This story discusses child sexual abuse. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 800-656-4673 to reach the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. You can also visit the Child Help Hotline for additional support.
John Stamos says in his new memoir that he was sexually abused by a babysitter when he was a child.
The 60-year-old “Full House” and “You” actor released his memoir “If You Would Have Told Me” on Oct. 24. In it, Stamos looks back on his 40-year career in entertainment, his marriages and his sobriety. He also reflects on coming to terms with a childhood trauma: being abused by a babysitter when he was a child.
“When I was little, I had a babysitter who was around eighteen or nineteen,” the actor recalls in the memoir. “A lot of the time, she’s kind of fun. We play, watch sitcoms, and laze around on the couch. But sometimes, she gets weird, and it makes me feel weird, too. Uncomfortable. She does strange stuff I don’t understand.”
In an interview with People, the actor revealed that it took “writing a book” for him to fully comprehend that her behavior was abusive.
“I mean, I knew, it was always in the back, and I do so much advocacy for the (survivors),” he explained to the outlet. “I felt like I remembered it slightly. It has always been there, but I packed it away as people do, right?”
Elizabeth L. Jeglic, Ph.D. is a sexual violence prevention researcher at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York. Jeglic tells TODAY.com that Stamos’s decision to speak out about his experience decades after the fact is not at all uncommon. In fact, she says it is part of a phenomenon called "delayed disclosure."
John Stamos and delayed disclosure
In his memoir, Stamos explained that his experience was “something that I had packed away," and which he only began to unpack while receiving a Childhelp Lifetime Achievement award for his decades of service to child abuse and neglect victims.
“I won’t talk about it at the gala tonight because this event isn’t about me. It’s about the kids,” Stamos writes in his memoir, remembering how the award ceremony made him revisit his trauma. “I repack it and wait for some other time to share."
Jeglic explains that what Stamos is describing, in part, is called delayed disclosure.
Delayed disclosure occurs when a survivor of child sex abuse waits to share that they have been sexually assaulted. According to ChildUSA.org times, survivors can take years, sometimes decades, to disclose their abuse. Jeglic notes that child sexual abusers groom their victims, which often involves desensitizing them to the abuse so that it can take years for survivors to understand what truly happened.
“As part of the process, (abusers) kind of desensitize the child to sexual content and physical touch as well as develop a relationship with them and those around them,” she explains. “The perpetrator often gaslights the child or makes them feel responsible somehow, and so there’s a lot of guilt and shame that comes about from childhood sexual abuse, and that is what often delays people from reporting.”
Jeglic says it’s important to note that most people who experienced childhood sexual abuse don’t go on to abuse other people.
What can I do to protect my child from sexual abuse?
A parent of three, Jeglic shares that she made a point of using proper, anatomical names for body parts as soon as her children had language. She also emphasizes instructing children not to allow anyone to touch them in private areas and to remind them that parents are always available to listen and protect.
“‘If something makes you feel uncomfortable, you tell mommy or daddy or a trusted adult,’” she says, as an example of what to tell children. “(Let) them know that you’re always there for them, that you’re gonna believe them, that you talk about these things and that sex is not a shameful topic.”
Jeglic also says parents should make sure that children don’t feel as if sex is a shameful topic and to teach them about consent. The researcher emphasizes the importance of playing games like "the tickle game" (where you immediately stop tickling as soon as the child says "stop" or "don't") to teach children how to vocalize when they no longer consent to touch.
“If they have questions, you know, ‘Where do babies come from?’ You talk about it, because I think historically we have given the message that sex is a shameful thing,” she continues. “And so people don’t feel comfortable talking about it, but the more that it becomes normalized, the more kids receive the message that if they don’t like something, they can call mom or dad.”
“If You Would Have Told Me” by John Stamos hits shelves on Oct. 24.