A former Miss America who says she was sexually abused by her father throughout her childhood is speaking in central Iowa next week about prevention and the healing process. Marilyn Van Derbur, who held the crown in 1958, says the first step toward preventing childhood sexual abuse is to talk about it.
Van Derbur says “There will be many survivors in the audience. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually-violated before the age of 18, so we are in the millions, literally.” She says her father abused her from ages five through 18, but she didn’t go public with the news until she was in her 50s.
Now in her 60s and living in Colorado, Van Derbur says she spends a lot of time traveling the U.S. and speaking on the subject of incest in order to reach other victims to let them know it -is- possible to move on and lead happy lives.
Van Derbur says “If I could have just met one person who had come through the healing process, who had made it and found peace and joy, it would have really changed everything for my husband and me because I would have known that I could have done it too, if I had just found one person, I’d have said that’s possible.” During her own healing process, Van Derbur says she checked herself in to a psychiatric hospital and for several years, could hardly dress herself as she was so distraught.
She says “When I did come through it, I knew that I couldn’t just go back to the life that I had before. I knew it was going to be important for me to turn to those who were just starting this process and be whatever help I can be.” Van Derbur will be giving a free talk on Tuesday (April 4th) at 7 P.M. at Hoyt Sherman Place in Des Moines. She says she answers every e-mail via her website “www.missamericabyday.com”.