Vanessa Williams reveals disturbing story of being molested at the age of 10


Vanessa Williams is one of the latest celebrities to come out publicly to discuss childhood sexual abuse. Pamela Anderson recently detailed how she was raped at the age of 12, then gang-raped by a boyfriend and his friends. Vanessa’s candid story – which she told on Oprah’s Master Class – involves an unwanted sexual act when she was just 10 years old.

Vanessa Williams revisited a painful childhood trauma on a recent episode of Oprah’s Master Class on OWN: The actress, singer and former Miss America, now 51, was molested at age 10 by an 18-year-old woman. Williams, who wrote about the incident in her 2012 memoir You Have No Idea, explained that the abuse took place during a summer vacation to California before the fifth grade.

Her abuser, Williams said was “one of the cool girls” who made the future star feel like a “grown-up.” Detailing the harrowing ordeal, the “Save the Best for Last” singer continued:
“One night she came into the room where my friend and I were sleeping. She told me to lie down on the floor. And she took my bottoms off and she said, ‘Be quiet,’ and she went down on me,” William said.

“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, and I didn’t tell anyone.”

The incident, Williams said, irrevocably changed her for the worse. “It awakens your sexuality at an age where it shouldn’t be awakened,” she explained. “Had that not happened in my life and had I had an opportunity to have a normal courtship with a boyfriend at 16 or whatever… there wouldn’t have been that shame that was always haunting me. It made me more sexually promiscuous and more sexually curious at a younger age than I should have been.”

[From Us Weekly]

Horrific. It reminds me of how Tyler Perry detailed the childhood abuse he suffered, also at the hands of a woman. Women can be abusers too, especially when we’re talking about kids. When I first read the quote about how the molestation made her more “promiscuous” in later years, I was like “don’t use those words, V!” But I get her point. It made me think back to a friend I had when I was like 13 or 14 – she was the same age, and she was “promiscuous” too – very sexual, too sexual. She was a cutter as well. Looking back on it… she almost definitely had been sexually abused at an earlier age and she was just trying to figure out a way to deal, a way to take back some kind of control over her body.


Photos courtesy of WENN.

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56 Responses to “Vanessa Williams reveals disturbing story of being molested at the age of 10”

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  1. nicole says:

    This is a very sad story but I think it’s dangerous to assume that everyone who was either sexually active or curious at an early age and/or cutting was molested. I think that’s a dangerous road to go down and can confuse the myriad of reasons why people do those things. If we just assume that those are linked in a concrete way then it could actually stop people from seeking help or getting the right kind of support they need.

    • rep says:

      Studies have shown that overly sexual behavior at a young age is the result of sexual abuse. It causes this behavior. Also cutting.

    • Nevermindme says:

      No Nicole cutting doesn’t always equate to sexual abuse. Though a friend and coworker of mine part time job is working with at risk youth and several of them are cutters. Guess what, they come from a background of sexual abuse.

      • nicole says:

        I never said that it never relates, I’m sure there is often a correlation. I’m just saying it’s dangerous to say that everyone exhibiting those behaviours experienced that.

        I was a cutter. I haven’t had a single bad event happen in my life. It was the result of depression with no cause. I was ashamed enough to bring it up because of the fact that there was no clear reason for it and attitudes like “must have been abused then” make it even harder to approach potential support systems.

      • victoria says:

        I was molested as a child as well and resulted in being a cutter by age of 11

      • Leen says:

        I think it could be both ways. I actually never thought cutting was a physical outward symptom of sexual abuse. I was a cutter too and I was sexually abused.
        My other friends were also cutters but none of them were sexually abused. I guess it just depends on the circumstances.

      • Nevermindme says:

        Nicole I’m not accusing you of saying it never relates. I guess my comment reads differently to you. I was agreeing with you by saying, no it doesn’t always relate. I just went on to add the info I knew about it in which it did.

    • Elizabeth says:

      I was raped at 8 . I developed early and I started eating a lot because I realized after I was fat they left me alone. I never did cutting, though.

