Julianne Hough’s childhood trauma: “I was abused, mentally, physically…”

The lovely Julianne Hough covers the February edition of Cosmopolitan. From what little I’ve seen of the pictorial, Julianne looks pretty and fresh. She reminds me of Cameron Diaz here, because her enthusiasm shines through. Julianne usually looks so happy and nice. She’s promoting her new film with Josh Duhamel, Safe Haven, based on a book by Nicholas Sparks about a woman who escapes an abusive relationship. It’s out on February 14, and looks like the kind of predictable romance that Sparks is known for. That said, I would watch it on demand. I liked Dear John and The Lucky One and I enjoy a cheesy romance, I’ll admit it.

In Julianne’s Cosmo interview, she reveals that she was abused starting at the age of 10. She said that it took her years to speak up and leave. It sounds incredibly traumatic and sad, and it speaks to how resilient she is. She’s been in the spotlight for years and it must have taken her a lot of soul searching to decide to disclose this.

When Hough was just 10 years old, she thought up a very detailed set of goals to work on—and then set about meeting them. “By the time I was 18, I wanted to be a professional dancer: I happened to be on Dancing With the Stars. When I was 19, I wanted to be a singer: At that age, I had my first record out. I said by the time I’m 22, I wanted to be a movie star….”

Hough is 24 now, and she’s been working on those goals since she was a girl in South Jordan, Utah. All four grandparents and both parents were dancers, so Hough, the youngest of five kids, grew up performing with her Mormon family. Her parents divorced when she was 10. At the time, her brother Derek was studying dance at London’s prestigious Italia Conti Academy of the Arts, and when a slot opened up, she joined him. She ended up winning a five-year scholarship, training relentlessly, and rarely seeing or talking to her family. She became a world-class dancer…but at a great cost.

“I was 10 years old looking like I was 28, being a very sensual dancer,” she says. A precociously seductive smile became her public mask—and she rarely took it off. “I was a tormented little kid who had to put on this sexy facade because that was my job and my life. But my heart was the same, and I was this innocent little girl. I wanted so much love.”

With her parents an ocean away, Hough says the adults around her took advantage. “While I was in London, I was abused, mentally, physically, everything,” she says. In what way or by whom exactly, she declines to say: “I’m a very forgiving person, and I don’t want to hurt anybody. What’s past is past.” A ripple of tension tightens a face that is always so relaxed and bright, like a sheet being pulled tight. It got worse, she says, “when I started hitting puberty, when I started becoming a woman and stopped being a little girl.”

“You can kind of hear the quiver in my voice….” She pauses but only a beat. She’s going to nail this move, even if her ankle is broken and her feet blistered. “This is the farthest I’ve ever gotten into my London situation,” she says. “I was told if I ever went back to the United States, three things were going to happen. One: I was going to amount to nothing. Two: I was going to work at Whataburger. And three: I was going to end up a slut. So, it was like, I can’t go back. I have to be this person.”

[From Cosmopolitan]

It’s hard to believe she’s just 24 years old. For some reason I thought she was a very young-looking 30. (Maybe because she’s been with Seacrest for a while and he’s around my age.) These excerpts make me curious about whom Julianne is referring to. As the article states, Julianne’s parents sent her and her older brother, Derek, to London without them when Julianne was 10. They were trained there in professional dance by Mark Ballas’ parents, Corky and Shirley. She also went to a performing arts school.

Radar Online has some additional quotes from the interview, where Julianne talks about escaping her abuser. As to why she never told her parents, she said “I’d rather take the pressure on myself. To this day, I don’t want to be a burden. I didn’t talk unless I was spoken to. I would look over to see if it was okay if I answered. I was perfect – perfect to a fault.”

Julianne’s inspiration to leave came after she saw an inspiring concert performance. “I was like, f**k that. I know who I am, and I don’t want to be this person who I am becoming. I left two days later and never went back.

I hope that her abuser feels the shame and scrutiny that he deserves, and I’ll leave it at that.

