Vanessa Williams is opening about how being molested at the age of 10 had rippling effects throughout her life.
The “Ugly Betty” star revealed on Sunday’s episode of “Oprah’s Master Class” that the incident happened while she was on a vacation with a family friend to California.
During the trip, Vanessa met an 18-year-old girl that she looked up to because she “was one of the cool girls.” The unidentified woman encouraged her to try different things that were inappropriate for childre, like smoking.
Unfortunately, facing peer pressure to try cigarettes was not where the illicit behavior ended with the teen. “One night she came into the room where my friend and I were sleeping, and she told me to lie down on the floor,” Vanessa recounted, stating that the girl performed oral sex on her. “At 10 years old, I had no idea what it was, but I knew it felt good. And I knew I shouldn’t say anything.”
According to a 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau, one out of every five girls is the victim of sexual abuse. In addition to that 20 percent of adult women can recall such an incident.
The Department of Justice reports that six percent of female child molesters victimize children that 6-12 years old. Kids between the ages of 7 and 13 years old are most vulnerable to sexual abuse overall, so Vanessa fell right in the middle of those ranges when she was molested. She kept the incident a secret upon her return home. A lot of that had to do with the fact that she found her father had suffered a personal tragedy while she was away.
Keeping it to herself did not allow her to heal from the assault, and that had lasting effects on her. “I think that had that not happened in my life,” Vanessa mused, “there wouldn’t have been that shame that was kind of always haunting me. I think it made me more sexually promiscuous and more curious at a younger age than I should have been.”
“Master Class” was not the first time that Vanessa has spoken out about her molestation. She revealed it during the deposition in her lawsuit agains Penthouse after the magazine published naked pictures of her.
When a lawyer asked whether she’d ever been with a woman, Vanessa told him about what happened during the trip. Being completey honest with her, the lawyer let Vanessa know that the incident would come out during trial. That forced to reconsider her decision to take legal action.
“Once I knew that not only was it not going to be just about the pictures and Miss America, but it was going to be everything about my life,” Vanessa recalled, “that’s when I said, ‘You know what? I’m done. I don’t want to fight. I want to get my life back. It’s just want to move on.’” She added, “It wasn’t up until recently that I told my mom that that was really the reason why I dropped the lawsuit.”