50 Famous Survivors of Child Abuse

Many of them have been through some seriously traumatic events.
Harriet King May 19th 2018 Entertainment
When it all comes down to it, celebrities are just normal people like us with a range of life experiences and emotions. Like so many of us, some of the most famous celebrities have been through some seriously traumatic events, including child abuse. In some ways it can be even harder when you're in the spotlight.
If you think about it, most people aren't born celebrities and we all have to start somewhere. For some of these famous faces, their trauma is what ended up pushing them to achieve greatness. We're also lucky that so many of these celebrities have spoken out and brought awareness to the issue.
Telling the world about your most traumatic moments is no easy task, so we really take our hats off to everyone on this list. Take a look at these 50 amazing people who overcame all of the odds stacked against them. #48's story is the most inspirational of them all!
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1. Drew Barrymore
Drew Barrymore has got to be one of the most loved actresses in Hollywood today. She's down to earth, always friendly, stars in some of our favorite rom-coms, and is a producer and director to boot. She also doesn't fit the usual Hollywood beauty standards of having to be super skinny and unrealistically perfect looking. Which is why a lot of women can especially relate to her.
As a child growing up in Los Angeles, Barrymore was abused by her father, John Barrymore, which she has been really open to discussing over the years. She also got into drugs and alcohol as a teen, which definitely threw her off her course of becoming a superstar actress. Luckily for her and all of us, she somehow lifted herself out of her childhood hell and became wildly successful.
2. Oprah Winfrey
It's hard thinking of anyone more inspiring than Oprah Winfrey. She is one of the most successful businesswomen in the world, and one of the wealthiest, too. On top of this, everybody loves her. For years, her talk show was the most popular on the air and she has also starred in various films to much critical acclaim. Celebrities love her too and would choose to tell their very intimate stories on her show.
Maybe they felt comfortable with Oprah because of what she has been through. As a child in Milwaukee, she suffered from sexual abuse, which she has spoken out about numerous times in order to help other victims. She now does a lot of charity work with the explicit aim of helping disadvantaged girls. We can't get over what an amazing woman she is!
3. Duane Lee Chapman
Also known as 'Dog the Bounty Hunter', Duane Lee Chapman, is, as you may have guessed, an American bounty hunter. If you're not familiar with him and you're wondering how a bounty hunter becomes famous, we'll fill you in. Of course, it was a reality television series that brought Chapman the fame he has today. It ran from 2004 to 2012 and was called 'Dog the Bounty Hunter'. He then starred in another reality series for two years between 2013 and 2015, titled "Dog and Beth: On the Hunt'.
In 2007, Chapman wrote his first book, You Can Run But You Can't Hide, in which he detailed the abuse he endured as a child at the hands of his father. In the book, he says, "As a young boy, I never knew that other kids didn't get hit by their dads. I thought it was a rite of passage to have my father knock me around."
4. Marilyn Monroe
Beautiful, enchanting, and famously troubled, Marilyn Monroe is an absolute icon of the 20th century. Whether you're in love with all of her films or only know her from the famous footage of her in THAT white dress, everyone seems fascinated by the woman who managed to seduce president JFK by singing that sexy version of 'Happy Birthday'.
Everyone loved her, but tragically, Marilyn Monroe couldn't seem to love herself. This probably has everything to do with her abusive childhood, being carted from one foster home to the next, as well as the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of men. Monroe, previously known as Norma Jean Mortenson, took her own life at the too-young age of 36, devastating the whole world. We wish she had the strength to keep going, but we're glad her legacy lives on.
5. Bill Clinton
When you think of Bill Clinton and abuse, you don't automatically think of him as a victim. He held the top job in the USA for two full terms, but his presidency was characterized by the Monica Lewinsky scandal. She was a White House intern in her early 20s and he was a married man in a position of power. For this, he was rightly criticized and almost lost his job.
It's a common scenario that abusers have often been abused themselves (not that it's an excuse, but it certainly explains a lot of things). So, it's not totally shocking to learn that Clinton was abused by his father, who also battled with alcoholism. Like so many kids in the same situation, Clinton said he kept everything a secret and never wanted anyone to know.