Some images are from Cosmopolitan via Celebrity-Gossip. Other photos are from the LA premiere of Breaking Dawn: Part 2 on 11-11-12. Credit: WENN.com

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87 Responses to “Julianne Hough’s childhood trauma: “I was abused, mentally, physically…””

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  1. Ella says:

    Whataburger is a southern US fast food chain. I doubt someone in London was telling her that’s where she would end up.

    • lookythere says:

      Well, that discredits her entire story then doesn’t it?

      • Ella says:

        Not by any means, but I don’t like when people embellish the small details especially in abuse stories. You get to a point where it’s like, that was false, that isn’t true, and that was completely made up, and add in that she’s promoting something, and it just makes her claim dubious. I actually like Julianne, and if she has overcome abuse I am very proud of her for that, but I really don’t like it when celebrities reveal their own past abuse strictly as a promo tool.

      • afrotastic says:

        Well said Gine (up thread).

    • Chordy says:

      When a person opens up about abuse, the best reaction is to relentlessly try to poke holes in their story, so well done today, ma’am. This is why people are practically tripping over themselves to come out of the abuse closet.

      • Ella says:

        I’m sorry but if there was abuse, doesn’t it seem more than a little crappy of Julianne to have not reported it , possibly preventing the abuse of others, and leaving the past in the past until it was time to promote a movie? That’s all I’m getting at. I have the utmost sympathy and respect for actual abuse survivors but I doubt people who trot out abuse stories at the perfect time to promote their movie, clothing line, perfume, etc.

      • Gine says:

        Right, Ella, because CHILDREN who are being abused have so much agency, totally understand what’s happening to them when it happens, and aren’t manipulated and shamed into keeping things secret by their abusers (who are often the people in charge of their care and capable of controlling who else has access to them). Besides, would anyone have believed her, or would they have immediately looked for reasons to discredit her, like you have? It sounds like her abusers were higher-ups who probably had a lot of power in the dance community.

        Honestly, what is the harm in simply believing her? She’s talking about it now because she’s giving interviews now. Reactions like yours are what’s really damaging to abuse survivors–it makes them afraid to speak up because they know they’ll be the ones scrutinized.

      • Chordy says:

        Ella, the responsibility for abuse is NEVER on the victim, especially not the abuse of other victims. Clearly you are fortunate enough to never have experienced abuse causes, nor have you had any occasion to try to understand the subject. It is a sad testament to our victim-blaming culture when the first comment on this article tries to poke holes in her story and then blames her for the abuser’s possible further actions.

      • Ella says:

        So we should blindly believe every person who cries abuse or rape without any investigation? I’m sorry, but history has shown there are a lot of people who accuse someone of abuse or rape when no such act ever took place. People have been imprisoned and executed on false claims before, so excuse me if I think a little fact-checking is necessary.

        And don’t presume to tell me that I must never have been an abuse survivor or I wouldn’t think the way I do, because the facts might just surprise you.

      • Gine says:

        Ella, I might see your point if she had named names, but she didn’t. No one’s being falsely accused here because no one’s being accused, period. So again, what is the harm in believing her, especially if it might help other abuse survivors feel more comfortable talking about their experiences?

        I really wish people would stop acting like false accusations (which are statistically incredibly rare) are a bigger problem than abuse itself, which is rampant.

      • Eva, uk says:

        Perfectly said Gine and Chordy.

      • Faye says:

        Ella, don’t you think it’s more than a little hypocritical that you tell people here not to “presume” anything about you based on your comments, but it’s perfectly acceptable for you to call Julianne a liar and judge her because she’s making these comments during an interview?

        I’ve never been abused, but unfortunately, I live in a community where many cases of abuse related to several educators have come to light in recent years. One or two people tried to say something when they were kids, but were branded “liars” and “crazy” — literally sent into therapy — because the people they accused were so well-respected in the community. Maybe because of that culture, there were many, many more children who were too afraid to come forward.