      • RocketMerry says:

        I was abused at a young age too, and on me it had a different effect: at first, it did make me “sexually active” way sooner than it was normal, and then after a few wrong encounters and a few confusing scoldings from various adults about my behaviours, I ended up deciding that I needed to be thinner and thinner and thinner… ended up bulimic for more than 8 years.
        I gradually got it fixed in my brain that I was so disgusting that normal guys couldn’t like me just how I was, I figured my shame was reflected by my weight and needed to be removed in any way possible; now I’m working with my therapist to get past those things, but it just never seems to get to the point where I am free of those feelings. I have destroyed my own health, I am terrified of being around people, I am scared beyond limits of men… but I too never did cutting.
        Maybe each person finds a different way of hurting themselves.

  2. marie says:

    she talked about this two years ago in her memoir. Disgusting.

    • kri says:

      Nightmare. I think things like this happen alot more than we think, and to a lot more of us. It’s brave of her to talk about this and it serves everyone well to remember that molesters can be anyone. I also agree it can make the victim promiscuous at a young age (not always, though). That is what happened to me-and it was also the beginning of my ED. Kids try to get some sense of control back, and ED’s, cutting, etc are ways they do it.So sad.

    • FLORC says:

      Yea. She brings this up every so often.

      On a more broad note celebs need to stop this. Great you feel empowered and safe enough that you can open up about past trauma of all kinds. It’s not healthy to keep that bottled up.

      It just seems like childhood trauma by some celebs is only brought up to shill a book or get pr for a movie. Not as much to open up and share a story to help others.

      • astra says:

        I agree. Of course I feel for her and want her to be happy, healthy and overcome it as much as possible (same for all abuse victims/survivors), but I don’t want to hear about it. We all know it happens, it’s a terrible thing and we should work hard to prevent it, but do we have to hear about it incessantly? Do we really need this much info on celebrities and their personal lives? It just seems like TMI. Do people in the “normal” world go around spreading their business like this? It’s just so strange, maybe you have to be a survivor to understand this. I just don’t know.

      • msw says:

        Some people do. More than a couple times, I have been told about previous sexual abuse by people who were barely more than strangers. It did make me uncomfortable, but at the same time, I feel like it isn’t rational for me to feel uncomfortable with it. They dont have anything to be ashamed of, and talking about it (while uncomfortable for some of us who are probably fortunate enough to never experience such a terrible thing) helps remove the stigma. i have never felt brave enough to relate my story (which is pretty tame compared to many survivor’s stories) except to a very small number of people.

        I feel the same about celebs talking about it. Hell yes I’m uncomfortable. I should be. But it is important to bring these issues to light because they do happen, and ignorance only hurts everybody. Thank you to the brave, courageous and strong commenters who are opening up in this thread. It’s heartbreaking to read, but your voices are so important.

    • E says:

      I was abused as well by a family member at 8-9. No cutting, no promiscuity, no sex life until 31….i just hate men in general (not a lesbian lol). I mean i want to have a relationship but i judge them to much and when finally i have one i start to count the things i don’t like in him and have the exit door ready for me and a prepared speech to tell him how he has hurt me and offended me. A friend of mine thinks i have a very high moral and set bars high for others. In fact it’s just the black hole in my soul sucking the joy of a relationship and i can’t control it and can’t talk to anyone here where i live.
      I forced myself to have sex with a guy at 31 not to die a virgin. He was sweet BUT I felt so much discomfort I felt happy when he had to leave (also planed this thing as i knew he was leaving eventually). Now inventing excuses not to get married and live with a man here. It’s sad i know but that’s the shape the abuse gave me and it has protected me from the “PAIN”.

      • Pale fire says:

        E, you will find love, and when you do those things will slowly peel away. Hugs.
        There are good guys out there,that genuinely want love,and to love and cherish a woman. When you feel safe with some one emotionally those other things fall in place. :)

      • Tiffany :) says:

        E, I want you to know that I am sending you love and support. The pain you have experienced is something no human being should have to experience. I am sure it has crossed your mind, and I don’t want to be inappropriate, but have you considered seeing a professional to talk this through with? Sometimes seeking mental and emotional help can be an uncomfortable idea, but I have friends who have been greatly helped by this. I sincerely want good things for you. I hope you aren’t offended by my suggestion, it is given with a lot of warmth.

        Many hugs to you.

