Actress and model Vanessa Williams recalls the summer she vacationed in California with friends that haunted her throughout her life. The 51-year-old first revealed the details of being sexually molested in her 2012 memoir You Have No Idea but Tuesday stepped in front of a camera for Oprah’s Master Class to explain the weight of the event.
"We ended up staying with a family friend of theirs. They had an older daughter," Williams said in the interview. "(She) was one of the cool girls. ... She made you want to feel like you were a grown-up."
Williams, being 10 years old at the time, had never been to California and shared a room with her friend. In the middle of the night, the family’s 18-year-old daughter crept into the room. She told Williams to be quiet, had her lay down on the floor and take her bottoms off. It was then the girl proceeded to perform oral sex on Williams, who said it was that night her doors to sexual curiosity had been opened too soon.
"I had no idea what it was, but I knew it felt good," Williams said. "I knew it felt good, but (was) also something that was not supposed to be happening."
One in five girls is a victim of child sexual abuse, and one in 20 boys is a victim. Children between the ages of 7 to 13 are the most vulnerable to child sexual abuse. The exact statistics for child sexual abuse are difficult to determine because it often goes unreported, and experts agree that there’s a much higher incidence than currently reported, according to The National Center for Victims of Crime. It comes to no surprise Williams didn’t tell her parents at first.
When she returned from the trip and met her dad at the airport, she recalled his face was gray. She then found out his brother had just died and Williams, who hadn’t entered into fifth grade yet, decided to hide her secret.
"It awakens your sexuality at an age where it shouldn't be awakened," Williams said.
Victims of childhood sexual abuse tend to either recklessly engage in sexual behavior as adults or to forgo sex completely, Stephen L. Braveman, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Monterey, Calif., told Everyday Health.
Child sexual abuse has a wide spectrum of unhealthy consequences for the child, and they often become hyper-sexualized or sexually reactive. They have to deal with issues of promiscuity, self-esteem, and shame unless they’re able to receive proper therapy approaches to begin healing.
"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," Williams said.