Cheryl Burke has gone public with a difficult personal story: she was molested by a family friend when she was 5 years old. The Dancing With the Stars pro, 26, shares the story of her molestation, as well as her past struggles with abusive boyfriends, in her new book Dancing Lessons.
The man was a retired mailman who was trusted to pick her up from school and help out around her house, and Burke said at first she didn't realize how inappropriate his behavior was. "I felt guilty for wanting his love and affection," she said.
He was eventually arrested after trying to sexually assault Burke's stepsister and her friend. Burke, then 6, testified in court, which she described as "the scariest moment of my life."
Her molester was sentenced to more than 20 years in prison, but has since been released. "It creeps me out," she said. "My worst nightmare is to run into him. Not until he dies will I be able not to worry."
She told People that if she could help just one person by opening up about her past, that's all that matters to her: "I'm telling my story. They're not secrets. There's no shame."
Good for her for sharing such a painful part of her past and enduring the inevitable criticism that will come with the public support. She's absolutely right, there's no shame in the story, and speaking out may well help some other family that's suffering in silence.
A few statistics about child sexual abuse:
• 90% of offenders are family members or acquaintances such as 'friends' of the family, babysitters, or neighbors
• Most children never report the actions of their abuser
• 1 out of 3 girls and 1 out of 5 boys will be sexually abused before they reach their 18th birthday
Safety tips, resources, and information on getting help for child abuse can be found at Childhelp.
Image via Splash News