      • Jarredsgirl says:

        E, i’m so sorry that happened to you. And I’m sorry that you feel this way now… I hope that you don’t think I am being too frank but I would like to say:
        I don’t think your bar is set too high, I think you are deliberately trying to find ways out of developing emotional intimacy with a man. The emotional scar that is left after abuse is the hardest scar to heal. You say you want to avoid the pain, which is valid and normal. The thing to remember is, that when you find the right person, or when the time is right to begin healing, things will feel easy. You’ll come to realise that the pain you are anticipating is not necessarily present or is easier to deal with than you thought, because love and abuse are not the same thing. You are avoiding love, when what you really need to avoid is abuse. They have become entwined in your mind.

        But I also think it’s imperative that at some point, you stop trying to avoid the pain and go toward it. I’ve come to find that pain, even emotional pain, is just a sensation, and it transforms when you accept it. Easier said than done though… I sound like a hippy, but meditation is a great tool for that, especially if you have nobody to talk to about this stuff.

        And can I just say, I hope you don’t spend your life miserable and unhappy because of what happened to you. It’s like YOU are being punished for something that someone else did to you. You are living in a prison of your own mind, destined to a life without love. That’s not fair on you, you deserve to love and to be loved. The shame that you carry is not yours.

        Remember that men are not to blame for what happened to you, just one man (presumably? I dont know your story). Individuals do bad things, but it doesn’t mean that all men will hurt you or that all men WANT to hurt you. There are nice guys out there… and nice women, like myself and the posters above, who care about you, although we have never met.

        The way I see it, is that the rape or abuse of one woman, is an abuse against all women. It could have easily been me, instead of you. Or another girl or woman…So, as difficult as it is, try not to take the abuse personally – you weren’t abused because you were special or because of any other quality that was unique to you. You were abused because you were THERE – if it wasn’t you, it would have been someone else. I’m not saying this to insult you, and I hope you don’t take it that way, but to hopefully point out that you should not feel guilt, shame, or blame over this because it really had nothing to do with you – there is no way that you could have possibly caused it. In order for abuse to take place, cultural and social conditions have to be a certain way. Abuse is a reflection of broader social problems and is not a reflection on the victim.

        In this world, women need to be each other’s light and safe havens. We need to support each other because the reality is that we are living in a misogynistic world.

      • E says:

        Thank you for your kind words @Pale fire, @Tiffany :) and @Jarredsgirl. All you said made my cry (in a good way).
        In fact other then the things written above I seem to be a very brave and strong woman. I work in a difficult environment with lots of men. Everybody respects me (even if some hate me , you know women in power giving orders at least i get some respect). A couple of years ago i was harassed at work by my chief. I complained to a coworker at coffee time. Needless to say he said to my face : I don’t believe you. Although the evidence was there and he had done that to other female workers there THE MAN didn’t believe me. ( i fixed that issue myself. That man never harassed me sexually, he found smoother ways to torture me. I won again as i had the patience to wait longer :P )
        This happened around the time I had decided to tell my than boyfriend everything so he could understand why I was on the run. So i did a test as to say. I told him the story but the main character was an hypothetical friend of mine. He said (and i quote): Some girls have the slut gene taking over at a very young age, even at 8-9. She probably invited him herself. I have seen it happen before.
        So i ended that relationship immediately and i told him that he was a jerk and that i didn’t want to have to live with him and raise his children.
        @Tiffany :) – i saw a professional ONCE at a women help center. I talked for 5 minutes with her and i wanted to run, didn’t tell her anything. Afterwards i learned that woman was not even a real doctor. As i have already issues trusting people…. Also here we don’t have the culture of doctors. IF it doesn’t bleed it’s ok, is the motto here.
        Anyway @Jarredsgirl all you wrote is true and i agree with you i have to react. My sister had the same history of abuse from the same person and she became….promiscuous. When she told our parents, as a way to explain the pain and the anger she had inside her they didn’t believe her. She rebelled and at 18 got out of the house, i didn’t say anything and i’m still at home keeping it to myself. She is now ok but it took her YEARS to stabilize and find some peace. I need to work on it some more i think. Maybe one day…..
        oh by the way i have many male friends who want to hung with me and tell me their semi abusive stories with their girlfriends and there i am fighting for those women wellbeing without even knowing them. And some of them have been so jealous about me over the years for no reason. I guess it’s funny in a dark way. Thank you again for your words. I will treasure them with me and i’ll try to act according to them.