6. Tyler Perry
Famous actor, director, and comedian, Tyler Perry is the last person you would expect to be a victim of abuse. He always seems so out there and so carefree. But in a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey he revealed everything he went through as a child, and it was nothing short of horrific. His father was physically abusive towards Perry and his three siblings to the point where Perry once attempted suicide in order to escape the beatings.
He was molested by his mother's friend when he was ten years old, as well as by three other men prior to this. Our hearts break to think of Perry as a small child, having to go through all of this. We're so happy he managed to achieve success despite everything that happened. It takes a really strong person to do it.
7. Rosie O'Donnell
Rosie O'Donnell has been a fixture on our screens since the '80s and we wouldn't have it any other way. Comedian, actress, talk show host, and author, she is clearly a woman of many, many talents. Whether you know her from The Rosie O'Donnell Show, films such as Now and Then, Tarzan, or Sleepless in Seattle, or any of her other major television work, such as The View, you likely recognize and love her big personality.
O'Donnell has spoken publicly about the sexual abuse she and her siblings suffered as children. She has also acknowledged ongoing mental health problems as a result, including dissociation, which causes you to dissociate yourself from your body. Sadly, O'Donnell's past as a survivor may be what has now triggered an estrangement with her own daughter. Sometimes the cycle just doesn't stop.
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8. Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt will go down in history as one of the most active, compassionate, and productive first ladies in US history. Everything she did was led by her passion and care for people less fortunate than herself. Some even argue that her husband, Franklin Roosevelt, would not have been as good of a president without her by his side. We tend to think that's very true!
Though she never spoke publicly about it, Eleanor Roosevelt went through what most would agree sounds like child abuse at the hand of her governess. A Franklin Roosevelt biographer discovered old letters written by Eleanor, which described her fear of her governess, as well as physical abuse, such as hair pulling. Though these theories of abuse were never confirmed, she was a vulnerable child who would certainly fit the bill as a target.
9. Roseanne Barr
This American actress and comedian is well known for her outrageous personality and self-titled television series. Now going through a modern day, Trump era reboot, 'Roseanne' is certainly causing some controversy amongst the American public. As a politically active celebrity, the show definitely doesn't shy away from making some pretty big statements in favor of President Trump.
Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Barr's early years were anything but wonderful. She has stated in interviews that both of her parents physically and sexually abused her, and that she was part of an incest recovery group for many years. She often refers to it as the darkest time in her life. She also gave birth to a baby while recovering from a serious car accident at the age of 16, which she gave up for adoption.
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10. Richard Nixon
Another controversial US president on the list - is there a pattern starting to form here? Richard Nixon was the 37th president of the USA and he has been the only president to resign from the position. This was due to the Watergate scandal that rocked the nation and was sure to have Nixon impeached and charged. He just wanted to be one step ahead, it seems.
Could his actions as president have stemmed from his childhood of abuse? It's certainly possible. His father was reportedly abusive, while his mother was extremely controlling. Later in life, rumors circulated that Nixon used to beat his wife, as well as verbally abuse her. This is certainly in line with a cycle of abuse starting at childhood. While we can understand how he got that way, it definitely doesn't excuse his behavior.
11. Jewel
Jewel is best known for her angelic voice and hit singles. Who could forget Foolish Games, You Were Meant for Me, and Hands? The soulful lyrics were what people loved most about Jewel's music. The audience could feel that they came from the heart and that she drew from her own life experiences. As it turns out, not all of those experiences were good, but they may have been transformative.
Born in Utah and raised in Alaska, Jewel's upbringing was anything but peaceful. According to her own memoir, her father used to physically and mentally abuse her, as well as her two brothers. This sparked a chain of events that led to her massive success in the music industry. At one point, when she was 18 years old, she was homeless. Now look how far she has come!
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12. Chevy Chase
Born and raised in New York, Chevy Chase is an international comedy icon and household name. He first made it big on Saturday Night Live and went on to win three Emmy Awards (out of five nominations). He has also been nominated for two Golden Globe Awards. Basically, Chase is a hilarious superstar who has achieved almost as much success as you can get as a comedian.
