Vanessa Williams talks about sexual abuse she suffered when she was 10
Vanessa Williams' whole life changed the summer before she entered the fifth grade. The actress and former Miss America opened up in a segment of Oprah's Master Class about how she was molested by an 18-year-old woman when she was only 10 and had gone away on vacation with some friends, without her parents.
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William's molester was the daughter of a friend of a friend, and the sort of "cool girl" who, Williams says, "made you want to feel like you were a grownup." Though Williams admits she once admired the teen, she now sees that the much older girl robbed her of innocence.
One night when Williams was asleep, the girl snuck into her room, woke her up and told her to lie down on the floor. "She took my bottoms off and she said, 'Be quiet,' " recalls Williams. "She went down on me." The naïve preteen was confused, to say the least. "I knew it felt good, but was also something that was not supposed to be happening," she admits.
Initially, Williams considered telling her parents about the encounter but changed her mind when, upon returning home, her father revealed her uncle had passed away. "I never really talked to my dad about it. I kind of suppressed it."
But Williams' premature sexual awakening didn't remain suppressed for long. "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," explains Williams. "It made me more sexually promiscuous and more sexually curious at a younger age than I should have been."
This story makes me so angry. Williams, like all young victims of sexual assault, was stripped of her childhood. There's no telling how or when she would have explored her sexuality otherwise, but she was robbed of the opportunity to do it on her own terms. But more than anything, I'm sickened by the fact that Williams' experience is far from uncommon. According to the National Institute of Justice, three out of four adolescents who have been sexually assaulted were victimized by someone they knew well. And more often than not, their abuse goes unreported, meaning many of these sexual predators are never punished for their crimes.
Image via Vanessa Williams/Instagram