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Meryl Streep reflects on history of violence: 'I do know something about real terror'

Meryl Streep gave a stirring speech at the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2017 International Press Freedom Awards on Wednesday night in which she shared her own history with violence.

The Oscar-winning actress spoke at length about the bravery of female journalists amid a "poisonous" time for the press.

"I revere the people who do this because I am not a naturally brave person," Streep said. "I think standing up in front of 1,000 people that are smarter than me and presuming to tell them anything is nauseating and I would rather be home watching Rachel [Maddow], frankly."

But, Streep went on to point out, she also knew a little about real terror. 

"The two times in my life when I was threatened and dealt with real, physical violence, I learned something about life that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. I was lucky, because my instincts served me well," she said.

In the first instance, Streep recalled playing dead until the blows stopped, as if watching herself from 50 feet above.

In the other, Streep intervened in someone else's abuse, going after the perpetrator. 

"I just went completely nuts," she said. "Ask Cher, she was there."

"But I was changed by these events on a cellular level," Streep said. "Because women do know something particular about coming to the danger place. We come to it disadvantaged through the many millennia preceding our present moment, and because of our vulnerability we anticipate danger, we expect it.

"We're hyper alert to it, we have the 360 on the whole room. We have measurably more acute hearing, we have a better sense of smell, we notice details — what people are wearing, their tics and peculiarities."

These skills, she said, serve journalists and actors well.

It was not the first time Streep has publicly lauded the press. During the Golden Globes ceremony in January, Streep memorably called for people to support CPJ, leading to a huge bump in donations for the organization. 

Streep is also in journalism mode after the conclusion of filming on Steven Spielberg's "The Post," which depicts the story of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham and editor Ben Bradlee (played by Tom Hanks) as they attempt to publish the Pentagon Papers.

"The Post" will be released Dec. 22.

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