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Brooke Shields opens up about sexual assault in new documentary

"Pretty Baby," a film about the actor's life and career, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 20.
2023 Sundance Film Festival - "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields" Premiere
Brooke Shields attends the 2023 Sundance Film Festival "Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields" premiere on January 20, 2023 in Park City, Utah.Amy Sussman / Getty Images

Brooke Shields is reflecting on her life and career in an upcoming documentary, including her experience with sexual assault.

The Associated Press reported that in “Pretty Baby,” which made its Sundance Film Festival debut on Jan. 20, Shields revealed that she was a victim of sexual assault after she graduated from Princeton University in 1987.

One night, she had gone to dinner to meet with a professional connection to talk about work, according to the AP story. While the 57-year-old did not share the name of the individual, she said the assault occurred after dinner when she had gone to his hotel room in order to call herself a cab.

“I just absolutely froze,” Shields said in the documentary, according to Rolling Stone. “My one ‘no’ should have been enough. And I just thought, ‘Stay alive, and get out.’ And I just shut it out. And god knows I knew how to be disassociated from my body. I’d practiced that.”

Shields continued, adding, “I wanted to erase the whole thing from my mind and body, and just keep on the path I was on. And the system had never once come to help me, you know? So, I just had to get stronger on my own.”

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the film’s festival debut, the actor opened up about her decision to share her experience with sexual assault in the film for the first time. 

“I did not know if or when or if at all I was ever going to bring this up. It has taken me many years of therapy to even be able to talk about it,” she explained, adding that society today has created a more open environment to discuss these topics.

While Shields said she had “no idea” she was going to talk about it, she ultimately thought, “I have arrived at this place, and I feel as a mother of two young girls that I hope that just by even hearing my incident that I can add myself to becoming an advocate. Because this is something that does happen every day, and it should not be happening.”

She shares two daughters with her second husband, Chris Henchy: Rowan Francis, 19, and Grier Hammond, 16. 

Shields began her career as a model before she even turned one year old. As a young adolescent, the actor starred in several controversial films including “Pretty Baby,” where at age 11 she portrayed a child prostitute. In the documentary of the same name, she recalled her on-set experience on “The Blue Lagoon," saying they “wanted to sell my actual sexual awakening,” according to Rolling Stone. The film is about two teenagers who fall in love on a deserted island.

Over the years, Shields has been candid about her lifelong career in Hollywood, as well as her experiences as a young child and adolescent in the turbulent industry.

She’s discussed overcoming childhood body image issues and being on the receiving end of body shaming comments made by her own mother, the late Teri Shields, who died in 2012.

When Shields was 15, she also appeared in the controversial 1980 Calvin Klein ad where she delivered the line, “You want to know what comes in between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

During an October 2021 interview with Vogue, she looked back on the reception to the ad, explaining, “I didn’t think it was about underwear or sexual in nature. What was shocking to me was to be berated by ‘Oh, you knew this was happening. This is what you thought. You were thinking these thoughts.’”

“I was a kid, and where I was, I was naive,” she added. “I was a very protected, sequestered, young woman in a bubble. I think the assumption was that I was much more savvy than I ever really was.”