Whether it’s outrage over alleged Hollywood sex rings run by rich elite producers, manipulative sexual assaults by managers and directors, or personal memories of relatives abusing young children, Hollywood has been exploding with unsavory news about abuse lately. It’s not only former child actors who are taking a stand on abuse. Adult actors and celebrities are, too, and have been for some time. Stories shared are heartbreaking and have been tumbling out more frequently as more and more abusers are named publicly.
Fans of Oprah Winfrey remember her own stand as if it were yesterday. It was 1986, and Winfrey was presenting a show about molestation and sexual abuse. Winfrey unexpectedly revealed the circumstances of her own rape on that show. She told the stunned audience that a relative had raped her. To make matters worse, she was just nine years old at the time the rape occurred. Her heartbreaking story didn’t end there. Her relative continued abusing her until she was thirteen years old, and she became sexually promiscuous. By the time she was fourteen, she became pregnant and her baby boy was born. Sadly, the baby died when just an infant. That ground-breaking show was the beginning of Winfrey’s work as an advocate for survivors of sexual abuse. When interviewed by David Letterman, she told him that anyone who has suffered from verbal or physical abuse will need to spend “a great deal of their life” working to rebuild their esteem. Letterman told her that she had prevailed over life in hell, without being consumed by it, to become the extraordinary woman she had become.
The outpouring of frustration, anger, and shame is manifesting itself in many ways and forums. It’s difficult to keep up with the various accounts, as more and more find their own expressions of speaking truth.
Julianne Hough began to speak out about childhood abuse in 2013. She explained it all in a Cosmopolitan magazine issue. She’d been sent to study dance in London when she was ten years old. She had gone to study at the Italia Conti Academy of Arts, and her parents did not come with her. She said that her dance style was sensual, and that gave people the impression that she was older than she was. She described herself as an innocent girl whose heart was also innocent. But, she was tormented by adults. She said that the abuse increased when she started going through puberty, but she declined to describe what form it took or who was responsible for it. Thankfully, she began to deal with her painful memories when she took on filming Safe Haven. Her role as an abuse survivor allowed her to relive her feelings and then move past them.
In the 1980s, Corey Feldman starred in The Goonies, The Lost Boys, Gremlins, and Stand By Me-all hits. As an adult, he shared with the world his personal childhood experiences with Hollywood pedophiles in his series on A&E The Two Coreys. He’s also written Coreyography; his memoir, and An Open Secret; a documentary. Feldman noted that California’s statute of limitations prevents him from naming names. The process would allow anyone Feldman accused to legally sue him. He understands the personal and public frustration this has caused, but he realizes that he must carry on the fight in different ways. He continues to be outspoken about his own childhood sexual abuse and has found avenues in the industry to do so.
Unfortunately, Corey Haim lost his battle with his darkest emotions when he overdosed and died at the age of 39. Haim is the second of The Two Coreys in Corey Feldman’s series. Feldman and Haim were close friends, and both were molested by several elite men who passed them around. While Feldman was never actually raped, Feldman has stated that Haim was. The two friends were approached at Hollywood parties by powerful men in the industry. Those men would present the opportunity as a great way spend time with important people. The men would try to make friends with the two young boys. Feldman still alleges that a dark network of people existed with the purpose of preying on youngsters at that time. Haim was just eleven years old when the rape occurred, and he spent the remainder of his lifetime struggling with drug abuse.
When Elijah Wood was a young child, he not only had a role in a remade version of the classic dolphin film Flipper, but he also starred in The Good Son along with Macaulay Culkin. Wood told the Sunday Times that in those years his mother provided the protection he needed as a child actor to keep him from parties where adults might prey on children. As an adult, he still realizes that innocent victims are still prey for pedophiles who keep their dark activities secret. Recently, he accused Hollywood openly concerning what he views as the industry’s pedophilia problem. He stated that there are many in the business who view children as open prey, and that these “vipers” use their power to overcome children. He said that children’s lives are being damaged to the point of not being able to repair them. Wood did not accuse any specific person, time, or project, nor did he speak in detail, but it was obviously that his comments arose from concern that victims of these situations find relief and strong voices to speak on their behalf.
