Two Miss Americas To Speak On Child Sexual Abuse

“What will it take to prevent or stop child sexual abuse? “It takes all of us,” says the 1958 Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur, whose prominent, millionaire father sexually violated her more than 600 times from the time she was age 5 to 18. “It takes people truly understanding how common it is.”

Van Derbur, of Denver, will speak at the Bivona Summit on Child Abuse Tuesday along with current Miss America Mallory Hytes Hagan of Brooklyn, who is promoting child sexual abuse prevention during her year with the crown.

Marilyn Van Derbur

Marilyn Van Derbur

Hagan, 24, says her mother, aunt and cousins were all victimized by a relative. The trauma caused her mother debilitating anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder during Hagan’s teen years.

“I just felt like for a couple years I lost my mom,” says Hagan, who advocates for sex abuse prevention being required in schools.

One in four girls and one out of six boys is sexually abused before age 18, according to research cited by the Bivona Child Advocacy Center in Rochester. In 90 percent of cases, the abuser is someone the child knows and trusts — a parent or stepparent, relative, family friend, coach, day care provider, religious leader, teacher or club leader.

Van Derbur told her story in her 2003 book, Miss America By Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayals and Unconditional Love. She’s also featured in Darkness to Light’s Stewards of Children prevention video that Bivona, the YMCA of Greater Rochester and other partners are aiming to show to 28,000 adults in Monroe County.

Marilyn and her father

Marilyn and her father

Prevention should start before a child is 2, says Van Derbur. If your toddler pulls away when Uncle Ben or Grandma wants to give her a kiss, don’t make her accept the kiss. “Empower the child before she’s 2 that she can control who she kisses, who she touches,” says Van Derbur, 75. Teach children that nobody should touch their body parts that get covered by a bathing suit, Van Derbur adds.

Talk back to the TV and point out to your children and grandchildren disrespectful behavior, saying, for example: “No one should treat anyone that way.”

My notes: This is powerful advice. It is vital to talk back to the TV and to anyone, in person, who crosses boundaries or who says something inappropriate, or who makes a joke about incest or child sexual abuse. I have had to sit two of my friends down in a conversation to tell them they were not okay in making a joke about incest.

It is imperative to protect your mind and the mind of your children by voicing yourself to the TV set if the show you are watching has bad information. The human mind slowly absorbs the information as normal or factual if you do not do this. Also, the child inside you, who was once violated, can give you psychosomatic symptoms if you don’t defend your inner child, or protect your mind.

“Clearly explain to pre-teens and teenagers that they must never touch someone in a way that makes the person uncomfortable, because such mistreatment can cause life-long emotional scars, says Van Derbur, who suffered crippling anxiety and paralysis for years. (Marilyn’s paralysis was a psychosomatic symptom).

Teens have sexual urges and adults need to talk about how to manage them — just as they educate teens about driving responsibly, she adds.

Hagan, who has 26 cousins of various ages, says being raised to know about good touch and bad touch helped her tell her parents when things happened that made her uncomfortable. “I’m proof that prevention works,” she says.”

You can read Marilyn’s story here:


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4 Responses to Two Miss Americas To Speak On Child Sexual Abuse

  1. Clara says:

    I was told in the 80’s that one in four girls had been molested. I am suprised that 20+ years later it’s the same statistics. I think it to be higher. Even one in four is too much. I think education is the key. I was taught in school to fear strangers. It wasn’t a stranger who molested me. My molester didn’t threaten me, only told me it was “our little secret” and to not tell anyone. I tried telling my two older brothers when I was around 9 or 10 and they laughed at me. I know realize they were 2 and 4 years older than me and only kids themselves. I almost told a Sunday school teacher one time, but chickened out. I think if I had known it was ok to tell, I would have. I am 59 years old now. It is time to step up the education, but perhaps no one wants to because they are molesters themselves.

    • Alethea says:

      Hi Clara. Such good points.

      I think it is more like one in three girls and one in five or six boys. That’s my guess.

      The problem is that even if you would have told, that Sunday school teacher might have called you a liar, or told you to “forgive and forget,” or told you to keep away from the person.

      Adults are the ones who truly need the education and the awareness to believe believe believe, and to DO SOMETHING.

  2. Kevin F says:

    Great post, Alathea. Good to see two of these ‘beauty pageant’ insiders coming out to talk about preventing child abuse. To my mind and from what I’ve read, it would appear that the whole ‘beauty pageant’ world is choc a bloc with child sexual assault. I would say that most young women who enter these ‘competitions’ have been assaulted or molested and this is especially true in the area of these gross child ‘beauty pageants’. Perhaps these two women could start by looking at child abuse in the ‘beauty pageant’ world which they represent.

    • Alethea says:

      GREAT POINT Kevin. Those little girls who are paraded around in adult costumes, make-up, etc are being abused by their nutty mothers, and setting the child up for sexual abuse by perpetrators, and their mothers are almost offering the daughter subliminally to the father as a sexual gift: “Here is my beautiful daughter, in her adult clothes, parading around sexually. I am a real bitch and have let myself go. Here is my beautiful daughter who loves her daddy.”

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