Ashley Judd recently returned from a humanitarian trip to Ukraine, where she witnessed firsthand the affect war has had on women and girls in the country.
Judd, who traveled to the country as a Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N.’s Population Fund, visited the eastern regions of Ukraine from May 24 – 29, where she met with women and family survivors of gender-based violence.
“In Ukraine, I saw that the fact that you are a victim of violence is not your fault,” Judd tells PEOPLE in a statement. “You must not be ashamed of it; you deserve only respect for your fight against this problem. UNFPA’s teams are reaching out to women who are victims of violence, and telling them not to be silent about this phenomenon.”
She also attended a group training session for survivors of gender-based violence. “While girls and women always need to be able to prevent and address sex’s unrelated facsimile, gender-based violence, they especially need to, and cannot, as a refugees,” she explains.
“Gender-based violence, which is really about power and control, escalates in fragile settings. Girls and women endure surges in violations of our bodily integrity and sexual dignity. Human rights abuses abound, and I saw this in Ukraine.”
The actress visited a hospital in the war-torn area, where she met and interacted with newborn babies and hospital personnel.
“I am so glad to work with an agency whose mandate is to protect and empower the reproductive and sexual health of all, create a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe, and in which youth may achieve their full potential,” she says of working with the U.N.