Rape is a tragedy no person should have to endure. And when the sexual assault results in conceiving a child overwhelming emotions arise out of difficult decisions that must be made. Sadly, even famous people are vulnerable to this type of adversity. The following celebrities were either a product of rape, or conceived a child out of rape.
1. Eartha Kitt – Eartha Kitt was conceived by rape. The singer was born in 1927 on a cotton plantation in South Carolina and raised by a woman called Anna Mae, who she believed was her mother, but later found out that her father was the white son of the plantation owner. Her mother married and her new husband shunned Kitt due to her pale complexion so she spent her childhood living with a different family.
2. Zahara Jolie-Pitt – Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s adopted daughter Zahara was conceived by rape. Zahara’s birth mother, Mentwabe Dawit, told Reuter’s about her horrifying experience. As she walked home in the darkness a man approached. “He pulled a dagger, put one hand on my mouth, so that I could not scream. He then raped me and disappeared.” She was 24 at the time and decided to keep the assault a secret, fearing the consequences in her town. At six-months-old Zahara was adopted by Jolie from an orphanage in Ethiopia in 2005, then later Pitt followed in the adoption process.
3. Jesse Jackson – Jesse Jackson was conceived out of statutory rape. The civil rights activist was born in South Carolina to Helen Burns, a 16-year-old high school student, and her 33-year-old married neighbor and father, Noah Robinson, a former pro boxer and prominent figure in the black community. She was pressured to abort but decided to keep her baby. A year after her son’s birth, Burns married Charles Henry Jackson, a post office maintenance worker who adopted Jackson.
Related: Celebrities Who’ve Had Abortions
4. Layne Beachley – Seven-time World Champion Surfer, Layne Beachley’s mother, Maggie Gardner, was 17 and newly arrived in Sydney from Scotland in 1971 when she was date-raped after accepting a dinner invitation. Gardner became pregnant with Beachley, who was adopted by a North Balgowlah couple and grew up on Manly Beach in Australia. In 1999, Beachley announced she had found her birth mother.
5. Kelly Wright – Former Fox & Friends weekend co-anchor Kelly Wright spoke about his mother’s decision to give birth to him despite having conceived him in rape. In his book, America’s Hope in Troubled Times, Wright describes how his mother was sexually assaulted when she was 16-years-old, and how he was the result of that rape. He said that growing up his mother always told him that although he was conceived the way that he was God had a purpose for his life.
6. Faith Daniels – TV personality, Faith Daniels, talked about her conception in 1993 while moderating a panel about women who become pregnant as a result of rape. She said her birth mother, then an unwed 17-year-old, had become pregnant with Daniels after being beat-up and raped by a man she had been dating. Daniels was later adopted from a Catholic orphanage at 8 months by a loving family. “It really doesn’t matter how you were conceived, only what you’ve become,” Daniels’ once said.
7. Nell Carter – At the age of 16, Nell Carter was raped at gunpoint and became pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter, Tracey. In her memoir the late Gimme A Break star opened up about her life. “I’ve always told people that she was the product of an early marriage, but that was a lie my brother helped me concoct as protection from even more pain. I tried raising Tracey by myself, but it was too hard for me. My sister Willie brought her up. She was 12 years older than me, married, had children and a real home. Tracey came in as the baby of the family.”
8. Janet Sheen – Martin Sheen’s wife of over 50 years, Janet Sheen, was also a product of rape. Sheen once said that his wife would rather that he not speak about it, but did admit that after birth Janet’s mother contemplated “dumping her in the Ohio River.” She was raised by aunts until she was six, after which her mother, with a new husband, “came to collect her,” Sheen said.
9. Ethel Waters – Actress and singer, Ethel Waters was born on October 31, 1896, as a result of the rape of her teenaged mother, Louise Anderson, by John Waters, a pianist and family acquaintance. Anderson was believed to be only 13 years old at the time of the attack. Waters was raised in poverty and never lived in the same place for more than 15 months.
Waters said of her difficult upbringing, “I never was a child. I never was cuddled, or liked, or understood by my family.” The Emmy and Oscar nominee married at the young age of 13, but soon left her abusive husband.
10. Valerie Gatto – When Miss Pennsylvania 2014, Valerie Gatto, was 10 years old she found out that she had been conceived by rape. Gatto’s mother was 19-years-old when she was raped at knifepoint. When Gatto was in the third grade her mother told her, “Something bad happened to me. A very bad man hurt me, but God gave me you.” Today, Gatto is an advocate for sexual assault awareness, traveling the country to talk to women about how to protect themselves against violence and sexual aggression. When on The Today Show she said, “I believe God put me here for a reason: to inspire people, to encourage them, to give them hope that everything is possible and you can’t let your circumstances define your life.”