EXCLUSIVE: Drake Bell’s son inspired him to open up about abuse: ‘What’s the story he’s going to get?’

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This story discusses child sexual abuse. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 800-656-4673 to reach the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. You can also visit the Child Help Hotline for additional support.

Nickelodeon star Drake Bell said becoming a father played a role in his decision to come forward and identify himself as a victim of child sexual abuse.

NBC News’ Kate Snow asked Bell in an exclusive interview that aired on TODAY May 20 if part of his motivation for sharing his story in the Investigation Discovery documentary “Quiet on Set” was because of his 3-year-old son, whom he shares with his ex-wife Janet Von Schmeling.

Bell replied: “Yeah. … These decisions are no longer for myself.”

“I had just been going through so much and things were spiraling out of control personally and mentally,” he said. “And I finally found myself saying, ‘There’s two roads you can take here.’ I’d just had a son. And what’s the story that he’s going to get? Or is somebody else going to tell him my story, or am I going to be around to tell him and share my story? So I knew something had to change.”

The 37-year-old said he hopes that by sharing what happened to him, his son will have heard his side of the story from him directly — and not anyone else.

“I don’t think so much that I wanted my son to be proud of me, but not wanting someone else to have to tell him about his father,” Bell explained. “I could’ve either allowed this to destroy me or make me stronger for him.”

Bell shared that while celebrating his son’s third birthday, there were temporary tattoos available at the party with characters from one of his son’s favorite TV shows.

“As he’s putting them on, I’m standing next to him, and I’ve got a short-sleeved shirt on,” he says. “And he’s very familiar with all my tattoos… and he goes, ‘Look Dada, I want to be just like you.’”

Bell says the moment resonated with him, and made him think about the future.

Kate Snow and Drake Bell. (Jonah Rosenberg for TODAY)
Kate Snow and Drake Bell. (Jonah Rosenberg for TODAY)

“As he grows, he’s going to hear things, and people are going to have opinions,” Bell said. “But my hope is that he’ll be able to say, ‘Yeah, my dad did go through that. Yeah, that did happen to my dad. Yeah, my dad did do that. But the man I’ve known my whole life and the man that I know today is a hero to me. And the fact that he’s been able to get through those things has helped me be able to face the world and not let it tear me down.’”

The “Drake & Josh” star revealed in “Quiet on Set” that he was sexually abused at age 14 and 15 by Brian Peck, a dialogue coach who worked on sets of Nickelodeon shows in the early 2000s.

“Imagine the worst thing someone could do to someone as sexual assault,” Bell said in the series. “I don’t know how else to put it.”

In 2004, Peck was convicted of lewd or lascivious acts with a 14- or 15-year-old child and oral copulation with a minor under 16, according to a case summary from Los Angeles County Superior Court. Peck served more than a year in jail and was made to register as a sex offender, according to court documents.

The victim was not publicly identified in the case until Bell came forward in the four-episode docuseries, which premiered in March 2024. Bell said he was “incredibly anxious” ahead of the release of the documentary, but hopes that his story will help other people feel less alone, particularly other teen boys who have been abused.

“This isn’t me — this is something that happened to me. Me moving forward, the decisions that I made in my past … these were my decisions, I made my mistakes. I did that, but that isn’t my soul,” he said. “That isn’t me — something happened to me. And now I get to see all of that in a clear picture.”

When Bell revealed himself in March as the plaintiff in Peck’s 2004 conviction, Nickelodeon said in a statement to NBC News: “We are dismayed and saddened to learn of the trauma he has endured, and we commend and support the strength required to come forward.”

Bell became emotional as he shared how he’s now able to go back and talk to his younger self.

“I’m able to go back to him and hold him and tell him, you know, ‘It’s going to be OK. You’re going to find strength. As weak as you feel in these moments, and as scared as you feel… as traumatic as this is, this is your origin story,” Bell said. “And you are going to have a suit of armor when you get through it.’”

EDITOR’S NOTE (May 20, 2:35 p.m.): This story has been edited to reflect that Brian Peck pleaded no contest to his charges.

This article was originally published on TODAY.com