On the outside, Cheryl Burke looks as if she doesn’t have a care in the world, but the “Dancing With the Stars” beauty overcame an unhappy childhood marred by childhood sexual molestation and physical abuse.
In her memoir, Dancing Lessons, Burke reveals she was repeatedly molested by a family friend from the age of 5 and was later physically abused by two ex-boyfriends.
Cheryl, who testified against her molester and helped send him to jail for almost 20 years, says her parents’ split when she was a baby gave her mixed feelings toward her abuser, a retired mailman who was well liked in her neighborhood.
The abuse began when Burke was five years old, and the molester would pick up her up from school and do odd jobs around her house.
“I felt guilty for wanting his love and affection,” she recalls, saying testifying against him was “the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I saw his face and lawyers were asking me these questions and I was like, ‘What am I doing? Did he even do anything wrong?’ ”
Cheryl eventually helped put the molester behind bars after other children came forward and accused him of sexual abuse.
Burke confesses it took years of therapy to emotionally heal from the abuse, and hopes that her admission will let other victims know they are not alone. “If I can help just one person, that’s all that matters,” said Cheryl, who detailed her recovery in Dancing Lessons.
This week, after learning about Stephen Collins’ shocking child molestation confessions, Cheryl said she feels sorry for his victims and said he deserves to be punished.
“It doesn’t matter how old these kids or adults are now,” said Burke. “I think what he did was absolutely wrong and he needs to get punished for it.”