Unfortunately for Chase, his life didn't always revolve around laughter. As a child, his mother and stepfather subjected him to physical and emotional abuse. The comedian has recalled the times he was locked in a closet for hours and then slapped across the face after being released. We often wonder if the sadness in his childhood is what prompted him to start a career that was based on making people happy.
13. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah was born in New Jersey as Dana Elaine Owens. We know her best for her outgoing and fun personality, as well as her music, film work, and television talk show. Queen Latifah certainly has reigned over the entertainment industry, and with very good reason. She's multitalented and worked harder than most to get to where she is today.
The musician and actress has not had an easy life, particularly given the death of her older brother on a motorcycle that she bought for him. It was his death that ultimately motivated her to admit that she had been sexually assaulted as a child. Her parents never knew about the abuse she suffered and she was too scared to speak up about it at the time. Queen Latifah revealed her past to the public in the hope that more children will feel confident seeking help in the future.
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14. Lee Daniels
When it comes to film, it's almost as though Lee Daniels has the ability to see into the future. He produced Monster's Ball and directed Precious, which were both critically acclaimed films that received numerous Academy Award nominations. We don't know how he does it, but Daniels seems to have a crystal ball when it comes to these kinds of things.
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Daniels began his career in the entertainment industry as a casting agent, which eventually saw him progress to the heights we have seen today. His dad was a police officer who was killed in the line of duty, but that didn't stop Daniels from sharing his story of childhood physical abuse. To this day, he hopes that his own story will inspire others to take a stand or confide in someone they trust.
15. Janice Dickinson
Janice Dickinson is best known for her work as a model. Some people, including herself, even describe her as the world's first supermodel. Her modeling hey day was back in the '70s and '80s, but she managed to revive her career in the early 2000s as a judge on the wildly successful television series, America's Next Top Model. She was notorious for being sassy and outspoken on the show, and most considered her the toughest judge.
Dickinson has been very open with the public about the abuse she endured as a child at the hands of her father. He sexually abused her sister and physically abused Dickinson over a period of many years. Throughout this awful time, Dickinson was also verbally and emotionally abused, and was often told she wouldn't amount to anything in life.
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16. Fiona Apple
A legendary American singer-songwriter, Fiona Apple holds a special place in many of our hearts. She was a teen star, releasing her first album, Tidal, at the age of just 17. From there, Apple only got more awards, more critical acclaim, and more famous. Though her success came at a young age, Apple began writing songs when she was just eight years old, so 17 doesn't seem so crazy when you put it into perspective.
Sadly, Apple was raped as a 12-year-old child outside her home in Harlem, New York City. This sparked a series of reactions to the trauma, including an eating disorder. Due to panic attacks she suffered after the event, Apple relocated to Los Angeles to live with her father. Though many insist her music reveals her pain, Apple says she has never included it in any of her music.
17. Dave Mustaine
Here we have our second heavy metal star after Marilyn Manson. Dave Mustaine is not just the founder of the highly successful band, Megadeth, he's also a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and author. He was also the original lead guitarist of Metallica, however, he was fired from that gig due to his alcoholism, drug abuse, and aggressive behavior.
As we've seen with many child abuse victims, past trauma can often lead to problems in adulthood, particularly when it comes to anger management. In his book, A Heavy Metal Memoir, Mustaine details the physical abuse he suffered as a child. Thankfully, Mustaine seems to have dealt with his childhood trauma in a healthy way and now speaks out against sexual abuse and harassment. Maybe he found a healthy outlet in writing his memoir, or maybe leaving Metallica fueled it. Either way, it's great that he has worked through it.
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18. Maya Angelou
A truly amazing human, Maya Angelou is one of the best examples of somebody channeling their pain into something good. A famous poet, writer, and civil rights activist, she led one fascinating and varied life. Angelou worked numerous jobs in her youth, from fry cook and sex worker, to opera singer and war journalist. It really seems like there's nothing she couldn't do.
Angelou is famous for her series of memoirs, which detail the abuse she experienced throughout her life. One particular memoir, Why the Caged Bird Sings, recounts her life before the age of 17. When she was eight years old, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend, who was jailed for just one day after being found guilty. We're so grateful that she managed to turn her own pain into something beautiful for others who are struggling.
