Vanessa Williams has come forward to speak about molestation and its impact on young girls. It wasn’t a long testimonial, but its message is undeniable. Below is a summary of what she said on Oprah’s Master Class. At the bottom of the article is the video of her complete interview. It’s short (2 minutes) and makes so many valuable points.
Wednesday, July 16, 2014 | 3:04 PM
Vanessa Williams Opens Up About Being Molested As a Child
By Lauren Turner
Actress Vanessa Williams, 51, is opening up about being molested by an older girl.
In an appearance on Oprah’s Master Class, the former Miss America said her molestation by an older family friend, made her “more sexually promiscuous and more curious at a younger age than I should’ve been.”
The summer before fifth grade, Williams went to California with family for the first time. While there, she stayed with a family friend and was introduced to their then 18-year-old daughter. She described the girl as being “one of the cool girls” who “made you feel like you were a grown up.”
When the girl came into Williams’ room one right, what was once admiration, took a new turn. “She told me to lie down on the floor,” says Williams. “She took my bottoms of and she told me to be quiet, and she went down on me. And at 10 years old, I had no idea what it was, but I knew it felt good and I knew I shouldn’t be saying anything…I knew it felt good, but it was also something that I knew wasn’t supposed to be happening.”
This conflicted feeling stuck with Williams, long after that night. But because of family drama surrounding the death of her father’s brother, Williams thought it wasn’t the right time to say anything. Her molestation left her with years of shame and guilt.
“At that young age, having that happen to you, in your body, it awakens your sexuality at an age that it shouldn’t be awakened,” she said. “I think that had that not happened in my life, and I had an opportunity to have a normal courtship with a boyfriend at 16 or whatever, and have your normal first kiss, you know, there wouldn’t have been that shame that was kind of always haunting me.”
1. Sexual abuse is not only committed by adults.
2. Sexual abuse is not only a crime committed by men.
3. Sexual abuse creates sexuality in young children when they shouldn’t be sexually active.
4. Sexual abuse makes children become mature in ways they shouldn’t have to, including shouldering the burden of their abuse for the sake others.
The issue of belonging is something used by bullies at school, members of gangs, and pedophiles grooming their prey. It starts with little things: “If you want to be cool like me, you’ll smoke this/steal this/say this.” In Vanessa’s case, the 18 year old abuser introduced her to a world of free will and no consequences, smoking cigarettes and being adored by the in-crowd. By the time she came into Vanessa’s room, she had the 10 year old fawning all over her, eager to please and eager to be like her. She looked up to this older girl and didn’t know how to handle the heartbreak mixed with something her body told her felt good. She chose to remain silent while her mind tried to sort through the hurt and confusion. It’s grooming and it’s what predators do all the time. We are quick to recognize it and speak out about it when it comes to bullying in school now, but we still say nothing when it comes to sexual predation. It’s too uncomfortable, so we choose the safety of our bubble instead of protecting potential victims.
Had this been an 18 year old boy, there would be no question about the assault. Had this even been two adults, we would very quickly recognize that it was unwanted sex.
Pedophiles and sexual predators would have us believe that the pleasure she felt means children enjoy sex. Understand that these are the same people who believe (and have stated publicly in interviews and in court) that a screaming infant and crying child is having an orgasm, not in pain. For a 10 year old, yes, oral sex would have a feeling of pleasure to the body because it was not intrusive, but the mind has a right to be willing, and a 10 year old’s mind is never willing. Children become confused and afraid because while their body wanted it, their mind did not. They become ashamed and feel that their body’s response means they “asked for it.” Once an abuser has a child in turmoil over the first assault, they own their mind and body. They make them feel it was their fault and if they don’t let them do it again, they threaten that everyone will find out and blame the child.
Sexual abuse is never confined to an assault on the body. It is never restricted to only sexual chaos. A victim is suddenly burdened with what to do with what just happened. Very often, there are others the victim has to think about when deciding on whether or not to tell. Who will it hurt if they tell? Whose lives will the secret impact? Often times, adult rape victims are faced with this painfully difficult situation and must remain silent, at least for the time being. Imagine a child in such a situation. Imagine a child needing to tell but watching those around her dealing with other tragedies. Imagine being a child and choosing to bury your pain so others don’t have another burden to deal with. How fair is it for us to expect such maturity from a child? Such self-sacrifice from a child who just experienced a painful and terrifying event? And yet, children do it every day.
Child victims of sexual abuse, whether it be once or many times, will never be the same or have the kind of life “normal” people have. They will always feel as if it’s wrong to enjoy sex, will always feel as if they are sluts if they instigate sex, will always wonder what it might have been to experience their first time when THEY were ready and when THEY wanted to and with someone they loved. There will always be a void that occasionally fills itself with guilt, shame, regret, despair, and longing for what they will never have because it was stolen along with their childhood.
When you want to feel sorry for pedophiles, consider how much suffering they willingly and knowingly inflicted onto their victims who will never have the beautiful memories you have and will be forever haunted about their first time.
Sometimes, someone comes along who I can feel has had an exceptionally valuable life, one that can and may someday benefit this world. There was always a kind of light from her that touched something in me, and now I know it was because she is a survivor with a beautiful soul. She chose not to let her experience define her, learned from the mistakes it caused, and moved on from it all. Now, she is speaking up and speaking out for all of those who can’t. Never give up. Never let them win.