19 Celebs Who Spoke Up About Being Sexually Assaulted to Help Others

by Sarah Long
Oct 20, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. ET

In our culture, it's not always easy to speak up about sexual assault. First, talking about being assaulted can bring the whole experience back to the victims. There's also the fact that there can be shame attached to the incident — even though being assaulted is not the victim's fault under any circumstances.

But when a celebrity talks openly about being assaulted, it can help heal the wounds of others who have gone through similar incidents. Assault can happen to anyone, and it doesn't matter if you're famous or not. It's gut-wrenching and life-changing no matter who you are. Celebs who step up, however, put faces and names to sexual assault, which opens up the conversation. 

Being famous isn't all rainbows and butterflies. These celebs are using their past traumas to help others.

Updated October 2017.

1/19 :Rose McGowan

This whole Harvey Weinstein thing has been overwhelming as tons of celebs like Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow have come forward to detail their harrowing encounters with him. But perhaps the most vocal so far has been Rose McGowan. 

McGowan has alleged that Weinstein raped her, and she has taken on the responsibility of battling the entire entertainment industry that has remained complicit in the decades-long coverup of the tremendous amount of sexual harassment and assault that goes down in Hollywood on a regular basis. She has bascially been named the voice of the Weinstein resistance.

2 /19: James Van Der Beek

2/19 :James Van Der Beek

In the midst of the Weinstein scandal, Van Der Beek has spoken up to support all of the people who have come forward — and go public with the fact that he is a victim of Hollywood sexual assault as well

"What Weinstein is being accused of is criminal. What he’s admitted to is unacceptable - in any industry. I applaud everybody speaking out," Van Der Beek wrote in a series of tweets in Oct. 2017. "I’ve had my ass grabbed by older, powerful men, I’ve had them corner me in inappropriate sexual conversations when I was much younger. I understand the unwarranted shame, powerlessness & inability to blow the whistle. There’s a power dynamic that feels impossible to overcome."

3 /19: Taylor Swift

3/19 :Taylor Swift

Swift was sued by David Mueller, who at the time was a radio DJ, after Swift accused Mueller of groping her backstage at a concert in 2013. Mueller was subsequently fired by his employer, KYGO, a country music radio station in Denver, Colorado. 

But Swift wasn't about to take Mueller's suit sitting down. She filed a countersuit accusing Mueller of reaching up her dress and grabbing her butt as they posed for a photo. 

“I'm not going to allow you or your client to make me feel in any way that this is my fault, because it isn't,” Swift said in court in August 2017.

4 /19: Abigail Breslin

4/19 :Abigail Breslin

Breslin, who has long been an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, felt compelled to come forward about her own assault in April 2017 when one of her social media followers commented that "Reported rapes are the only rapes that count."

"I did not report my rape. I didn't report it because of many reasons," Breslin wrote on social media with a trigger warning. "First off, I was in complete shock and denial. I didn't want to view myself as a 'victim' so I suppressed it and pretended it never happened... Second of all, I was in a relationship with my rapist and feared not being believed. I also feared that if my case didn't lead anywhere, he would still find out and hurt me even more."

Breslin also revealed that she is still dealing with the trauma of what happened to her and was diagnosed with PTSD.

"To say that rapes reported are the only rapes that count contributes to the ideology that survivors of unreported rape don't matter," she wrote. "It's unfair, untrue and unhelpful. It's like you got a black eye from getting punched in the face, but because you didn't call the police, you didn't really get a black eye.. Unreported rapes count. Reported rapes count. End of story."

5 /19: Minnie Driver

5/19 :Minnie Driver

In an interview on SiriusXM's Stand Up! with Pete Dominick, Minnie Driver broke her silence on being sexually assaulted at 17 years old

"I was on vacation in Greece," she said, "and this guy kinda elbow-grabbed me and said, 'You're going to dance with me.' I said 'no,' and I pulled my arm away from him, and he grabbed me by the back of my hair. I tried to kick him, and then he punched me."

Not surprisingly, police blamed her for what happened.

"The way [the police] presented it was, 'This guy was just having a good time, and if you'd gone along with it, it would've been fine. If you'd just danced with him, you wouldn't be in this position that you're in now.'"


6 /19: Amber Tamblyn

6/19 :Amber Tamblyn

In light of Donald Trump's grotesquely sexist 2005 conversation with Billy Bush going public, Tamblyn was moved to share her own experience of sexual assault.

"I need to tell you a story," she wrote in a deeply personal Instagram post. "A very long time ago I ended a long emotionally and physically abusive relationship with a man I had been with for some time. One night I was at a show with a couple girlfriends in Hollywood, listening to a DJ we all loved. I knew there was a chance my ex could show up, but I felt protected with my girls around me. Without going into all the of the details, I will tell you that my ex did show up, and came up to me in the crowd. He's a big guy, taller than me. The minute he saw me, he picked me up with one hand by my hair and with his other hand, he grabbed me under my skirt by my vagina — my pussy? — and lifted me up off the floor, literally, and carried me, like something he owned, like a piece of trash, out of the club. His fingers were practically inside of me, his other hand wrapped tightly around my hair. I screamed and kicked and cried. He carried me this way, suspended by his hands, all the way across the room, pushing past people until he got to the front door. My friends ran after him, trying to stop him. We got to the front door and I thank God his brothers were also there and intervened.