19. Tina Turner
Tina Turner's story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Raised in Nutbush, Tennessee, she ended up becoming one of the bestselling artists of all time. But it didn't come easily, and her life was constantly haunted by abuse. Though most people are familiar with her marriage to Ike Turner, who was domestically abusive towards his wife, many don't know about her painful childhood.
Turner was not physically or sexually abused as a child (that we know of), but her mother's experience with an abusive boyfriend caused her to abandon Tuner at the age of eleven. This was a painful time for her and she has often spoken in interviews about how her mother never loved her. Turner went on to become a megastar, but she also had to endure her own abusive relationship to get there.
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20. Henry Rollins
Born Henry Lawrence Garfield, Henry Rollins is a jack of all trades. We know him as a musician, actor, writer, and comedian, amongst other things. He is perhaps best known as the previous front man of hardcore punk band, Black Flag, as well as front man for his own group, the Rollins Band. But music isn't his only passion - in recent times, Rollins has appeared on numerous television shows, most notably as host of the educational series, 10 Things You Don't Know About.
Unfortunately, Rollins was a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and it's a trauma that has stayed with him through adulthood. When he was just seven years old, his mother's boyfriend molested him. He has been open in interviews about his experience and even links it to his anger issues towards men as an adult.
21. Gloria Steinem
Known as one of the world's most important feminists and activists, Gloria Steinem's contributions will absolutely go down in history. She has dedicated her life to empowering women through both her writing and the organizations that she has founded. She currently works as a lecturer and public speaker. She has now reached the age of 84, but it seems like nothing can stop her!
Perhaps something that motivated Steinem was her experiences as a child. Though she experienced no physical abuse, she was neglected by both parents, due to a messy break up and her mother's mental illness. Her mother couldn't hold a job for very long, which inspired Steinem's ideas about hostility towards women in the workplace. Steinem also developed interesting ideas around discrimination against female patients after witnessing how her mother was treated by her doctors.
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22. Missy Elliot
Missy Elliot is one of the most famous rappers and producers of our time. Oh, and have we mentioned she can dance? It's practically impossible to ignore Missy and her work, as it's always guaranteed to be showstopping. She has won a whopping four Grammy Awards and sold more than 30 million records, making her the bestselling female rapper in history.
Sadly for Missy Elliot, it was a difficult road to success. She and her mother experienced domestic abuse at the hands of her father - at one point he dislocated her mother's shoulders and even threatened her with a gun. She was also molested by a cousin at the age of just eight years old. Though her childhood was traumatic, she often praises the strength of her mother and says it made her stronger, too.
23. Rudyard Kipling
Author of classics such as The Jungle Book and Kim, Rudyard Kipling is one of Britain's national treasures when it comes to his work (his political opinions are quite another matter). He won the Nobel Prize for Literature back in 1907 when he was 42 years old - he was considered one of the most popular writers in the country at the time and for many years after.
Kipling had an interesting upbringing. He is British but was born in India and spent his first five years there. After that, he was sent back to the UK and lived in a boarding house where he ended up being abused. Kipling referred to his foster home as the 'house of desolation' due to the torture he suffered at the hands of his foster mother, who would beat him and emotionally abuse him frequently.
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24. Axl Rose
Another famous rocker has found his way onto the list. This time it's Axl Rose, best known as the front man of Guns N' Roses. He is also currently the lead singer of AC/DC and is known internationally as one of the greatest singers of all time. We have Axl Rose to thank for hits such as Sweet Child O' Mine and Paradise city. Really, he's kind of the voice behind an entire era of rock.
Rose was notoriously difficult to tour with and often suffered from illnesses. It wasn't until 1990 that he spoke publicly about discovering homeopathic medicine and regression therapy. Rose claims he uncovered memories of his father sexually abusing him at the age of two. He blames this trauma for stunting his emotional growth and causing many of his health problems.
25. Tavis Smiley
Born in Gulfport, Mississippi, Tavis Smiley is an American talk show host and author. He is probably best known for hosting 'Tavis Smiley' on PBS, as well as 'The Tavis Smiley Show' on National Public Radio. Though he is known for his work on PBS, he was fired from the network in December 2017 after a series of sexual misconduct allegations came to light.
