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Pamela Anderson Reveals Childhood Abuse

Pamela Anderson reveals childhood sexual abuse on Psychology Today.

When you think Pamela Anderson, what image comes to mind? A slow motion run on the beach rocking a one piece red swimsuit in "Baywatch?" Partying all night with Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee? Playboy model? Nude model for controversial PETA photos? How about chilhood abuse survivor?

Surprised? Yep, me too. Anderson, one of the most famous blondes ever, is well known for her sexuality and over-sized implants. As a rising starlet, she reasoned that increasing her chest to full DDs would garner more attention and lead to better acting gigs. She was right. For the internationally popular Baywatch (1992-1998) her cleavage-exposure was a defining role, catapulting her to Marilyn Monroe-like popularity.

Anderson has bared so much in the past there seemed to be little left uncovered until a recent revelation at the launch of her animal rights charity, The Pamela Anderson Foundation. She discussed a childhood that included molestation, rape and gang rape.This painful past, which Anderson had kept hidden for virtually her entire life, came as a surprise even to her closest and dearest friends.

Shattering stereotypes, Pamela wants everyone to know she had loving parents. Despite her father being an alcoholic and her mother working two jobs, they did their best to keep her safe. She says the first abuse (when she was 6) was by a female babysitter, and continued for four years. Then at age 12, a friend's older brother gave her a backgammon lesson, which led to a back massage, which led to rape. He was 25.

When Anderson was in 9th grade, she had her first boyfriend. He decided that, in her words, "it would be funny to gang rape me, with six of his friends. Needless to say, I had a hard time trusting humans. I just wanted off this Earth."

Anderson has kept all of this secret, even from her mother, who already carried the heavy burden of working two waitressing jobs and being married to an alcoholic husband. Anderson said that mom already cried frequently and that, "I couldn't break her heart any more than it was breaking." She adds that her mother once said, "Sometimes when you smile, it's not because you're happy. It's because you're strong." So she smiled, and as a coping mechanism, she turned to animals and nature. Animals became her only friends, and she "vowed to protect them and only them."

Crippling shame is often the price one pays when there is past abuse. Child sexual abuse is, by nature, very secretive. It can cause a child to radically change their view of who they are, and of the world around them. The feelings of shame causes the child to hide within themselves and to keep quiet. This, in turn, only reinforces the safety of being alone and trusting no one.

This alliance of silence and shame only fuels further negative thoughts that “I must be a bad person and I must have deserved this”. Many children who were sexually abused turn to animals for friendship, as Anderson did. Animals are non-judgmental companions and can greatly help those who need to heal after abuse.

Now, with her celebrity status, Anderson has chosen a path to help others as well as animals. Just by a superstar acknowledging that it happened to her, others who have suffered will know they are not alone. Childhood abuse is rampant. Consider that 42 million adults in the US were victims of childhood sexual abuse (1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men) before their 18th birthday!

Kudos to Pamela Anderson for bringing out her deep, dark secrets into the open. We may not want to hear it, but it needs to be said. Every child is at risk of sexual child abuse, despite age, gender, race, socioeconomic status or family makeup. Only by shining the light on the darkness of childhood abuse can we eventually make a difference.

Dale Archer, M.D., is a clinical psychiatrist and author of The New York Times bestseller, Better Than Normal: How What Makes You Different Can Make You Exceptional.

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