Jessica Simpson revealed a deeply personal and painful part of her past last year when she told the world about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child in the pages of her memoir, “Open Book.”
But there was one person very close to her who didn’t learn about that troubling time until later, when Simpson toured to promote the book. That’s when her oldest daughter, Maxwell, overheard a fan speaking about it and then turned to her mother with a question of her own.
In the newly released paperback version of Simpson’s book, the singer, actor and entrepreneur shared an update about that awkward but important parenting moment.
“(M)y then 7-year-old daughter, Maxwell, joined me at the table,” the 40-year-old wrote. “People who’d waited in line wanted her autograph in the book, too.”
So, Maxwell was right by her side when a woman walked up to them with tears in her eyes.
“Thank you for talking about what you went through as a child,” the fan told her, and without further details, Simpson knew exactly what part of her memoir she meant.
She’d written candidly about the abuse she endured from the age of 6 until 12, at the hands of a woman whom she’s since forgiven.
“I’ve been through the same thing and I’m a mother now,” the emotional reader continued. “I was scared it might happen to my children because I just couldn’t talk about it with them.”
Simpson’s daughter was moved by the stranger’s tears.
“Maxwell nudged my leg,” Simpson recalled. “‘Mom,’ she whispered. ‘You should hug her.’ I jumped up, shaking my head like I’d lost my manners. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I said, moving around the table to give her a real hug.”
As the star embraced her, the fan added that she was OK now, she was in therapy and had at least discussed what happened to her with her husband, despite having earlier believed that it was “too late” to address the past pain.
“When she walked away,” Simpson noted, “Maxwell asked, ‘What was she talking about?’”
While that reader hadn’t yet found the right moment to speak to her children about the abuse, Simpson suddenly discovered that she and Maxwell were having that moment.
“I motioned to the event manager to just give me a minute,” she wrote. Then she turned to Maxwell and said, “Well, in the book Mommy talks about when she was a little bit younger than you ... I struggled with somebody touching me in an uncomfortable way.”
Maxwell, who’d already shown sympathy to the fan earlier, then offered it to her mother.
“‘Oh, that’s so sad, Mommy,’ she said. This is my sweet girl who starts praying on November 1 for Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, the elves, and all the reindeer to sleep well so they can rest up for their busy time at Christmas,” Simpson explained.
But when Maxwell tried to soothe her by telling her not to worry, that it “won’t happen to me,” Simpson considered her reply carefully.
“I wanted to smile and say, ‘You’re right,’ and move on. But I couldn’t,” she wrote. “‘We don’t want it to, no,’ I said. ‘And if it ever did, I want you to be able to tell them to stop and tell me or Daddy right away. OK?’”
Maxwell agreed, and mom realized they both learned something important that day.
Simpson, who has two other children with husband Eric Johnson, son Ace, 7, and daughter Birdie, 2, emphasized, “Parents have to seize these moments when you have your kids’ attention. Time goes by so fast.”
Watch TODAY All Day! Get the best news, information and inspiration from TODAY, all day long.