Jane Fonda said her mother’s suicide, when the actress was in her preteen years, left her wanting to help people.
“My mother was actually abused as a child and killed herself when I was 12, and that is just for starters,” Fonda told FOX 411’s Pop Tarts column. “I have seen it up close, what abuse can do to people.”
That’s why recently the “Monster-in-Law” star has gotten involved with the One Billion Rising project, a global initiative aimed at combating rape.
The cause’s latest event, a Zumba dance celebration meant to empower women, tapped into the Fonda’s love for aerobics.
“Women everywhere are dancing and rising, it is the diversity of this which has really made a difference,” she said. “So many things have happened that we all have read about like the rape of a woman in India (which led to the victim’s death) – so many things where we have to say, ‘enough.’ We are going to develop an international force that will stop the violence.”
Fonda stressed that it’s the little things we can all do which really make the difference in putting a dent in the worldwide epidemic of abuse.
“If a child tells you they have been molested or approached by a perpetrator or pedophile, believe them. Believe the child and go to authorities even if it means you (speak out against) someone who is a member of your family,” she continued. “And fight for legislation that can help protect women. In too many places police and officials say that domestic abuse is a personal issue but it is not, we have to get legislation that helps end physical and sexual abuse.”
Fonda is also a strong advocate of celebrities using their star status to bring attention to issues afflicting our world.
“We are in a unique position, we are given so many benefits being celebrities,” she said. “We can bring attention and throw light to the dark corners where evil is happening and a lot of that evil is being directed towards women.”
And at 75, the prominent Hollywood personality still has the power to turn heads not only with what she says, but how she looks. Fonda stunned in a form-fitting bright yellow dress at the Academy Awards over the weekend, landing her on many best dressed lists. However, her anti-aging secret has nothing to do with dedicating oneself to “Jane Fonda Workout” home videos.
“We started One Billion Rising this morning at a park in West Hollywood and I noticed how many really old women and some old men had gathered. I noticed they had that spark in their eye that people have when they are involved and committed,” she said. “Forget about the physical thing, that can come and go, but you have to keep that spark inside. Staying curious and involved and up on issues, that’s what keeps you young.”
And love her or hate her, there is little doubt Fonda has already succeeded in what she wants her lasting legacy to be.
“I made a difference,” she added. “Whatever time I had, I made a difference.”
Danielle Jones-Wesley contributed to this report