In the past week, I’ve been asked about my own experiences with sexual abuse, which led me to reflect on when I was first able to tell my story. I’ll never forget being asked to write a book about my life in 2009. The process of writing a memoir in my 20’s was a little weird to me, but the hardest part of it was putting myself out there for the world to see. Back then, people only knew me as a ballroom dancer who transforms celebrities into dancers, with a smile on her face & way too much spray tan.
Was I ready to reveal the real Cheryl Burke?
In the book I wanted you to take a closer look into my reality. I wanted you to know more about the young woman who danced into your living rooms every week. I wanted to share the different layers of my life, the ups & downs, the roller coaster ride of a life I had at such a young age, which meant I’d have no choice but to show people my vulnerable side. Scary-I know. People assumed my life was perfect, but it wasn’t & still isn’t. I’m a work in progress, but I’m a survivor.
By age 10 I experienced my parents divorce, I was a victim of childhood sexual abuse & went to court to testify against the man who molested me & put him behind bars (I later found out he also harmed other children around my age). Between the ages of 12 & 20, I found myself consistently involved in mentally & physically abusive long term relationships.
The hardest part of being so revealing in my book was knowing my family would read it. Finding the courage to finally tell them my story was hard enough, let alone share it with the rest of the world, but I’m proud of myself for doing so. I’m a stronger woman today because of what I’ve been through in my past. It has helped shape me, not define me. I can easily feel sorry for myself & say, “How did I become so unlucky?” But instead of choosing to be bitter, I choose to be better.
Just like anyone, there are days where it’s a struggle to get out of bed, to hold my head up high & not feel down. But, I will keep sharing what happened to me because I now know that being able to be vulnerable is not a weakness; it is a gift, that no one should be ashamed of. I want you to know you’re not alone. #metoo