When I first learned that Marilyn Monroe expressed openly that she was sexually abused as a child, I was surprised because I had heard no mention of it until I was healing from my own abuse. At the same time I was not shocked because I knew of her drug and alcohol problems, emotional problems and her need for sexual attention.
Marilyn’s demeanor, voice, and many other characteristics emulated a sexualized little girl. Her screen persona was childlike and innocent, but she gained attention and affection through a sexual persona. This is the epitome of many sexualized and sexually abused children –gaining attention and affection from their abuser and applying that behavior to obtain favors, attention from others, and some form of ‘love.’ This pattern often follows them into adulthood.
Marilyn Monroe was one of the first, if not the very first, celebrity to speak openly about being sexually abused as a child. She came out with her experience in an era when abuse was simply not discussed. No one really took her seriously and she was even mocked about it. However, some people, who knew her, say that during the weeks before her death Marilyn was still speaking of the abuse.
It is alleged that among several advances by adult men, a particular male boarder, who lived with Marilyn when she was a child in a foster home, had severely abused her for a long period of time. It is said this man paid her to keep the secret. Several sources say that when Marilyn disclosed the sexual abuse to a female authority figure, she was ostracized, not believed, and punished by the woman (According to Roy Turner in Saturday’s Child, the woman was Norma Jeane’s mother.) 1 The woman allegedly told Norma Jeane (Marilyn Monroe’s birth name) that her perpetrator was a “good Christian” and that his rent money was very important. Sounds true enough to me. Many abuse survivors have reported that their mothers told them their perpetrator’s income was more important than they were and my own mother insinuated this.
According to Barbara Leaming’s book Marilyn Monroe, Norma Jeane was moved from different foster families because men kept trying to, or succeeded, in sexually molesting her. 2 Each time, Marilyn was the one removed and placed elsewhere, not the abuser. So a very strong message was given to Marilyn and it stayed with her throughout her life. The message was that she was the bad one.
Private sources told me that, as an adult, Marilyn was horribly ridiculed for speaking publicly about the sexual abuse, and that both the molestation and the rejection she received from those she confided in, hurt her deeply throughout her life. Many of Marilyn’s male biographers have tried to discredit her disclosures and presented them as attention seeking. I believe that this stems from men not wanting to see Marilyn Monroe as a victim of horrible sexual abuse. Most men only want to imagine Marilyn as a sexed up vivacious woman who was turned on with an innocent sex drive. Most men do not want to know that she was sexually abused as a child. Most men would rather keep their fantasies about her.
Saturday’s Child portrays Marilyn as a woman, who in private had little or no interest in sex. Roy Turner writes that Marilyn’s psychiatrist said she found little desire for sex or any happiness from it. It is alleged that Marilyn even made a reference to her abuser paying her to be silent and that, as an adult, men who attempted to buy her financially had made her sick.
The evidence suggests that Marilyn Monroe was indeed molested and severely sexually abused as a child, and probably by more than one man. In the 1950’s, public allegations of abuse would have ended a career not enhance it, so Marilyn speaking openly about child molestation points to truth, not that she was making it up to gain attention. Marilyn Monroe did not need to make any extra effort in order to gain attention from anyone.
Skeptics have asked me why Marilyn did not disclose the abuse until much later in life. It is not unusual for a person who was abused to not tell people, or to only do so later in life. If the accounts are true, when Marilyn did try to tell someone as a child, she was told to stop telling lies. This alone would cause someone to not tell their secret again (if at all) until they become an adult. When the child’s mother is going to blame the victim, tell them they are a bad girl for speaking about such things, and smack them for it, then why on earth would the child or the adult survivor want to tell anyone else?
Disbelievers also ignorantly asked me, “Wouldn’t she have wanted to gain sympathy much sooner?” Most victims and survivors of child sexual abuse do not share their pain in order to gain sympathy. On the contrary, most are so full of fear, shame, and guilt about the abuse that they feel friends and loved ones will look down upon them or that they won’t be believed.
Marilyn Monroe’s child abuse experience may very well have been a key issue in her drug and alcohol addictions and possibly what caused her to commit suicide. According to Leaming’s book, Marilyn Monroe suffered many of the common symptoms of child sexual abuse. She had insomnia, insecurity, and an inability to trust. Marilyn was excessively weepy, people felt they had to walk on eggshells around her, and she had fits of rage. Some described her anger as “violent mood swings.” She suffered from depression, was very negative, and was such a perfectionist that it was psychologically debilitating for her. It was so excessive that when she could not get something right, Leaming says a “sense of desperation pervaded the room.” 3
Barbara Leaming’s book included research that was based on new interviews, thousands of primary documents (including letters from those close to Marilyn), and notes from Marilyn’s psychiatrist. According to Leaming’s book, Marilyn’s mother accused her of being a slut. At times Marilyn may have set out to subconsciously prove her mother’s claim. She was known for wearing paper thin, tight, low-cut dresses that provoked laughter from peers and caused journalists to write derogatory remarks about her. Women who have been sexually abused as children often dress provocatively.
I have often thought of the paradox that Marilyn Monroe has been labeled America’s sex symbol and remains so. Men’s fantasies have been of the sexualized and child-like manner in which she presented herself to the world. Those very fantasies may be based on a persona that was rooted in being sexually violated as a child.
Marilyn Monroe died on August 5th 1962. Her death was officially ruled as a suicide, although there are many fans who feel people with power and authority murdered her. I believe she was murdered, but I believe Marilyn was murdered by having her innocence stolen by men, who many years earlier, had decided that their sexual degeneracy was more important than the innocence of a child. Even if men in power did have Marilyn killed, it doesn’t really matter because, if she was sexually abused, she figuratively died somewhere in her childhood anyway.
May you rest in peace Marilyn.
1. Saturday’s Child, Roy Turner
2. Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming, Three Rivers Press; Reprint edition (February 29, 2000)
3. Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming, Page 33