As a two-time “Dancing with the Stars” champ, Cheryl Burke is graced with an amazing talent, but as a very young girl, the ballroom pro was the victim of sexual abuse. Now, Cheryl is going public with this tragic episode in her memoir, “Dancing Lessons: How I Found Passion and Potential on the Dance Floor and in Life.”
“I don’t think I had any self-esteem or any self-confidence, and I found it through men,” Cheryl told Access Hollywood’s Maria Menounos, when she came to the Access set for a new interview.
A pattern of insecurity and self-doubt paints Cheryl’s past. Her parents divorced when she was just 2. Her mother, Sherri, remarried, and because both Sherri and her husband Bob worked full time, they hired an old family friend to watch 5-year-old Cheryl, something they’d later regret more than anything.
“For a year, he molested my stepsister and I,” Cheryl told Maria. “I was 5 when he came in, when he came into our family. My sister is four years older, so she was 9, but she’s also my stepsister so she had two families, so she was barely home.
“I spent more time with him than she did,” Cheryl said.
Inside “Dancing Lessons,” Cheryl briefly details the inappropriate touches and cuddles and says he would make her watch pornography with him.
“You had to take the stand at 6 years old against this man, and it was even difficult for you to even understand at that age that what he was doing was wrong, right?” Maria asked
“Absolutely, I think just being there I was confused, ‘cause I didn’t want him to go away from me,” Cheryl said. “I wanted him to stay, and I almost wanted that affection.”
However, added testimony from the man’s own niece helped convict him and he went to jail for 20 years. The now 90-something got out of prison about two years ago.
“Do you ever fear running into him?” Maria asked.
“Yeah I do fear, I don’t know, I mean, what I hear is that he is stationed in a hospital near my neighborhood somewhere,” Cheryl said.
“You know, I always wonder if he’s watching ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” Cheryl continued. “But I know he’s harmless. There’s no way.”
In her book, Cheryl also writes about her very insecure teen years and revealed the abusive relationship that left her traumatized.
“I lost my virginity at a young age, but also, after that feeling, ‘cause it didn’t make me feel good, I stopped having sex for a while,” she said
“You talked about being hit by one of your boyfriends with a belt with his mom watching,” Maria said, recalling a portion of Cheryl’s book.
“It was just such a dark, dark day for me. And going through that and knowing that his parents knew what was happening and they didn’t stop it, really scared me,” Cheryl said. “And… I was so weak, that I went back to him after that.”
Years later, Cheryl was dealt another blow when she was mocked for gaining weight while on vacation.
“What was it like to see the tabloid headlines about, when you gained weight?” Maria asked.
“It was a horrible feeling,” she said. “It was really difficult to hold my head up high and say this isn’t affecting me. But I had to at the time.”
“Did you ever go into any of the crazy fad diets, did you take any extremes?” Maria asked
“I tried. I tried to not eat,” Cheryl said. “That didn’t work. It maybe worked for 24 hours. I tried all these diet pills that just made me feel shaky. And I knew I gained a few pounds, but I wanted, I wanted to let it shed off in a healthy way.”