DWTS's Cheryl Burke reveals 'experience with abusive relationships' in new video

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  • Cheryl Burke
    Cheryl Burke
    Dancer
"Dancing With the Stars" pro Cheryl Burke is speaking out about domestic violence. (Photo: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)
"Dancing With the Stars" pro Cheryl Burke is speaking out about domestic violence. (Photo: Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

America knows her best as a Dancing With the Stars pro, but Cheryl Burke has repeatedly used her platform to spread awareness about mental health by sharing her own story.

“I am living proof that where you are in life right now does not need to be where you are forever,” Burke said in a Friday video uploaded to her YouTube channel entitled “My Experience with Abusive Relationships.”

In the video, Burke, 36, reflects on the abuse that she endured, beginning in high school. While she describes herself today as “pretty self-assured,” she didn’t always feel that way. While growing up, she says, her parents went through a “traumatic” divorce, she was sexually abused and she was trained in the “man’s world” of competitive ballroom dancing. “I kind of just did as I was told, to be quite honest,” she says in the video.

Burke, who was traveling independently for dance competitions, lost her virginity to her first boyfriend at age 13. “While there was nothing that I would say was abusive at all about that relationship, I definitely think that experience set me up to really just stick with a pattern of moving just way too fast,” she says admitting that she had a thing for “bad boys.”

During another high school relationship, she says, “I remember sneaking around with him...and him having sex with me after telling him I didn’t want to and it ended pretty forcefully.”

She added, “I didn’t associate sex with intimacy or love. Honestly, it was something that I did because I felt like I had to, in a way, just to keep a boyfriend.”

In the video, Burke, who has won DWTS twice—first with partner Drew Lachey and next with partner NFL player Emmitt Smith—shares multiple instances of emotional and physical abuse during her teens, including by a partner whose parents, she says, did not intervene.

Burke added that this cycle continued until she met her husband and former Boy Meets World actor Matthew Lawrence. “Looking back I honestly think that the first relationship I ever had that did not fit this abusive pattern was when my now husband Matt and I dated the first time around back in 2007,” she says. “I honestly think at the time when we first dated I didn’t clearly love myself enough to think that I deserved to be with someone who was actually nice to me.”

The first time the couple dated they stayed together for roughly a year. They reconnected about a decade later and were married in 2019. “I am just so grateful and happy that the universe really brought him back into my life when I was ready.”

This is not the first time that Burke has spoken publicly about her trauma. She previously shared a history of childhood sexual abuse, involving someone who had been hired to work in her family home, during the TLC special “Breaking the Silence” which aired in 2015. Burke said she had to testify against her abuser at the age of 6.

She also opened up about her past in her 2011 book, Dancing Lessons. “I’m telling my story,” Burke told People at the time. “They’re not secrets. There’s no shame.”

On Friday, Burke tweeted a link to her video writing, “I was nervous to post this but with domestic abuse rates on the rise as a result of the pandemic, I felt the need to share my stories with you all.”

Related: Cheryl Burke shares her quarantine obsessions

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