The cycle of abuse really shows itself here. Smiley detailed the childhood abuse he suffered at the hands of his stepfather in his autobiography. It is by no means an excuse for the abuse he himself has perpetrated, but it's not uncommon to see the abused become the abuser in cases like this. We hope the women he sexually assaulted and harassed at work get the justice and help they need.
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26. Rosie Perez
Rosie Perez has certainly had a long lasting and varied career. She is perhaps best known for her acting work, but is also a professional choreographer, activist, author, and talk show host. Clearly a woman of many talents, Perez has been a fixture in the entertainment industry since the '80s. If you can't think of exactly where you've seen her, you'll probably recognize her from the film White Men Can't Jump, or as a regular host on The View.
Perez published an autobiography titled "Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother, and Still Came Out Smiling" in which she shares details of the abuse she went through during childhood. She was abused by her mentally ill mother, as well as nuns from a group home she lived in.
27. George Orwell
One of the most famous authors of our time, George Orwell gave us thought-provoking classics such as Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. He was a master of dystopian novels, as well as themes of totalitarianism and censorship. He used his talents to present fiction with a dose of real truth behind it. He was a known socialist activist throughout most of his short life (Orwell died at age 47).
Orwell's novels were so powerful that the term 'Orwellian' was coined to describe totalitarian practices. Other tokens from his books have taken on a life of their own, including 'big brother', 'room 101', and unperson, amongst others. Orwell once described his abuse at a private boarding school, where he was flogged and fed sour porridge. We wonder if that's how he came up with some of his dark ideas.
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28. Gabriel Byrne
Gabriel Byrne is an internationally famous Irish actor who has appeared in more than 35 feature films over the course of his career. You probably know him from Excalibur, The Usual Suspects, Stigmata, End of Days, or Vampire Academy, but he has starred in many, many more. Byrne is also a producer with one Academy Award nomination under his belt for film, In the Name of the Father. He won a Golden Globe Award for his role in the television series, In Treatment.
Usually a private person, Byrne opened up about his experience of being abused as a child on The Meaning of Life television series, which is screened in Ireland. Byrne recounted how he was sexually abused by Christian Brothers when he was involved with the church as a child. In fact, he was an eleven-year-old who was training to become a priest.
29. Ludwig van Beethoven
Beethoven has got to be one of the most famous composers and pianists of all time. The other one we think of is Mozart, and as it turns out, they lived in the same country, Vienna! Beethoven is actually German, but he moved to Vienna to pursue his music career. Though he ended up going deaf by the end of his life, he never stopped composing and even came up with some of his most critically acclaimed work during these years.
It wasn't an easy path to fame for Beethoven. His father taught him to play piano so he could become the next Mozart. When he didn't meet his father's high standards he would be beaten by him. There is much speculation that the repeated beatings are actually what caused Beethoven's eventual deafness as a young adult.
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30. Billie Holiday
We know her for her distinctive and powerful jazz voice, but did you know Billie Holiday had zero formal training as a singer? She simply loved jazz, and that love ended up influencing the genre permanently. She began her career singing in Harlem nightclubs in New York City and was eventually selling out shows at Carnegie Hall. Sadly, a troubled life and drug abuse caused her life to end before its time, at the age of 44. Holiday won four posthumous Grammy Awards, all for Best Historical Album.
When she was just eleven years old, Holiday survived a traumatic ordeal when her neighbor, Wilbur Rich, attempted to rape her. Her mother discovered them and was able to fight off Rich, but Holiday was placed in a home under protective custody until she could testify as a state witness in the trial.
31. Antwone Fisher
Antwone Fisher is an American author, director, and film producer. What's interesting about him is that he became famous off the back of his autobiography, which was adapted for the big screen. The film, Antwone Fisher, was released in 2002 and directed by Denzel Washington. Before his career in the entertainment industry, Fisher was a member of the US Navy and also worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a correctional officer.
