Cheryl Burke has made a shocking revelation!
The “Dancing with the Stars” professional dancer recently revealed that as a child, she was repeatedly molested by a family friend, and even testified against him in court, which helped send the guy to prison for nearly 20 years.
That family friend, Burke says, happened to be a retired mailman who was trusted and well-liked in Burke’s community.
She was only 5 years old when the assaults began.
“I’m telling my story,” says Burke, 26, who opens up about the molestation – and other struggles, including physical abuse by two former boyfriends – in her new book Dancing Lessons, (coauthored by PEOPLE senior writer Monica Rizzo). “They’re not secrets. There’s no shame.”
Burke’s abuser would sometimes pick her up from school and do odd jobs around her home. After he was accused of sexually abusing other children, Burke stepped forward and admitted that she too was a victim of the man’s abuse. Still coping with her parents’ split when she was a baby, Burke says she was confused about what her abuser was doing to her.
“I felt guilty for wanting his love and affection,” she says, calling testifying against him “the hardest thing I’ve ever done … I saw his face and lawyers were asking me these questions and I was like, ‘What am I doing? Did he even do anything wrong?'”
Brooke eventually came to see how wrong her abuser was once the man was put in prison and she underwent years of therapy. With the 12th season of “Dancing with the Stars” beginning in March, Burke is ready to help others with her story.
“If I can help just one person,” she says, “for me that’s all that matters.”
Good for you Cheryl!