DWTS' Cheryl Burke makes heartbreaking confession about child sexual abuse
Dancing With the Stars pro Cheryl Burke made a brave confession during TLC's documentary, Breaking the Silence, on Sunday.
During the documentary, Burke confessed to being sexually abused by her neighbor as a child — and it still affects her life all these years later.
"I still go through times when I'm down," Burke revealed, People magazine reports. "I don't feel like I'm that strong woman that people think I am today."
"I'm only human, and sometimes the stuff I've gone through, I think about all the time, and it just brings me back," she continued.
Burke also explained how her abuser exploited her weaknesses, and that the relationship between them was complex.
"He would cuddle me, he would make me watch pornographic videos. He was kind of like that fatherly figure — I think he knew my weakness, that I was very insecure. He knew that no one was ever around," she said. "He would have me come sit next to him and make him feel comfortable because sometimes he would feel lonely."
"I couldn't speak up for myself," she admitted. "It was hard for me to say no. In a weird way it was like I didn't want to hurt him."
Burke helped put her abuser behind bars, after testifying against him when she was just 6 years old, something that she described as "the scariest moment of my life, still to this day."
It was only dance that helped her heal, and Burke says it became her "escape from reality."
She continued, "I was able to start building my confidence and know that I don't need anybody to be happy. I just needed just me. I needed to know that I could do this on my own."
Fans have reacted to Burke's story with messages of support, praising her for her courage, and for using her celebrity status to spread awareness.