In Honor Of Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Famous Women Who’ve Spoken Out About Their Abuse
It takes a strong woman to come forward and open up publicly about abuse and these famous women who are victims of rape are some of the most notable. As we begin Sexual Assault Awareness Month this April, we take a moment to recognize their courage as a reminder that victims don’t have to be silenced.
Gabrielle Union is used to discussing her personal life with the media. During an interview with ABC’s “The View,” Union revealed that she was raped at the age of 19. Working at a Payless shoe store, the “Being Mary Jane” star was attacked by an employee from another store. He also raped and robbed another woman before turning himself in and is now serving a 33-year sentence. Union, who never wanted to be labeled as a victim, has become an advocate for survivors of assault.
Last year Ashley Judd contemplated running for public office, but during a speech at George Washington University, instead of talking about politics, Judd spoke out about being a three-time rape survivor. In her memoir, the Kiss the Girls actress wrote about a painful time in her childhood when she was lured to an empty building by an old man who promised her a quarter for the pinball machine and instead raped her and during her speech Judd urged other survivors of rape and assault to not be silent. “We all have the courage to talk about it, because we’re as sick as our secrets and the shame keeps us in isolation.”
When she was just five years old, Teri Hatcher’s uncle began raping her and the abuse lasted for several years. However, the “Desperate Housewives” star only gathered the courage to come forward as an adult after she learned that her uncle also raped a 14-year-old who later committed suicide. Her statement about her experiences helped put her uncle away behind bars for 14 years.
Born in Bay City, Michigan, a 19-year-old Madonna moved to New York City to pursue her dreams of becoming a star. While most of her story since relocating has been well chronicled, Madonna recently revealed that she was raped during her first year in the Big Apple. In a cover essay story with Harper’s Bazaar, the “Like A Virgin” singer revealed she was dragged up to a rooftop of a building at knifepoint and raped. Determined to make it in New York, Madonna said, “It was hard and it was lonely, and I had to dare myself every day to keep going.”
Part of the reason Oprah Winfrey was able to become a talk show maven with millions of devoted daily viewers was her ability to relate to her guests and her audience. Always an open book herself, Winfrey has spoke about a traumatic time in her childhood where she was attacked. Just nine years old, “The Color Purple” star was raped by an older cousin. Winfrey revealed that the experience caused her to be promiscuous as a teen.
While many teenage girls lose their virginity to their high school sweethearts or childhood boyfriends, Pamela Anderson’s first time was non-consensual. The “Baywatch” bombshell revealed that she mentally blocked out the traumatic incident for most of her life and only recently told her mother well after she became an adult. “Looking back, it was awful,” Anderson said. “I felt like everyone knew that I had had sex, like it was tattooed on my forehead.”
School is supposed to be a safe haven for children where they can learn but for R&B singer Fantasia, she was anything but safe. The “When I See U” singer revealed another student inside of the school auditorium raped her in the ninth grade. When she went home to tell her parents, she was hurt even more by one of her parents’ reaction. Her mother comforted her and held her but her father had the opposite reaction. He said, “If you wouldn’t have been running around with those little dresses on it would have never happened.”
Singer/songwriter Fiona Apple went through a traumatic experience at the age of 12 that left her with emotional scars for years to come. On her way back from school one day, the “Fast As You Can” singer was followed into her New York City building by a strange man. After getting off of the elevator, the man came from out of the stairwell and raped her in the corridor. Because of this, Apple developed an eating disorder purposely slimming her body down, which she saw as “bait.”
Mackenzie Phillips came from folk music royalty. Her father John Phillips was the frontman for the Mamas & the Papas but instead of protecting his daughter from harm, he was the cause of it. During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the “One Day At A Time” star revealed that her late father raped her. As an adult, she confronted him by saying, “We have to talk about when you raped me.” To which he allegedly replied, “You mean when we made love?”
Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige was crowned the queen of hip-hop soul almost immediately after emerging in the music industry. Fans everywhere related to the pain and sorrow in the “Be Happy” singer’s voice. Blige has opened up about how she felt after being raped at just five years old by a friend of the family and how it affected her well into adulthood. “I remember feeling, literally right before it happened, I just could not believe that this person was going to do this to me,” Blige said. “That thing followed me all my life. The shame of thinking my molestation was my fault – it led me to believe I wasn’t worth anything.”
Anne Heche has opened up about her troubled childhood and the effects it had on her even in adulthood. Repeatedly raped by her own father as a toddler until she was 12 years old, Heche also contracted herpes. The “Six Days Seven Nights” star said her mother assumed it was a diaper rash and refused to take her to the doctor. However, Heche and her mother have been estranged from each other after she confronted her about the sexual abuse she experienced and her mother maintains that Heche is lying.
Fran Drescher is known for her distinctive laugh but in 1985, an incident that happened to her was certainly no laughing matter. Two men broke into her Los Angeles home. While one ransacked the place, the other one raped Drescher and a friend. Her then-husband Peter Jacobson was tied up, beaten and forced to watch the entire incident. “The Nanny” star said it took a long time for her to recover and even longer to open up about the rape to the public.
Maya Angelou is perhaps one of the greatest poets of our time but as a child, she survived such a traumatic incident that it left her mute. After her parents split, Angelou was sent to live with her father’s mother. During a visit back home, her mother’s boyfriend raped a seven-year-old Angelou. Her uncles took justice into their own hands and killed her attacker. Angelou remained mute for years.
Singer/songwriter Tori Amos began her career in music in the early 80’s. As with most artists, she drew upon on her past for song material. When she was 21-years-old, Amos performed at a Los Angeles bar and once done, she gave a lift to a patron who wanted a ride home. Instead he held out a knife and raped Amos. The experience was chronicled in her song “Me and Gun.”
Sheila E. grew up in a household filled with music. She often joined her father, who was a percussionist himself, on stage but not everything in her childhood was picture perfect. At the age of five years old, she was raped by a babysitter. Molested some years later, Sheila E. credits giving her heart to the Lord, which gave her the freedom to let go the burdens that she had been carrying around much of her life.