Exclusive Interview with Melody Thomas Scott of The Young and The Restless on Going Public as a Survivor

In her just-released memoir, Always Young and Restless: My Life On and Off America's #1 Daytime Drama, Emmy-nominated actor Melody Thomas Scott shares her story of surviving sexual abuse and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the entertainment industry.

Best known for her 40-year role as Nikki Newman on The Young and the Restless, Melody has also appeared in feature films with Clint Eastwood and John Wayne, and worked with directors Alfred Hitchcock and Brian De Palma.Melody Thomas Scott poses in a green dress

RAINN’s Christy Rozek recently sat down (virtually) with Melody to learn more about her story as a survivor, author, and American television icon.

In your new memoir, Always Young and Restless: My Life On and Off America's #1 Daytime Drama, you mention the sexual abuse you experienced early in your life. Was it difficult to begin talking about it?

My hesitancy to talk about it had to be reckoned with before I wrote one word. This book was an almost 10-year journey, with a few false starts. I would write a few particularly dark chapters, then the panic attacks would begin. Your brain has a way of letting you know when you’re not quite ready to share this type of abuse. Not that I had shared my experiences with my family. I had not. Only my therapist knew the details. The passage of time was the only thing that allowed me to willingly share these details in my book. I needed to heal my own heart and psyche before I could share with the world.

What is it about the film and entertainment industry that allows for abuse to occur? What changes do you want to see in the industry to prevent sexual violence and support survivors?

Unfortunately, I think it attracts extremely ambitious parents, who would allow just about anything to happen to their child in the hopes of finding fame and fortune. For some parents, the temptation is too great. Others are too new to the industry to be savvy about what behavior/protocol is normal and what is not. Their naiveté can often allow damage that the child may never reveal, even as an adult. They will keep it in a box inside their heart and head, allowing it to slowly suffocate them.

Parents who choose to put their children in the industry need to primarily decipher if the child truly enjoys being in front of a camera. Most of them don’t, but the parent keeps them in the business anyway, hoping against hope for success.

Book cover of Always Young and Restless

Secondly, they need to understand how this business works. Work only with a franchised agent and don’t enroll your child in any class, coaching sessions, etc., without your agent's approval. I found that sexual abuse is mostly prevalent in the fringes around legitimate show business. Parents that are new to the industry don’t know any better and trust strangers with their most precious charges, their children.

What do you see as the role of friends and family members in noticing and helping to prevent abuse of loved ones?

I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think friends or family necessarily “notice” sexual abuse. Even if they did, I think the child would deny it all. It is too uncomfortable of a topic for most kids to reveal. Grooming also makes it very difficult for the victim. The child believes that it’s happening because the predator is fond of them. Parents have to be more diligent in who they entrust their children to.

How can we all be better supporters and advocates for survivors in our lives?

There are a few, easy steps we can take to be better support systems for survivors. First, is to just be a good listener. That means listen with kindness and compassion and without judgment. Then, slowly encourage them to seek professional help. This is an important step, but it's crucial that it not be rushed. The key here is empathy. Talk with them. Listen to them. Cry with them.

How has your passion for ending sexual violence influenced other areas of your life?

It’s too soon in my journey to know that. I am hoping that, with my association with RAINN, I will become more aware and will learn how to be a better advocate in this very difficult, secret world.

What is your message to survivors?

The first thing I would do, and many readers of my book have done this for me, is tell the victim how sorry they are. It’s a simple gesture, but I have come to realize how kind and comforting it can be. Some people are too uncomfortable to even say, “I’m so sorry that happened to you.” Even from a stranger. Or perhaps I should say, particularly from a stranger.

Secondly, I would congratulate them for their courage and tenacity in successfully fighting this most difficult challenge and getting their life back. It is a lifelong endeavor, but one CAN come out of the dark and emerge into the light. By sharing my story with my readers, I hope to give them hope and encouragement. No one should live under this dark umbrella any longer than they already have.

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