When Mo’Nique took on the role of the abusive mother in Precious, she drew on her own memories of being molested by her older brother. She was only seven years old when the sexual abuse began. She remembered that her brother abused her once each year for four years. He lured her into the bathroom offering her candy. When interviewed for Essence magazine, she said that her brother “was a monster” to her. She said she “became her brother” each time she was on set filming “Precious”. Her signal to change into character was the word “action”, and each time she heard director Lee Daniels call out the word, she remembered her growing up years in Baltimore and those abusive times with her brother. She won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for her performance in Precious, and when she went on stage to give her speech of acceptance for the Golden Globe, she told everyone that she was dedicating her award to every person that had ever been touched by abused. She told the audience that every abuse victim must tell and that it is okay to tell.
Gabriel Byrne first revealed his molestation in 2010. The Irishman said that he thought it was just the way things were in the world. He was sexually abused twice. Once, when he was at the Christian Brothers Schools in Ireland. He was an altar boy. He said that all the boys knew that it wasn’t good to be left alone with a particular man. The boys admitted that nobody should be in the dressing room with him at the same time. Byrne said that certain sexual boundaries were crossed, and that he was ultimately left with feelings of fear and shame. He was sexually abused again when he was a seminary student in England. He said that the abuse was unfortunate because it occurred when he was very vulnerable, and he felt completely unlucky that he had suffered it again. He said it took years for him to understand the impact these molestations would have on him. He considered that his battles with alcoholism may have stemmed from those early abuses.
Joey Coleman is one of several former child actors who were part of An Open Secret, the controversial documentary about sexual predators in the Hollywood acting industry. The documentary opened in 2015 with a limited release in three cities following on the heels of SAG-AFTRA’s threat to take legal action against director Amy Berg for the content included in the film. SAG-AFTRA demanded that it not be referenced at all in the film, and it was the first time the union ever threatened legal action against any filmmaker over film content. Coleman’s appearance in the film included his testimony concerning his experiences with child actor manager Michael Harrah of the Screen Actors’ Guild. Though Harrah had denied that Coleman’s allegations of involvement were unfounded, Coleman presented a taped phone conversation as proof. In their telephone conversation, Harrah admitted that he had made advances toward Coleman. Harrah also acknowledged that the advances were inappropriate. But Harrah did not know that he was being recorded at the time. He acknowledged that he was a molested child actor himself, and merely mentioned that it “was not uncommon”. In the 1980s, Coleman was known for his roles in Magnum, P.I., Max Dugan Returns, and Lost in America.
In the 1980s, Diff’rent Strokes was a hit sitcom, and Todd Bridges famously portrayed Willis Jackson. Bridges did so well in the role that he found it difficult to establish himself apart from Willis. He eventually wrote his biography, “Killing Willis” which dealt with the sexual abuse of his childhood, his criminal charges and his drug addiction. Bridges also was Monk in Everybody Hates Chris. His career included appearances on Little House on the Prairie, the Waltons, Fish, and Roots-the groundbreaking miniseries. Bridges has numerous music video, film credits, and television appearances as well. His work as an advocate for legislation to protect child actors has been an integral part of his life. He has stated that legislative bills are one type of precaution which may help to monitor Hollywood in such a way that pedophiles will be unable to “commit inhuman acts”.
Evan Henzi was once a child actor and client of Marty Weiss, the youth talent manager. But Henzi fought back against the manager who assaulted him sexually over a period of five years on 30 to 40 occasions. Looking back on that time in his life, Henzi admitted that he harbored anger for the legal system. When Weiss was convicted of two charges against Henzi, the sentence was just six months spent in prison. Henzi spent the years from 11 to 21 trying to understand what happened to him and why. He took the blame for the abuse and felt guilty for years. For a long time, he just felt confused, until he learned that it’s simply “sick” for an adult man to want to have sex with an 11-year-old boy. Henzi is most recently known for his contribution to the documentary An Open Secret. It’s said that Henzi openly wept for the entire film when it was viewed in New York.