  3. Rachel says:

    Is this awful to say? That kind of thing, similar but not the same, happened to me when I was seven. I didn’t think much of it. At the time or even now. The girl was maybe 4 years older. I figured/figure she was also young and curious with a not fully developed sense of what’s right and wrong. I don’t really think of her as being much more of a “responsible” person than I was. She was responsible for her actions of course, but she was also a child.
    I guess I’m lucky I’m so blase about everything. We’re all different.

    Maybe I’m scarred and don’t know it…

    • birdie says:

      Yeah, I agree with you. I look back at my childhood and there were situations with other kids that I would describe as “curious situations”. I don’t look at it as molestation, just kids who don’t really know what they are doing. That’s a very grey area and I understand that many other people may have had very bad memories at situations in their childhood and consider it as being molested.
      Rachel, I think if you were scarred, you would know it.

      • Mrs. Darcy says:

        I agree childhood experimentation is not always abuse, but an 18 yr old and a ten year old is another story. An 18 yr old is a high school senior and knows right from wrong, 10 is a child who would feel powerless with someone that age, and this was most definitely molestation imo. I think Vanessa is brave for highlighting that females can abuse too and how it affected her life.

        @Rachel : 4 yrs older is a pretty big difference too, and while I’m glad it didn’t traumatize you, it doesn’t mean it was ok for her to do that. Glad you are ok though.

      • birdie says:

        @ Mrs Darcy. I completely agree with you, what Vanessa described was not okay at all. I only refered to what Rachel wrote about her childhood.

    • Angel L says:

      There is normal child hood curiousity(I remember those types of incidents as well) and then there is an 18 year old going down on a 10 year old. 18 year olds know right from wrong and definitely know better.
      I was molested as a child/pre teen – it is definitely different from the “you show my yours and I will show you mine” with someone in your peer group or near too it.

    • Delta Juliet says:

      I had the same thing happen to me except I was a (very young) 15 and he was 22. By very young I mean extremely naïve and inexperienced ( I had just had my first kiss as well). It felt good but I felt bad about it. I told him to stop but he had drugged me and taken my clothes so there wasn’t much I could do. It has bothered me off and on over the years but lately it really seems to be backing up on me. Must have something to do with turning 40 and all the self-reflection etc.

      Anyway, it was hard for me to process at 15 so I can’t imagine being 10. Also my son is 10 and the thought of that happening to him makes me want to throw up.

    • Leen says:

      Child on child sex abuse happens. This is something that I have been battling very hard because I was sexually abused when I was 10 by an older cousin (5 years older) and the messed up family have been telling me to shut up about it and it was just experimentation. The fact is, there is a difference of mental development between a 10 year old and a 15 year old. In my case, there was also the added layer of coercion, manipulation and using fear as a way to keep the situation quiet.

      Thankfully my parents fully support me, but that’s one of the things I will never forgive that side of the family for brushing it off as ‘playing doctor’ while in fact it was sexual abuse.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      I “played doctor” with a friend as a child and I was molested by a neighbor when I was 10. They were two very different situations. There is a tremendous difference between choosing to do something and having something done to you.

  4. Sayrah says:

    A female nanny did something similar to me when I was 6. I hope parents realize that women caregivers aren’t really a safer option and to always be watchful with anyone around their children. Good for Vanessa for telling her story too.

  5. Talie says:

    I knew kids who were sexually active/inappropriate when I was in 6th grade (so 11/12 yr. olds) and now looking back… wow. I mean, I can’t even imagine what happened to them.

  6. Becks says:

    This is so sad. There is nothing more disgusting than these predators who steal a child’s innocence.
    Kudos to Vanessa for sharing this painful experience. I hope she has healed and found some type of closure.

  7. nicegirl says:

    Vanessa Williams is a class act. I remember when she won Miss America and the sad controversy surrounding it. Years later, she played the Queen of Garbage in an Elmo movie my son loved that we watched endlessly. She is still around. Telling these truths. YOU GO, Vanessa.

  8. skipper says:

    I had a cousin that was a couple of years younger than myself do this to me as well but I’m not mad at her for it. We’re very close in adulthood. I’ve never told a soul about it. I know she was abused and molested at a very young age so I think maybe that had something to do with what she did to me. It does hyper-sexualize you at a young age, I believe.