        I’m not saying you should throw someone in jail right away on someone’s say-so. But we need to inculcate a culture were abuse victims feel safe coming forward, and where our first instinct isn’t to accuse them of lying. Especially when, in a majority of cases, they aren’t.

      • Jeanette says:

        @ Gine- I agree with what you’re saying except that false accusations are incredibly rare. Unfortunately, they’re not that rare. I know a girl who was abused but blamed someone else bc she was afraid to “out” the true culprit. She may have actually suffered abuse but so did the poor guy that had nothing to do with it.

      • Mitch Buchanan Rocks! says:

        @ Ella you’ve made this discussion worth reading – good posts:)

    • MsCatra says:

      @Ella: Maybe she was paraphrasing? Perhaps she was told some version of “you’ll be flipping burgers” and she filled in Whataburger, since it’s regionally popular?

      • gg says:

        That’s what I got out of it. Her paraphrasing of her story is not lost on me. The girl is clearly very nervous about the entire period of her life. Well done for her bravery.

      • Esmom says:

        That was exactly my take on her comments. And anyone who expects an abuse survivor’s story to be 100% clear and consistent isn’t taking into consideration all the messy emotions involved.

      • Ella says:

        To reiterate previous comments, I don’t expect there to be 100% clarity, but I do find it convenient that instead of reporting the abuse or filming a PSA to encourage the abused to get counseling, Julianne revealed it to Cosmo while she was promoting a movie. A few years ago when McKenzie Phillips accused her father of rape and incest and did the talk show circuit, she wasn’t doing it to help other survivors. She was promoting a book, and people were critical of her for that (rightfully so, IMO).

    • Zombie Nurse says:

      Whataburger is also a burger chain in London (or at least was when I was a kid), although it is unrelated to the chain found here in the South.

    • Michelle says:

      I’ve never been to a Whataburger but I have heard of it a long time ago. She may have been abused by someone who has traveled to the States, from the States or just knows what a Whataburger is.

      Your statement regarding Whataburger makes no sense.

    • Hot Cheeto says:

      Julianne’s teacher, Corky Ballas, is based in San Antonio and Houston, TX. Texas is the home of Whataburger. Just saying…

    • Katie says:

      Ella, I don’t know if there are any Whataburger food chains in London, but the article states that she was told by her abusers that if she left London and went back to the U.S., she would end up working at a Whataburger in the U.S. Learn how to read.

      • 44 says:

        Corky grew up in TX and is from there. He then moved to London and married Shirley. After many years he moved back to TX. His family is from there. He would be very familiar with the Burger place. do you research before you tell people to read.

  2. judyjudy says:

    I’m confused. Someone told her that she would end up a slut working st Whataburger and that’s physical and mental abuse? I guess I’ll reread the article because I don’t see an account of abuse. ???? It’s early…need more coffee…

  3. Gine says:

    She’s a terrible actress, but she does seem really nice. That’s very sad about the abuse. I wonder if part of the reason she stays in her “relationship” with Seacrest is because there’s less pressure.

    I have to admit, when I saw the preview for her new movie, I thought, “That looks so cheesy…I totally wanna see it.”

  4. Agnes says:

    Poor girl.

    Btw, what kind of parents send a 10 year old across an ocean on her own? Good god. Some people shouldn’t have children.

  5. Logan says:

    She never said it was a he kaiser. Wishing her all the best. Success as they say is the best revenge

  6. Kittykat says:

    Cant help but to like her….
    sorry for her past. But like everyone its what has made her who she is today. She comes off very down to earth and normal.

  7. Leah says:

    Every celeb has either been bullied or abused.

  8. Sloane Wyatt says:

    It’s very sad what Julianne went through, and then feeling she had to keep it all bottled up. I sincerely hope with time (probably lots of it) she can find a healthy & committed sexual partner for life. Therapy wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

  9. Faye says:

    I’m not surprised at this — she’s made veiled references in the past to going through things “that children shouldn’t have to deal with.” Plus, there was sort of a creepy feeling I got when seeing some of her child/adolescent performances on YouTube — they were so sexualized, almost. And while I know some of that is due to the nature of the Latin dances, it was still sort of ooky to see. Given an environment in which young kids are trained by adults and without parental supervision for years, sadly, that seems like a situation ripe for abuse by child abusers.