Samantha Geimer was a thirteen-year-old when director Roman Polanski took her to the Hollywood Hills home of Jack Nicholson, drugged her with some of a Quaalude, gave her a drink of Champagne, and then raped her. She thought she was on her way to a photo shoot for a magazine, so she took the ride with Polanski, looking forward to her big chance at fame. Her mother had met Polanski first and it was her mother who notified police when she discovered what happened to Samantha. The following year, Samantha spent most of her time telling her story again and again for the myriad of attorneys, police officers and doctors who were involved in the case. Ultimately, she told a grand jury, too. Polanski was ultimately sentenced to 42 days in the Chino State Prison. After that, Polanski fled the United States. More than thirty years passed before Polanski was arrested. He was caught in Switzerland. Samantha eventually married and became the mother of three sons. She wrote a book about her story called The Girl: A Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski. Her writing reflects the opinion that she was more hurt by the journalists and others in the film industry who sensationalized her story for the purposes of their own gain. Though it took her a long time to feel “okay”, she views her experience as simply surviving the “common crime of a very famous man”.
Anthony Rapp, Star Trek actor, was 14 years old when he was allegedly sexually harassed by actor Kevin Spacey. Spacey apologized for his behavior, but also said that he was drunk and did not remember the 1986 incident at all. Rapp felt compelled to speak out about his encounter with Kevin Spacey, who used the opportunity to come out as gay while making his statement. Rapp, who was part of the original cast of Rent, is openly gay, and felt that the multitude of allegations about Harvey Weinstein inspired many victims of sexual harassment to share their own stories.
Drew Barrymore is famous around the world for her role as Gertie, the little girl in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. She is part of the famous Barrymore dynasty; multi-generational family of stage and film actors. Her grandfather was John Barrymore. She wrote her autobiography in 1989. Little Girl Lost details her memories of her father who was abusive but left her family when she was just six months old. Drew spent years of her childhood, smoking, drinking, drugging, partying, and in rehab.
Michael Egan accused director Bryan Singer and other influential Hollywood men of pedophilic sexual abuse. He did so at a press conference held in the Four Seasons hotel on Wilshire Boulevard with his mother and lawyer at his sides. His allegations were countered with industry backlash. He told the story of being groomed for Hollywood fame supported by working for Digital Entertainment Network figures at the M&C estate. He remembers a long list of rules for living there with the executives and a stock of young and attractive men. No clothes in the hot tub or pool areas, drugs of all kinds, drinking and inappropriate advances. When Egan finally decided to set forth his allegations, he included prominent gay and elite members of Hollywood, and that is what made his announcement different from many others. He also included specific intimate details about what was done to him. His position is that he was an unwilling victim, while those he accused take the position that he was a liar who traded sexual encounters for the chance to enter Hollywood business. At the end of it all, Egan dropped his case and is now looking at prison time for fraud.
Alison Arngrim was famous for her portrayal of Nellie Oleson on the popular television show Little House on the Prairie. She was just twelve years old, but she played Nellie with a wide array of yells, screams, awful faces, and manipulative behaviors. She didn’t tell anyone that one of her relatives had sexually abused her starting when she was six years old and continuing until she was nine. For her, keeping it secret was the hardest. None of her co-workers knew that it had happened and nobody in her family knew either. When she was young, she really didn’t know for certain what was happening to her. When she grew older, she understood more, and realized that things weren’t right. She told her relative that she wasn’t going to do it anymore, and the abuse stopped. Years later, in her twenties, she sought therapy and began to talk about her experience. After her public announcement, she started working on behalf of the National Association to Protect Children.
Mackenzie Phillips once starred in One Day at a Time in the 1970s and 80s. She told her story on the Oprah Winfrey show, where she presented her book titled “High on Arrival”. She was just eighteen years old when her father raped her. Her father was a rock star and singer with the Mamas and the Papas. Mackenzie had been on a drug binge and passed out. The sexual encounter incited a sexual relationship which lasted for ten years and was consensual. Regardless, it took Mackenzie more than 30 years to get over the rape and its consequences. As an adult, she came to understand that the incest was an abuse of power and trust betrayed.
Though Teri Hatcher attempted to hide the sexual abuse her uncle subjected her to when she was five, she discarded her life-long fear and decided to tell prosecutors what happened to her. She did so after she learned that her uncle had a victim who committed suicide at the age of 14. That’s when Hatcher know she had to help. Her uncle pleaded guilty to child molestation and was thrown in jail with a sentence of 14 years. The deputy district attorney of Santa Clara County, California noted that the case would have been dismissed had it not been for Hatcher’s testimony.