Sadly, the cause of Fisher's success was the retelling of his traumatic life. He was born in prison and only months afterwards his father was murdered by an ex-girlfriend. He remained in foster care for the rest of his childhood and spent 14 years with a family who physically, sexually, emotionally, and verbally abused him. He was eventually removed from the home but ended up joining the US Navy because he was homeless.
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32. Robert Blake
Famous for his acting roles, particularly in the film In Cold Blood, Robert Blake has had a lengthy and steady career in the entertainment industry. Blake began acting when he was a child back in 1939, and continued all the way through until 1997, with a short stint in the army in between. He was accused of murdering his second wife, Bonnie Lee Bakley, and though he was acquitted of murder, he was eventually charged for her wrongful death.
There's no doubt about it - Blake has lived a tumultuous life, and it all started with his childhood. He claims that he was physically and sexually abused by his parents. Some of the abuse detailed included being locked in a closet and being forced to eat food off the floor. He ended up running away from home at the age of 14.
33. Jonathan Davis
Yet another hard rocker joins the list, and this time it's Jonathan Davis, best known as the front man of metal band, Korn. For years, fans suspected there may have been abuse in Davis's history, due to some telling lyrics in multiple songs he wrote for the band. Though they're a little more out of the spotlight now, Korn is still recording music and their most recent album was released in 2016.
One song that really had fans speculating about Davis's potential childhood abuse is 'Daddy'. Most wrongly assumed that his father abused him, but Davis has since dispelled those rumors. In actual fact, the song was written about a female family friend who molested him as a child. When he tried to tell his parents, they didn't do anything about it and shrugged off his claims.
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34. Mary J. Blige
As far as success goes, Mary J. Blige is a woman of many talents. She is a singer, songwriter, and actress, and her work is consistently critically acclaimed. In fact, she has won nine Grammy Awards for her music, as well as three Golden Globe Awards. She was also nominated for two Academy Awards in the same year. She is consistently ranked the most successful female R&B and hip-hop artist by Billboard.
Blige's music always comes from the heart and often tells a painful story, which is perhaps why she has sold more than 75 million records worldwide. Unfortunately, she draws from her own traumatic past, which includes both sexual and emotional abuse she suffered as a child. Blige has stated that she was sexually abused from the age of five, all the way through to adulthood.
35. Joyce Meyer
Joyce Meyer is a well known 'Charismatic Christian' and the president of Joyce Meyer Ministries. Her ministry is located in St. Louis, Missouri, the city where she was born. The Charismatic Christian movement began in the '60s and is considered quite similar to Pentecostalism. Meyer is an engaging speaker who has become very wealthy from her career as a preacher.
Meyer's father went to fight in World War II. When he returned, Meyer says he began sexually abusing her, which is something she has been open about with the public. She was always religious and prayed regularly, however, she said that one morning she heard God call her name. She followed the calling and developed the ministry and massive following she has today. Since then, she has become one of the most influential evangelicals in the USA.
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36. Anne Sexton
One of America's most talented poets, Anne Sexton consistently engaged readers with her personal and heartfelt work. Critics also agreed and she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1967. Though successful in her career, Sexton's private life often suffered due to past trauma and mental illness. In 1974, at the early age of 45, she ended up committing suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. She was buried in Boston, Massachusetts.
Sexton succeeded in ending her own life, but it was not her first try. After one of her previous attempts she worked with a therapist, who used hypnosis to uncover repressed childhood memories. This treatment ended up revealing memories of childhood sexual abuse by her own father. Sexton's daughter, Linda, claims that her mother abused her, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle we've all been able to observe in survivors.
37. Chester Bennington
Here we have yet another rocker, Chester Bennington. Famous for being the front man of Linkin Park, Bennington was also the lead singer of Dead by Sunrise, Grey Daze, and Stone Temple Pilots. He first came to mainstream fame with the release of Linkin Park's debut album, Hybrid Theory, all the way back in 2000. From then on, his distinctive voice was a fixture on the charts.
Sadly, Bennington had a difficult childhood, which involved being sexually abused by an older male friend when he was seven years old. The abuse continued until he was 13, but he never told anybody until many years later. Bennington went on to develop and overcome drug addiction, and he tried hard to work through his childhood trauma. Despite all the progress he made, he tragically committed suicide in 2017.