  9. I Choose Me says:

    “It awakens your sexuality at an age where it shouldn’t be awakened,”

    ” there wouldn’t have been that shame that was always haunting me.”

    Yes. This pretty much summarizes my experience but with an older neighborhood boy and I was younger than ten. I was never promiscuous though. Too scared of getting pregnant and disappointing my parents. But even when I was much older, just thinking about sex made me feel like a filthy sinner who was going straight to hell. Sexual abuse really warps your ideas about sex.

  10. Isa says:

    Every time I read something like this it makes me want to never let my kids out of my sight. This sucks because I have to find a new babysitter next month.

  11. Pandy says:

    There are very few women who escape creepy (often unwanted) sex encounters, either in childhood or as an adult, or both! Truly sad that we still carry guilt and shame over the actions of others. It does have an affect on your future sex life – it must, to some extent?

  12. Happy21 says:

    I was molested by the son of a close friend of my mom’s that lived with us for a short period. I had a crush on him because he was about 4 years older and I thought he was good looking. I was about 8 and he was about 13. At the time I thought we were doing something special because he liked me but when I hit about 12 and started doing sexual things with boys in my class I realize that wasn’t it at all but that I was molested. I was a little promiscuous but not with sex necessarily, just my body (if that makes any sense at all). I was so afraid of catching STDs and today in some ways I know that there is sexual being in me but I have a hard time letting go relaxing enough to really enjoy it. Ugh. I haven’t told a single person that story, can’t believe I’m doing it here! Thank you Vanessa Williams!!

    • astra says:

      I’m sorry for your experience. Some people are just not all that sexual though, so if you are happy and healthy as possible, don’t worry about it. I was never molested but I can’t relax enough to enjoy it either. I wonder how a person knows if it’s just the way they are and would be no matter what?

    • Tiffany :) says:

      Happy, thank you for sharing your story. I am so sorry that you had to go through that, but I am happy that you feel comfortable sharing it with the CB community. We are here for you! Reading all of these stories and seeing how common this type of abuse is makes me appreciate the friendship of other women, in all its forms and even if it is through a website comment section, because I think we can all learn and grow with each other.
      Many hugs to you.

  13. Mike says:

    I would bet that her story is a lot more common than people would think. Especially among the kids and young adults in Hollywood. Lot’s of perverts with power out there. Explains why so many of them get into drugs and drinking when they get older

  14. Emily C. says:

    I have known very few women who were not sexually abused before the age of 18. I’m glad people are talking about it more, because it is beyond epidemic.

  15. Mitch Buchanan Rocks! says:

    Vanessa Williams looks younger than Kelly Ripa and Jennifer Aniston. Does she get the better brand of botox?

  16. holly hobby says:

    This isn’t the first time I heard about this. She wrote about it in her memoir. I’m just surprised it’s new news now. Grab her book and read it. It’s very interesting.

  17. aurelia says:

    I always hear the stats that sexual abuse hits 1 out of every 6 children. Sadly the number is much higher. For example by the time I was in high school – at my elite private girls boarding school I was 1 of 8 in my circle of friends. Friends whose parents obviously had money. 4 out of 8 of us had been abused by either a 1st cousin, uncle or father himself! Can you believe that! Oh and its cetainly true abuse cuts across all social strata.

    My husband went to New Zealands most expensive private boys preparitory school and his best friend was molested by a teacher there who was cast out from a boarding school in england for doing the same bloody thing. Jezz and his employer there obviously covered up for him. Just wanted this teacher gone. Thanks for that. he carried on his filth here.

  18. mazomazohyst says:

    Women are just as bad as men. I don’t know why people think they’re saints.

    I agree with the first poster. I was very sexually promiscious and am still a cutter at the age of 31 and I can’t remember any actual sexual abuse at all. But i think emotional abuse or neglect and emotional/covert incest (story of my life) can cause this behavior, too.

  19. Aurelia says:

    Hi Nosey kiwi girl. It was Woodford House in Havelock North. When I was there it was the most expensive private girls school in the country. My husband was at the most expensive boys Prep school and secondary school – Kings College Auckland. Sad but true. My husband only last night told me the molesting prep school teacher was just sent away. Not to jail because the court case would sully the schools fine reputaion. But to a school in the south pacific somewhere!