Kit Steinkellner
Updated May 20, 2014 @ 7:32 am

At Cannes this year, while giving a press conference about her new foundation, Pamela Anderson made the brave and rare celebrity admission that she had been sexually abused growing up by multiple people, from the age of six through her freshman year of high school. These incidents led to her lifelong pursuit of animal and human rights as Anderson became determined to protect innocents who could not stand up for themselves. Of course, it was an impossibly long and hard road for Anderson to get where she is today.

“I wanted off this Earth,” Anderson says, explaining her state in the wake of her abuse. “… I had a hard time trusting other humans… my parents tried to keep me safe but to me the world was not always a safe place.”

Every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted. One in six women report being victims of rape or sexual assault. That’s 17.7 million women who are the victims of these crimes. 44% of rape victims are under the age of 18. 15% of rape victims are under the age of 12. As if these statistics aren’t nightmarish enough, 60% of victims will never report their rape and 97% of rapists will never spend a day in jail. So few rape and abuse victims publicly share their story, which makes Anderson’s public statement all the more powerful. If we are going to truly break the cycles of sexual abuse and violence, speaking up makes a difference.

These crimes can’t be kept in the dark, and that’s why Anderson’s story is monumentally important. It’s an act of courage for a public figure (or anyone) to share a personal story of abuse. Anderson is owning her own history, and in the process, making the public sphere a safer place for those stories to be heard and shared.