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38. Erin gray
Who doesn't love Erin Gray? She has been around for what feels like forever, and quietly achieves greatness without making a big fuss about it. If she seems familiar but you can't quite place her, you'll probably remember her as Colonel Wilma Deering in the television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, or as Kate Summers-Stratton in comedy series, Silver Spoons.
Gray has been open about the sexual molestation she suffered through as a child, at the hands of her stepfather. She also had to watch her mother be abused by the same man and has described how the "affectionate hugs" from her stepfather eventually turned to abuse. Eventually she fought back by threatening him with a knife. She now works with domestic abuse victims as part of her activism and commitment to create a kinder world.
39. Carlos Santana
Carlos Santana is of course most famous for his legendary talent with the guitar. We immediately think of the distinctive smooth and relaxing sounds he creates on stage. He frequently appears on the Rolling Stone 'Greatest Guitarists of All Time' lists, and with very good reason. Santana has won a whopping ten Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards. Born in Mexico and based in the USA, Santana is a true North American icon.
In what seems to be a story that is far too common, Santana was sexually molested by an American man who was assisting him in crossing the border from Mexico to the USA. This went on for a period of two years when Santana was between the ages of ten and twelve. The musician decided to take his story to the public in order to raise awareness and help other victims.
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40. Kirk Hammett
Kirk Hammett is a heavy metal legend - he has been the lead guitarist of Metallica since all the way back in 1983 and has consistently appeared on lists featuring the greatest guitarists of all time. So, what inspired Hammett to become one of the most talented guitarists in the world? He claims it was listening to his older brother's record collection, which included Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, and UFO.
It's no secret that Hammett battled drug addiction during his younger years. Some may tie it back to an unusual childhood trauma he experienced. When he was eleven years old, Hammett witnessed his pet dog being raped by his neighbor. He has said about the matter, "The guy took down his pants and started having sex with the dog! I didn't know whether to laugh or cry."
41. Rain Pryor
Following in her father, Richard Pryor's footsteps, Rain Pryor is a famous actress and comedian. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Pryor grew up Jewish, thanks to her mother (a Jewish go-go dancer) and her maternal grandparents, who were around for most of her childhood. In addition to her work as a comedian, Pryor has also performed on stage as Billie Holiday in The Billie Holiday Story and Ella Fitzgerald in Ella, Meet Marilyn.
Sadly, Pryor and her siblings were subjected to abuse by their father, Richard. He himself suffered abuse as a child and he perpetuated the cycle with his own six children. The children were exposed to his sex and drug addictions, and often interacted with the many sex workers he brought to the family home. These events went on to inspire her book and comedy material.
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42. Eve Ensler
Here we have another feminist who has managed to turn their past pain into something helpful for others. Eve Ensler is best known for creating the internationally famous and critically acclaimed play, The Vagina Monologues, which has been performed all over the world. The New York Times even dubbed it "probably the most important piece of political theater of the last decade." Ensler also created a V-Day movement which raises money to stop violence against women.
When Ensler was a child she was the victim of incest and sexual assault by her father, which she said caused her to become a very angry misfit. She soon turned to feminism, and we're so relieved she discovered the movement when she did. All of the important work she does today is so valuable to people in need.
43. Marilyn Manson
Anybody familiar with Marilyn Manson probably won't be surprised at his inclusion on this list. Born Brian Warner, he created a persona for himself that became highly controversial, both within the USA and internationally. Known for his outlandish makeup and violent song lyrics, Manson is a hard rock legend, as well as a confusing and elusive figure.
After the Columbine massacre in 1999, Manson was blamed by much of society for inciting the killers with his particular brand of music. He soon revealed himself to be well spoken and intelligent when speaking about the matter in the Michael Moore documentary, Bowling for Columbine. Manson has revealed that he suffered from sexual abuse as a child, a theme which has made its way into much of his music, especially his album 'Smells Like Children'.
