'Men Take Things': How to Get Away with Murder Addresses Sexual Abuse

Viola Davis already acts her ass off on How to Get Away with Murder, so it's a smart move pairing her with Cicely Tyson, who masterfully played Annalise Keating's mom on Thursday night's How to Get Away with Murder. The most intense moment in the episode was a scene where they addressed rape and molestation.


In a blunt discussion with her mom, who refers to Annalise as "Anna Mae," Annalise talks about being sexually abused by her Uncle Clyde. Upset that her molestation seemingly went ignored, Annalise screams at her mom, "Did you know what he did to me?!"

After Annalise has an outburst, mom runs down the history of sexual abuse in their family, including the reverend who raped her and the teacher who raped Annalise's aunt.

"I told you, Men take things! They've been taking things from women since the beginning of time," says her mother. "Ain't no reason to talk about it and get all messy everywhere. Certainly no reason to go to a head shrink or for help."

Annalise notes that her self-worth was permanently scarred. "I learned, Anna Mae belonged in a hand-me-down box," she says. I'd watch an entire movie between these two.

There's so much history, pain and depth in this one cinematic scene that it's a lot to tackle and wrap your head around, but the show conveyed it powerfully. Almost makes you forget there's another storyline happening.

Later on, while combing Annalise's hair—another powerful image in itself; Annalise has been makeup-less with a fro this whole time—mom explains how she found out that Annalise had been abused by Uncle Clyde. "He came out of your room and I knew what he had done," she says.


Mom ended up taking care of it in her own way, by burning the house down while the uncle was drunk asleep on the couch.



I think that was really powerful and really sad. When Annalise's mom made that statement that men take things and there's no reason to talk about it, it seemed like she was excusing their behavior. Like a "boys will be boys" kind of thing. And it's easy to see why that would hurt Annalise so bad and cause her so much anguish over the years.

But at the end when she talks about how she "took care of it", you see that what she really meant and how she really feels is that there's no point in talking about it because no one will care. She felt that no one will care and that nothing will change so much that she was willing to burn down her own house to fix the problem. She thought that was her only option, and that is really sad.