By Hanna Flanagan
April 11, 2019
Alyssa Milano earned her big Hollywood break at 11 years old when she landed the role of Samantha Micelli in ABC’s Who’s the Boss?
She discovered her passion for activism just three years later at age 15.
The then-teen idol appeared on The Phil Donahue Show, alongside Ryan White, an Indiana native who contracted AIDS at age 13 through a contaminated blood transfusion. Milano shared an on-air experience with White during the talk show appearance that she says changed her life.
“Ryan White asked me if I would kiss him on TV to sort of erase the stigma around HIV/AIDS and prove that you couldn’t get it from casual contact,” Milano told PEOPLE at the 24th Annual Safe Horizon Champion Awards Gala on Tuesday night. “That moment changed my life because I realized what having a platform would enable me to do.”
In October 2017, Milano emerged as a champion of the nascent #MeToo movement with a viral tweet asking women who’d been sexually assaulted and harassed to reply, “Me too.” The actress has shared her story of being sexually assaulted at a concert when she was 19.
Safe Horizon — which provides assistance and services to abuse victims — presented the Charmed alum with the Voice of Empowerment Award, honoring her commitment to the cause.
As PEOPLE previously reported, Milano showed her support for Dr. Christine Blasey Ford — who gave an emotional testimony about her alleged sexual assault at the hands of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh at his October confirmation hearings — by sharing her own sexual abuse story in Senator Susan Collins’ office while protesting the nomination.
“I was in the Senate Hart Building,” Milano told PEOPLE. “I was with maybe 50 other survivors of sexual assault. They were sharing stories and I just decided to stand there and share my stories in solidarity with them.”
She posted a video to Twitter that captured the moment and detailed her own traumatic experience. In the clip, other Kavanaugh protesters showed their support for Milano and echoed her words.
Since the 2018 hearings, Milano has weighed in on other political topics, including the Robert Mueller report to Georgia’s “fetal heartbeat” abortion bill.
When asked about the possibility of a career in politics at the BlogHer Health Conference in January, Milano replied, “It’s something that I think about.”
“I don’t even know what trajectory looks like,” she continued. “Do I start on a state, local level? If anybody has any ideas, tweet me.”
Regardless of what her future holds, Milano made one thing clear during her Safe Horizon Champion Awards Gala acceptance speech: She’s not slowing down anytime soon.
“Until the 85 percent of Native American women who suffer physical or sexual violence in their lifetime are safe, I won’t stop fighting. Until we protect the more than 1 million black women who are victims of sexual violence every year, I won’t stop fighting. Until women around the world who are not safe from their intimate partners at home have a safe haven in our nation, I won’t stop fighting. Until my trans sisters can live safely at home and in public, I won’t stop fighting.”