    I’m the first one to jump on celebs for pimping out their private lives, but I don’t that’s appropriate in this case. I have never been abused, thank God, but I can imagine those who have deal with it differently and in their own ways. Julianne has been doing press for years and has never mentioned this (except for the allusion cited above), so there’s no reason to suspect she’s doing this for publicity purposes. You hear about many, many abused children who are afraid to speak up for years, then finally feel compelled to do so as adults.

    While I don’t think we should just throw accused abusers into jail without proof, dismissing people who say they are abused out of hand seems really nasty, especially when so many kids are afraid to speak out for fear of being called liars.

  10. mln76 says:

    Wow I’ve never known anything about her other than being Seacrest’s ‘girlfriend’ DWTS and bad movies. But reading this interview made me feel so sad for her and also proud of her for speaking out about her childhood. As for anyone motivated to question or demean her story behavoir like that is why victims don’t speak out for years.

  11. Riana says:

    So much of her story makes me feel sad and pisses me off because that’s how the abuse of children works.

    I’m sorry her parents sent her across without them, as much as they wanted to support her the world is full of abusers who were going to prey on a child like that. Even if it is not sexually just the mere fact they can be horrible without any adult stopping them or any kind of repurcussions is all some monsters need to make a child’s life hell.

    I’m also sorry because I think that’s an issue for kids that develop early. A lot of men will try to press their luck, how you look and how you think can be vastly different. This goes both ways, it just sucks when as she said she’s a kid looking 20+ with people around who will view her sexually and try to manipulate that.

  12. shewolf says:

    I dont think she was saying “I was abused” as much as she was saying “I could have been a drug addicted street whore with no goals or education and felt sad for myself every single day of my life but I didnt. I made that choice when I was 10.” She’s proud of herself and she should be.I know very few people who accomplished their goals like that.

    • Belle says:

      “While I was in London, I was abused, mentally, physically, everything,”

      I think she was saying she was abused. The other things she mentions (ending up a nobody, slut, etc.) seem to be what someone ELSE told her would happen to her if she tried to leave.

  13. lucy2 says:

    I’ve always thought of her as very fame hungry, but this sort of explains why. That’s good she was able to channel it into goals and ambitions. Hope she has a good therapist or support system.

    I truly don’t understand sending not one but TWO of your children overseas like that. I guess they saw it as a great opportunity, but still.

  14. Kim says:

    She is an abuse survivor in the film so she is talking about how she relates to the character.One in three women will experience abuse in their life if including verbal abuse.

  15. TG says:

    I actually believe her. I am one of the people who roll my eyes when celebs jump on the “I was abused/bullied, etc.” bandwagon, but for some reason I believe her. I think it is because everyone on here talks about how young teens/children in the entertainment industry routinely get abused both sexually, physically and mentally and that would make sense that it would happen to her. I blame her parents for shipping her off like that without proper suvervision. You know what else is weird is I was in a big family growing up and all kinds of abuse happend among us children that our parents were clueless about. I know that isn’t the same as Juliannes situation but parents need to be alert and always an advocate for their children, especially in the entertainment industry.

    I love that gold dress she is wearing.

  16. Miss Kiki says:

    Does anyone else think she looks like a young Jen Aniston?

  17. aims says:

    Her age always hangs me up. She seems older to me. Anytime someone comes forward to talk about abuse, it takes bravery. There are always going to be people out there who will pick their story apart, so the victim gets victimized again. It takes someone strong to say, i know what happened to me, i know how it made me feel. So i will always stand behind someone who says they have been abused.

  18. Savanna says:

    All content matter aside, THE PHOTOSHOP ON THAT GOLD DRESS PIC HOLY SHIT. Who decided to give her The Witherspoon?

