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Vanessa Williams is no stranger to secrets and scandal, both on and off camera. And in her new memoir "You Have No Idea," she shares a tragic memory from her childhood. The Desperate Housewives actress reveals that as a child she was molested by a young woman.
According to her book, Williams was only 10 years old when the molestation occurred. In the latest issue of People magazine, the actress-singer, 49, details the incident, in which an 18-year-old friend of the family named Susan (whom she considered the "epitome of cool") touched her inappropriately.
"She told me to lie down on the rug," Williams told People. "I was confused. Are we going to play a game? As I tried to make sense of it, Susan pulled down the bloomers of my cotton baby-doll pajamas. 'What are you doing?' I asked. 'Don’t worry -- it’ll feel good.'"
Williams recalls that Susan told her, "Don't tell anyone," so she didn't. For years, Williams kept what happened to her a secret, because she didn't fully comprehend the severity of the abuse.
"I didn’t really understand until college," Williams said of the epiphany she had about the molestation. "I was with my boyfriend and it hit me and I blurted out: 'Oh my god -- I was molested.'"
The beauty queen admits that what happened led her to "become a bit more rebellious." She confesses that she not only smoked marijuana in high school, she also had an abortion her senior year.
Nearly 40 years after her abuse, Williams believes all of her struggles are "part of [her] journey."
Despite dealing with her traumatizing experience, Williams went on to become the first African American to win the Miss America pageant in 1983. Williams says she felt numb: "I wasn't happy. I wasn't excited. I wasn't there. I just smiled and waved."
Unfortunately, a nude photo scandal ultimately cost her the crown -- yet another life hurdle that Williams has since overcome.