In 2014, Dylan Farrow wrote a letter describing her adoptive father, Woody Allen of sexually assaulting her. Dylan was only seven years old when the abuse allegedly took place, and her mother, Mia Farrow, took on the position of point person in their widely publicized legal struggle against misconduct in the star struck world of Hollywood. Allen himself claimed that the only reason Mia stood up for Dylan is to gain completely custody of the child. The case has been written about hundreds of times, but Dylan wrote about it the first time herself and explicitly described what happened to her. She wrote that Woody Allen took her to the attic in their house, told her to lie down on her stomach and “play with her brothers’ train set”. That’s when he assaulted her, whispering through the event, telling her it was their secret. Dylan has difficulty even looking at toy trains now. Woody Allen was never convicted for the crime he was said to have committed. But Dylan cut herself, had problems eating, and became terrified that men might touch her. Hearing the name Woody Allen brings Dylan to nausea. She wrote that society has failed sexual abuse and assault survivors, and that Allen is the “living testament” to it. While Allen is celebrated for his movies, Dylan lives with the memories of vulnerability. That is why she chose to write her take on the controversy which lives on today.
When Alex Winter interviewed with Adrian Chiles of BBC 5 Live, Winter described his sexual abuse during the 1970s when he was a child star. It was still a decade until he would reach fame starring in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure with Keanu Reeves. Winter said that he went through a “hellish” boyhood and eventually suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of it. Winter aptly told Chiles that young boys are not in a position of power and are often fearful for their safety. He also said that there’s an unspoken requirement that sexual things must be kept hushed and not public. Winter never thought he would speak about it in public. He said he expected that he would die with the secret, though he never believed that keeping it within small circles of understanding people was the right thing to do. When the scandal surrounding Harvey Weinstein broke open, he changed his mind and began to speak openly. The one best thing for him about the time of his abuse was that his top hit film Bill & Ted, as he spoke about it, gave him a very sweet world where he could have fun and ultimately get the therapy he needed from that.
Though best known for his roles in ER, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Top Gun, Zodiac, Revenge of the Nerds and many more, in 2017, Anthony Edwards became the author of an essay published on Medium. His essay was titled “Yes, Mom. There is Something Wrong”. It was subtitled “From victim to survivor.” Edwards described the truths he knew about his mentor Gary Goddard being a pedophile. Up until his essay, his mother had only heard rumors, but she wanted her fourteen-year-old son to be able to speak with her about it. At the time, he denied the rumors. He’d been learning about acting, studying, and friendship from Goodard from the time he was only twelve, and he belonged to a group of five friends who shared the same things. Goddard was what Edwards termed their “sick father figure”. Goddard had indeed molested Edwards during a production for youth theater of Peter Pan. Goddard also raped Edwards’ best friend. For years, the five friends kept quiet about it. Their “gang” as Edwards described them, depended on Goddard for love and support, and unfortunately were taught through abuse that love was conditional upon their behaviors. He eventually was able to overcome his shame and remove the secrecy by writing about his experiences. He wasn’t able to have the conversation with his mother that he wanted to have, but he had it later with others.
Eliza Dushku was just 12 years old when she was working on True Lies, playing Dana, the daughter of Harry and Helen Tasker. This past January 13, 2018, she posted a Facebook account of how Joel Kramer sexually molested her while she was on set. He was the stunt coordinator for the film and Dushku wrote that he showered her with attention and flattered her. Then one day, he encouraged her to come to his hotel room in Miami, and then disrobed before he molested her. Dushku also indicated that the day her friend confronted Kramer about his behavior, Dushku had a stunt injury, even though Kramer was supposed to be certain that she would not be harmed. Dushku’s Facebook post was followed by women who posted their own stories in support of her. She thanked them for being brave and for the strength that they all shared with her as a result of her post. Jamie Lee Curtis, who portrayed Helen Trasker in True Lies responded to Dushku’s reveal by telling the Huffington Post that Dushku had told her about the sexual abuse years ago, and that she was saddened and shocked when she first heard the story. Curtis acknowledged that she was still feeling the same way about the private disclosure as she was years ago.