  19. Catk says:

    If you’re offended by the Idiotic comments here racing to attack her story, definitely don’t read the comments on US Weekly. It makes me sick how quickly we run to judge women when they come forward with an account of abuse. For shame.

    • Belle says:

      Same goes for the comments on the People site… ugh.

    • EmmaStoneWannabe says:

      I dont know why, maybe because the general, less-informed masses go to those sites and comment – but I can never take most of those posters seriously. 90% of the time it’s like they don’t know what they are talking about and the more intelligent gossip community (haha for the most part) ignores posting over there and visits sites like this to comment…Love it. CB is for gossip snobs aka ppl who usually know what’s going on and I love it.

  20. oh dear says:

    kudos to her for revealing the abuse. what i find frustrating is when famous people admit to it, but they never name any names. they obviously have acquired some form of power by that point yet they wont name the people involved. i find that very frustrating because as an abuse “survivor” you want to prevent those bastards from doing it to other innocent children, especially when theyre still in the position to abuse.

    corey feldman is a great example.

    dont get me wrong. being abused is terrible and its not easy to admit to it. but once youre past a certain age i feel its irresponsible to hide behind the shame of the abuse. take the power into your own hands and turn it around on those f*ckers! saying its not your responsibility is a cop out.

    just my opinion.

    • Nicka says:

      +100 Victims need to start naming their abusers so everyone is aware and the abuser is forced to bear the name and live with their crime every day!

    • Samantha says:

      I agree. What’s past may be past for her, but it could be some other little girl’s present. Naming her abuser could stop or prevent the same thing from happening to someone else. She doesn’t have to tell Cosmo who it was, but she could take other steps…

    • Belle says:

      Nothing in this piece says that she didn’t ever end up telling anyone or notifying authorities. Just because she isn’t naming names or offering more details in the article doesn’t mean that she never tried to address the issue.

      Too many scenarios possible here to make assumptions. Her being in another country at the time probably complicates things even further.

    • Laura says:

      I disagree. My abuser is now married with kids and though I don’t think he should be around children (he is a psychopath, not a technical pedophile-which means he’ll have sex with children if they’re all that’s available), I cannot take that responsibility upon myself. After my family’s reaction to finding out about it in the first place, I cannot fathom what would happen if I tried to get involved further now. It’s taken years to get him out of my life, and I am not going to bring him back in no matter what.

  21. Chordy says:

    Ooops, posted in wrong spot.

  22. Asiyah says:

    This is so upsetting. Tired of all of this abuse. Stay strong and positive, Julianne! Not that she’s reading it but sending positive vibes and love nonetheless.

  23. valleymiss says:

    Julianne definitely looks older than 24. She looks 35, so her appearance has always skewed older. It totally makes sense that this messed with her head. Men were treating her like an older, sexual person. I absolutely believe her story. Absolutely. Poor thing was likely abused by someone in power at the dance company, someone who told her that if she left, she’d never be successful. That’s what abusers do: they make the victim scared or insecure about their future. Poor girl. That stinks. :-(

  24. Chrissy says:

    It sounds in part of the article like she’s talking about being mentally and physically controlled and pushed to be a perfect dancer which implicates the Ballases as the abusers. But then she also seems to allude to sexual abuse. While the first kind of abuse is bad enough, this bothers me even more because you wonder if someone is out there continuing to molest children. It reminds me of Corey Feldman, where he stated a lot of terrible stuff happened but then he doesn’t name names or anything that might lead to it ending. It seems they are still afraid of someone. I believe her but I just wish something could be done to stop it. One thing that can be done: don’t send your children away to live with strangers so they can become rich and famous. I wouldn’t want my child involved in entertainment. There’s always bad things that come with it.

    • Nicolette says:

      I saw the interview where Corey Feldman talks about the abundance of pedophiles in Hollywood, and stated that he and the other Corey were molested. He only went as far as to say it was someone very powerful. He should name names so that the same sick fate wont await other child actors.

      As for the lovely Julianne, my heart goes out to her. She too should out the monster that did that to her. Why protect them? Who cares what they will have to face? They don’t care about the children they abuse do they?

