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Speaking at a United Nations event commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Tuesday, Teri Hatcher opened up about her own personal experience with abuse — she was molested by her uncle at the age of 7.
"I was convinced it was my fault and I blamed myself for what had happened, so I didn't tell anyone and I was silent," Hatcher, 49, said. "I did however, unsurprisingly, start to act out and my mother decided to keep me away from my uncle. I didn't see him anymore, but no one in my family ever asked exactly what happened. We remained silent."
In 2006, the actress spoke publicly about the abuse for the first time, telling Vanity Fair that it was something she "tried to hide [her] whole life."
Richard Hayes Stone was Hatcher's uncle by marriage; though her abuse stopped when she was around 8 or 9, Stone continued to abuse other young girls. Years later, another one of his victims committed suicide. When Hatcher heard about it, she reached out to the DA. With the former Desperate Housewives star's help, Stone was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
"I was helping my parents pack up my childhood home and I came across a current newspaper article about a beautiful 11-year-old girl named Sarah from my hometown," Hatcher explained. "The story recounted how she had wrapped her head in a towel in order to avoid making a mess and shot herself in the head. Her reason? In a suicide note, she implicated my uncle, who had been sexually abusing her for years."
As an adult, prevention of sexual abuse has become a passion for Hatcher. In addition to addressing the UN this week, Hatcher helped light the Empire State Building orange on Monday, in honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
"I am simply one in three women who is forced to accept violence as part of their life story," Hatcher said Tuesday. "I am one of three women who for the rest of her life battles the voice in her head that accepts blame for abuse, a voice that is antithetical to self-esteem, self-worth, and happiness. This is a statistic that has to change. One in three women can no longer have to face a stigma and a fear that prevent them from seeking help."
Following her speech, Hatcher received a standing ovation from the other members of the panel, which included First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray and Executive Director of UN Woman Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.