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Actor and musician, Penn Badgley, took the stage on Saturday, October 20 to host Tahirih’s 7th Annual Houston Gala, an evening celebrating change makers and culture shifters: those dedicated to re-defining the rules, breaking down barriers, and shining light where it’s needed most. Acknowledging some of the roles he’s played in his twenty-year acting career, his most recent of which being an obsessive, compulsive stalker who feels removing people from his girlfriend’s life will keep the two of them together, Badgley calls into question which stories succeed, what roles people remember, and how audiences digest the different characters. His dream?

“To be part of a positive transformation in society, to foster the empowerment of women … to help shift cultural norms … to live to see the day when no one wants to watch a maniacal, manipulative dude onscreen, no matter how pronounced his cheekbones are, because … he would not represent the society we’re proud and grateful to live in.”

He recognized, however, that the world is simply not there yet. Sharing details of his visit to Tahirih’s Greater DC office earlier in the week to learn more about the mission of the organization, meet a number of Tahirih staff doing a wide range of work, and even speak with a former client turned board member, Badgley felt certain that Tahirih is part of the solution.

I was blown away by the power of this work, by the courage of the women Tahirih serves, and by the visible change that is taking place around the world. Within a few minutes of walking into Tahirih’s offices for the first time, I was in tears, and I felt it coming from the moment I passed the threshold. The aching, historic plight of women became clearer to me than ever. I want to honor and reflect upon the courage of women throughout the world – women in this audience, women and girls who come to Tahirih for help – whose very existence is a challenge to society.”

Later in the evening, Badgley introduced and welcomed Courageous Voice Honoree and former Tahirih client, Moly, to the stage to share her story, highlighting the work being done in the Houston area to support each woman and girl who comes to Tahirih’s doors seeking safety and justice.

“[Moly’s] refusal to blindly follow the script that was written for her and her strength to create her own path will undoubtedly have an inspiring effect on other women and girls who dream of a better future.”

Tahirih is truly grateful to have found a new friend and advocate in Badgley and look forward to a future of making change and shifting culture together.