"In the scuffle he grabbed at my clothes, trying to hold onto me, screaming at me, and That part of my body, which the current Presidential Nominee of the United States Donald Trump recently described as something he’d like to grab a woman by, was bruised from my ex-boyfriend's violence for at least the next week," she continued. "To this day I remember that moment. I remember the shame. I am afraid my mom will read this post. I'm even more afraid that my father could ever know this story. That it would break his heart. I couldn't take that. But you understand, don't you? I needed to tell a story."

7 /19: Corey Feldman

7/19 :Corey Feldman

Feldman — who wrote a book about his and fellow child actor Corey Haim's harrowing experiences of sexual assault as kids in Hollywood — now uses his story as a cautionary tale for parents who want their kids to break into show business.

"People always ask me about life after childhood stardom," Feldman wrote in his book, Coreyography: A Memoir. "What would I say to parents of children in the industry? My only advice, honestly, is to get these kids out of Hollywood and let them lead normal lives."

8 /19: Nigel Barker

8/19 :Nigel Barker

In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Barker courageously revealed in April 2016 that he was sexually assaulted as a small child by a 40-year-old man.

"I went up to the door and read the names on the buzzers... I went to push it, and he pushed me from behind, jolted me through the doors and I fell to my feet inside the door," Barker recalled on his SiriusXM show Gentleman's Code. "The door closed and I'm now trapped between a stairwell inside and a shut door. I have a man who is much bigger than me push me to the ground, grab me, pull my trousers and my pants down. I'm now exposed, and I'm screaming and thrashing.

"I kicked and I actually kicked him in the nuts and he sort of jumped back for a second. Enough for me to get up, squeeze out and, as he tried to grab for me in the back of my neck and the back of my hair, I ran out," said Barker. "And I ran all the way home. Now here's the thing: I didn't tell anyone. I didn't tell my parents. I didn't tell my brothers. I told no one. I was humiliated. I was scared. I was worried. I thought I had done the wrong thing. I thought I had done the bad thing. It was something that stuck with me for a very long time."

Barker also said that he was finally moved to talk about the experience after his sister was also attacked several years later.

"Get out there. Talk about it. And don't be afraid," Barker said on his show. "Empower our children and our kids to do just that."

9 /19: Kesha

9/19 :Kesha

Kesha is fighting to be freed from her record contract with producer Dr. Luke, who she says drugged and raped her while she was under his employ.

She's bravely standing up for herself, as well as other artists who have experienced similar situations, and refuses to back down or be silenced.

"So. I got offered my freedom IF i were to lie," she wrote in the caption of an April 2016 Instagram post. "I would have to APOLOGIZE publicly and say that I never got raped. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS behind closed doors. I will not take back the TRUTH. I would rather let the truth ruin my career than lie for a monster ever again."

10 /19: Lady Gaga

10/19 :Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga has been a huge champion for sexual assault survivors over the past year and has also previously revealed that she was raped when she was 19 years old by a much older man. She kept the assault secret for seven years because she didn't want the ordeal to define her, but her song "Till It Happens To You" very powerfully details what it feels like to be a sexual abuse victim.

At the 2016 Oscars, she performed the song onstage accompanied by a crowd of fellow survivors, who she also got matching tattoos with.

Lady Gaga has been extremely vocal in her support of Kesha and frequently uses the hashtags #FreeEveryWoman and #FreeKesha, and uploads posters about sexual assault to her social media accounts.

11 /19: Padma Lakshmi

11/19 :Padma Lakshmi

As a 7-year-old girl living in Queens, New York City, Lakshmi was molested by a friend of her now-former stepfather, and she spoke about her experience in a March 2016 interview with People magazine.

"Once you take a girl's innocence, you can never get it back," Lakshmi said. "What I remember more is telling my mother what happened and her believing me, and telling someone else what happened and that person not believing me."

Lakshmi also detailed her account of what happened in her book Love, Loss and What We Ate.

12 /19: Cheryl Burke

12/19 :Cheryl Burke

In a 2015 TLC documentary titled Breaking the Silence, Burke confessed to being sexually abused by her neighbor as a child — and talked about how it still affects her life all these years later.

"I still go through times when I'm down. I don't feel like I'm that strong woman that people think I am today," Burke said. "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 ultimately 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."

13 /19: Margaret Cho

13/19 :Margaret Cho

Cho revealed in September 2015 that from ages 5 to 12, she was sexually abused by a family friend.