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44. Derek Luke
Derek Luke first burst onto the scene with his big screen debut in the film, Antwone Fisher. Strangely enough, the real Antwone Fisher also appears in this list. The film is based on Fisher's life of abuse, so it kind of makes sense that they picked an actor who had also been through some rough times. Luke is also well known for his role as Gabe Jones in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, Luke was no stranger to the arts. His mother was a pianist and his father was an actor, so it totally fits that Luke would head in that direction. Luke hasn't been shy about his childhood and has spoken frankly about the sexual molestation he experienced as a child. He said playing Antwone Fisher felt freeing.
45. Johannes Brahms
Like many German composers, Johannes Brahms spent most of his life in Vienna, the capital of classical music, working on his craft. He is often held in the same regard as other famous composers of the time, including Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart. There's no doubt about it - Brahms was one talented guy when it came to anything music-related.
As a child, Brahms was exposed to much debauchery as he accompanied his father to dive bars to perform for sailors and sex workers. The women would occasionally sit on his lap and sexually molest him. Brahms was a notorious misogynist, and many scholars pinpoint this time in his childhood as the reason why he developed an unhealthy attitude towards women. He also went on to pay sex workers for their services when he was an adult, avoiding romance as much as possible.
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46. Mike Patton
Do you guys remember the band Faith No More? Mike Patton was the lead singer, as well as an actor, producer, and songwriter. He is often praised for his vocal range and distinctive voice, which most people love remembering from the Faith No More days. Patton first met Faith No More in 1986 and aspired to be part of the group. We totally understand - who wouldn't want to be a rock star?
Born in Eureka, California, Patton had a very difficult childhood. As we've mentioned before, it seems to be a bit of a pattern when it comes to hardcore rockers! Patton has been quite open with the public about his story, which involves neglect as a child, as well as childhood sexual abuse. Most people simply want to raise awareness and give more confidence to those in need.
47. Pat Conroy
Pat Conroy is one of America's biggest literature legends. He's the author of multiple novels, as well as a couple of memoirs, too. In fact, two of his novels, The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, were even adapted to Oscar nominated films. He didn't always lead such a glamourous life - Conroy moved around a lot as a kid due to his father's job in the Marine Corps. By the time he turned 15, he had attended a total of eleven schools.
It was Conroy's novel, The Great Santini, that gave away his secret pain. The main character is based on his own father, and showcases what Conroy went through in terms of physical abuse as a child. The novel was bold for its time and provided a refreshing take on family drama.
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48. Christina Aguilera
Anyone around in the late '90s wouldn't be able to forget when Christina Aguilera burst onto the music scene with her first hit, Genie in a Bottle. Girls everywhere wanted to be her and she continued to release hit pop song after hit pop song. It wasn't until a few years later that Aguilera started releasing songs with a clear message, such as Stronger and Beautiful. Something had changed and we found out via interviews what it was all about.
While she was growing up, Aguilera was physically and emotionally abused by her father, who she continued to try maintaining a relationship with. She has now been estranged from him for more than a decade, but her more serious music still provides a window into the traumatic life she used to live. We're so glad she made it out on top.
49. Paula White
We genuinely can't keep up with all of the job titles associated with preachers these days. But we can tell you that Paula White is a Pentecostal televangelist. What is a televangelist? You might be wondering. To be honest, we had to look up the term ourselves in order to figure it out. It's essentially just someone who communicates their Christianity through multi-media platforms, such as television and radio. When it comes to Paula White, she certainly has a following.
White didn't have an easy childhood. Her mother turned to alcoholism, which forced them and her brother into poverty. While under the watch of caretakers, White was sexually and physically abused between the ages of six and thirteen. She soon developed the eating disorder bulimia as a way to cope with the trauma of her childhood.
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50. Fantasia
Born in High Point, North Carolina, Fantasia Barrino first made it big as a contestant on the third series of American Idol. She is now well known as an R&B artist, as well as a songwriter and actress. Not only did her albums top the charts - she also tried her hand at Broadway and succeeded in a big way. She even played the main character, Celie, in the stage production of The Color Purple.
Things finally came together for Fantasia, but it wasn't without much hardship along the way. She has admitted to the public that she was sexually abused at the young age of 14. She always hopes that her story has inspired others to come forward if they're experiencing the same thing. We're very sure that girls all over the world admire her and her bravery in telling such a painful story.

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