According to Medicinenet.com child abuse is when a caregiver either fails to provide appropriate care (neglect), purposefully inflicts harm, or harms a child while disciplining him or her. Common forms of child abuse include neglect, physical assault, emotional abuse, and sexual assault. Read as these celebrities share their stories of child abuse at the hands of their own parent.
1. Charlize Theron – Although the actress does not go into detail about the verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of her father, Charlize Theron has stated in many interviews that her dad was an alcoholic and abusive to her and her mother. Tragically, the abuse ended in 1991. One night, her alcoholic father came home with his brother after drinking heavily, he threatened her mother with a gun. He began shooting and Theron’s mother grabbed her gun and shot back, killing Theron’s father and wounding his brother. Police ruled it an act of self-defense. Theron was fifteen years old.
2. Sinead O’ Connor – Sinead O’Connor said she was abused by her mother and the musician revealed to The Guardian that her mom’s behavior was fashioned by a church that normalized abuse. O’Connor also revealed that the abuse was not only physical but sexual. “…It wasn’t like she was having sex with me, but it was sexually abusive violence from when I was very small. It was horrific. I loved my mother, but I was terrified of her. I literally pissed my pants if she came near me, but even when she was doing what she did to me I could see this was a soul in torment.” She revealed that having a sense of Jesus helped her. She said when she was being repeatedly kicked she’d “…envision Jesus on the top of some hill on the cross…” She continued, “…and the blood would run from Jesus’s heart down into mine on the floor and that’s how I got through being beaten. I’d concentrate on that image.”
3. Mackenzie Phillips – Mackenzie Phillips was 10 years old when her father, John Phillips of the The Mamas & the Papas, taught her how to roll a joint, and she had her first taste of cocaine at age 11. Even more shocking was that the actress revealed to Oprah Winfrey that she was raped by her father at the age of seventeen or eighteen. After that, she had a consensual relationship with him for ten years, admitting that alcohol and drug abuse were partly to blame. In her book, Hopeful Healing: Essays on Managing Recovery and Surviving Addiction, the One Day at a Time actress wrote openly about the abuse and the years-long struggle to forgive her father, who died in 2001.
4. Anne Heche – According to The Associated Press, actress Anne Heche shared with Barbara Walters that her father sexually abused her as a child. This caused her years of mental illness. Heche also said she feared she would die of AIDS, the disease that killed her father in 1983. Heche said on Larry King Live that despite her father being gay, he repeatedly raped her from the time she was an infant until she was 12, even giving her genital herpes.
5. Jewel – Jewel shared in her memoir Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story that she left home at age 15 because she was tired of her dad’s abuse. The singer revealed, “My dad was raised in an abusive home and that cycle continues until you learn how to break it… My dad changed those patterns and learned a new emotional language… but it was a really tough childhood, for sure.” On their current relationship she says, “We have a great relationship (now). My dad and I really made amends…”
6. Tyler Perry – In 2010, filmmaker Tyler Perry shared with Oprah Winfrey the depth of his childhood abuse. He was sexually abused by three different men and one woman before the age of 10. He was also verbally and physically abused by the man who raised him, and the man he had known to be his father. “To this day, I don’t know why he did it. But I remember him cornering me in a room and hitting me with this vacuum cleaner cord. He would just not stop. There are all these welts on [me], the flesh that’s coming from my bone, and I had to wait for him to go to sleep,” Tyler lived in constant fear never knowing what would set his father off. He said the physical and emotional abuse got so bad that he tried to commit suicide by slitting his wrist. His saving grace was his mother. “…she would take me to church with her. I would see my mother smiling in the choir, and I wanted to know this God that made her so happy. If I had not had that faith in my life, I don’t know where I would be right now.” Years later, Perry discovered that the man who raised him was not his biological father, as his mother had lied to him.
7. Christina Aguilera – Christina Aguilera said she was emotionally and physically abused by her father during her childhood. The singer said she didn’t feel safe growing up and opened up to E!, “I witnessed a lot of unpleasant things – a lot of pushing and shoving and fighting and quarreling. Growing up I did not feel safe. Feeling powerless is the worst feeling in the world… The pain at home is where my love for music came from.” Her mother recalled in the same interview how she found Christina, then aged four, with blood pouring from her face. “I scooped her up and said, ‘…What’s wrong?’ She said something to the order of, ‘Daddy wanted to take a nap and I made too much noise.”‘ Aguilera’s mother eventually fled from her abusive husband, taking her daughters to live with their grandmother. Her ten-year marriage ended in 1989. Christina said she turned to singing to blot out the pain of the abuse.
8. Todd Bridges – Former child star Todd Bridges mentioned several times in his memoir, Killing Willis: From Diff’rent Strokes to the Mean Streets to the Life I Always Wanted about the mental and physical abuse he and his mother experienced at the hands of his father.
9. Janice Dickinson – Supermodel Janice Dickinson revealed to Dr. Drew on Celebrity Rehab the child abuse she endured at the hands of her father. “I’m writing in my journal and the memories keep coming back,” the model emotionally admitted. “I’m just really mad. I’m mad. And I’m afraid – afraid that I will never get a grip on child abuse. I was damaged beauty from the start,” she said. “My dad had rage issues. I don’t feel good inside,” she added. “I don’t sleep. You have no idea about the abuse. You have no idea how bad I feel. Physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse.” She went on describe her father as a “rageaholic pedophile” and added, “Because I wouldn’t give in and let him have sex with me, I was verbally and physically abused on a daily basis. I was told that I looked like a boy and wouldn’t amount to anything.”
10. Chevy Chase – In an excerpt from his book, I’m Chevy Chase… And You’re Not the actor details the physical and psychological abuse he suffered at the hands of his mother and stepfather. “I lived in fear all the time, deathly fear,” Chase recalled. He remembers being awakened in the middle of the night and slapped, continually and hard, across the face. “I don’t remember what it was for, or what I had done.” This was not unusual. Being locked in the bedroom closet for hours was also a standard punishment in the household. “My mother, at her worst, was like an unleashed animal.” It was at her hands, in her feral altered states, that Chevy suffered the darkest of his secret torments, according to the book.
11. Bart Millard – Bart Millard, singer-songwriter for Christian music group Mercy Me revealed in the film about his life story, and in his memoir, I Can Only Imagine, the abuse he suffered from his father and how faith saved his family. In an interview with Relevant Magazine he talked about his upbringing and how his dad changed dramatically after having a worksite accident. “And from there he just had rage that he couldn’t control. If someone cut him off in traffic while I was in the car, he would take a swing at me as if he was punching the dashboard. And I don’t think he ever had any regard that he was hitting me, he just needed to hit something. And I happened to be that something a lot. And that’s aside from being a punk kid or needing to be disciplined. A spanking would turn into a fit of rage. So, most of my life I lived in fear.” Millard told The Christian Post that after his father accepted Jesus he witnessed his transformation, and they were able to spend his father’s last five years together. His dad eventually died from cancer.