"I had a very long-term relationship with this abuser, which is a horrible thing to say. I didn't even understand it was abuse, because I was too young to know," she said in an interview with Billboard magazine. "I endured it so many times, especially because I was alone a lot."

Cho's childhood was plagued by abuse, and she was raped by yet another family acquaintance when she was just 14 years old.

"I was raped continuously through my teenage years, and I didn't know how to stop it," she added. "It was also an era where young girls were being sexualized. For me, I think I had been sexually abused so much in my life that it was hard for me to let go of anger, forgive or understand what happened."

Cho was tormented for years by what happened and is now using music as an outlet to heal. 

14 /19: Jaime King

14/19 :Jaime King

In the wake of Kesha's lawsuit against Dr. Luke and Lady Gaga's Oscars performance, King was moved to share her childhood abuse story as well.

"Thank you @ladygaga — I finally felt a true healing from years of abuse as a minor in the industry. Time to be brave," she tweeted

King also expanded on her abuse story on Instagram.

"SURVIVOR  Thank you to @unwomen & all organizations that have tirelessly worked to somehow comfort & make right," she wrote in the caption for this photo. "Thank you to myself to not choosing to not make this a cover story though that was what was suggested to me but to express from my heart to you all personally which felt the most honest way for me to speak | Thank you to my Soul, body, mind, emotions, my inner child, my younger self, I love you. It's a night of celebration, of change, of not being ashamed of your race, creed color, situation, circumstances and environment, or past. Now I am free, somewhat. Thank you for the switch that went off inside finally when I realized my silence said I cannot help nor change and that is not who I am. I love you all very much for creating a safe space. The time is now. I was 14 here, it started at 12. Peace Be Still (sic)." 

15 /19: Jep Robertson

15/19 :Jep Robertson

Robertson admitted that he was embarrassed talking about his experience with sexual assault but came forward to try to help others who have been through something similar.

Robertson revealed in his book The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God: What Honesty and Pain Taught Us About Faith, Family, and Forgiveness that he was continually abused by a much older girl on the school bus when he was just 6 years old.

"I didn't want to go to school. I had a lot of absences," Robertson told ET. "My mom always thought I was sick and there was definitely other reasons I didn't want to go to school. I think for a while I just tried to bury it so deep that I kind of forgot about it for a while."

16 /19: Lena Dunham

16/19 :Lena Dunham

"When I was raped, I felt powerless. I felt my value had been determined by someone else," Dunham said in her speech at Variety's Power of Women 2015 luncheon. "Someone who sent me the message that my body was not my own and my choices were meaningless. It took years to recognize my worth was not tied to my assault. The voices telling me I deserved this were phantoms — they were liars.

"So as a feminist and sexual assault survivor, my ultimate goal is to use my experience, my platform and, yes, my privilege to reverse stigma and give voice to other survivors," she added.

17 /19: Ashley Judd

17/19 :Ashley Judd

Judd, who is very vocal about her dismay with Internet sexual harrassment, spoke up about her own personal experience with sexual violence in a 2015 essay for Identities.Mic in which she wrote about the link between online harassment and misogyny.

"I am a survivor of sexual assault, rape and incest. I am greatly blessed that in 2006, other thriving survivors introduced me to recovery," Judd wrote of her assault, which occurred in 1984. "I seized it. My own willingness, partnered with a simple kit of tools, has empowered me to take the essential odyssey from undefended and vulnerable victim to empowered survivor... today, nine years into my recovery, I can go farther and say my 'story' is not 'my story.' It is something a higher power (spirituality, for me, has been vital in this healing) uses to allow me the grace and privilege of helping others who are still hurting, and perhaps to offer a piece of education, awareness and action to our world."

18 /19: Jade Roper

18/19 :Jade Roper

Like many others, The Bachelor's Roper was inspired by Lady Gaga's 2016 Oscars performance to share her own story of how she was raped at a party when she was 17 years old.

"I've been trying for hours to think of what to say here, typing and back spacing," Roper wrote on Instagram. "To be honest, I'm terrified. Yet, this is something I felt was put on my heart to write and to share and after all these years allow myself to be free of something I felt I had to hide. Lady Gaga's performance was powerful and really moved me. I share my feelings and my story in the link I put in my bio. Hopefully, sharing my story can help others as much as it is helping me heal. Much love."

She followed up her Instagram post with a more detailed account on her personal blog.

19 /19: Gabrielle Union

19/19 :Gabrielle Union

Union was raped at gunpoint when she was just 19 years old, but she refuses to give in to a victim mentality.

"I got sick of people letting me off the hook," Union said in an interview on The View back in 2014, via the Daily News. "Being a victim is so comfortable. People give you attention, people are nurturing... When something catastrophic happens in your life, everyone rallies around you. You’re getting all the attention and love and support that you always wanted. But it’s not for something positive, and I hated that."

"I hated the cloak of victimhood," she added. "I realized they were going to allow me to be a victim, and not succeed and not achieve my goals."