Sex Trafficking. She is Ambassador for Culture Reframed, focusing on the public health crisis of pornography. 

Ashley is a public speaker and Op-Ed author, including her recent contribution to  The New York Times about her beloved mother's death by suicide and the need for privacy laws in such tragedies.  

She was Time magazine's Person of the Year in 2017 as one of the Silence Breakers, and in 2019, the United Nations honored her as Global Advocate of the Year.

In 2017, at the Women’s March in Washington, DC, she set America on fire with Nina Donovan's "Nasty Woman” spoken word poem. She was also fired from a major advertising job for quoting the president-elect in the poem while exercising her First Amendment speech rights. 

Ashley lives part of the year in the Congo, where her partner has a bonobo research camp. Bonobos, our closest living relatives, are matriarchal, egalitarian, and free from male sexual violence. They give her hope.