      • Belle says:

        I said this above, but… we don’t really know if she reported the abuse or not. Maybe she did, and it wasn’t taken seriously (a massive blow to a victim of abuse). Maybe she reported it years later, and nothing much came from it. Maybe the person who did it is dead. Maybe the person was caught already and punished. Who knows. My point is just that she doesn’t say one way or the other whether or not she reported the abuse.

  25. I believe her and I have a history of working with abuse survivors as a therapist. Something about the way she’s framing her story rings true.

  26. midnightmoon says:

    Copy Feldman won’t name names because people can show up suddenly and puzzlingly dead. Once you get in it is very hard to escape. He was right on the edge of the line to say what he did.

    The LA police and DA are not gonna be of any help. They are enforcers in charge of cover ups and shutting down the rogues.

  27. Jaxx says:

    You ask why she doesn’t name names? What would that prove? Her word against another powerful, usually respected person? There is usually no proof to the abuse, if anyone had seen it would have been stopped. Many years have passed and all that would happen if she named her abuser is that her own future would probably end up damaged.

  28. GreenTurtle says:

    Maybe she’s not ready to name names…yet. I think coming out as a survivor of abuse can be a gradual thing for people. Someone upthread mentioned that she’d dropped some cryptic hints about it previously. Perhaps she’s just testing the waters as she tells more and more…as a means of self-protection. If the victim-blaming response has been that vitriolic on other sites, well, sadly, maybe she won’t get to the naming names part. I would think being a public figure makes it harder as well.

  29. Runs with Scissors says:

    I get a bad feeling it’s her brother who did the abusing. Referencing Whataburger from home and perhaps why she won’t name names.

  30. nina says:

    god, some of these comments are so judgey. The girl was sent overseas with no family supervision to train in dance. She basically spelled out what happened- she was abused, and the abuse got worse once she started puberty. That means sexual, folks. she’s basically saying she was oversexualized at a young age with the type of dance she was studying, and adults took advantage of that fact. Her story makes sense, her family did not protect her, and the people they left to take care of her did not protect her either.

    And I just hope she named names to people who matter so they don’t continue abusing kids if they are in positions to do so today.

  31. Shelley says:

    She’s 24 and in a position of some power and wealth. There’s almost no chance she’s the only victim of her abuser(s). If you’ve ‘forgiven’ or ‘moved on,’ you’re not absolved of your responsibility to at least try to stop this criminal – speak up now to save others from this Hell. If you did try and got nowhere with the authorities, then say so.

  32. mosty says:

    I don’t know why, but her pics kinda remind me of a young Meg Ryan. :)

  33. DGO says:

    Her dance school has come out and made a statement about this:

    Principal Anne Sheward says, “Julianne was an exceptionally popular and talented pupil at the Academy and we totally refute any allegations that she was subject to abuse during her time with us.”

    Sheward adds:

    “It is no secret that during her studies [Julianne] also spent a considerable amount of time at extra-curricular training and successfully competing the ballroom and Latin dance world — which we had nothing to do with. We feel this article has been extremely badly worded and if re-read, you will see that although it mentions our name, it does not say that any abuse took place here. I feel sure Julianne would herself be horrified to learn that she had caused her old school any embarrassment or harmed its good name. As she herself said in an article in The Stage Newspaper of 19th June 2008: ‘I absolutely loved Italia Conti and can’t say a bad word about the place’. ‘It was a safe place.’”

  34. Trashaddict says:

    There’s something really awkward and off about this story coming out in Cosmopolitan with the heading “crazy hot sex” on the cover. It kind of blows my mind that no-one has even commented on that yet. Women and girls are forced to deal with such hypersexualized images and here is this young woman dredging up these memories presenting the same images that perpetuate objectification of woman. If you want to enjoy showing off your body sexually, OK: but we’re shown such limited ways of “being”. I’ve been totally disenchanted with Cosmo, which sold itself as liberating but the cover headings sell such a limited life. Sigh.