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CNN Larry King Live

Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse Speak Out

Aired April 07, 2006 - 21:00   ET


KATHIE LEE GIFFORD, CNN HOST: Tonight, celebrity survivors of child sexual abuse speak out after a week of shocking headlines stretching from Capitol Hill...

JUSTIN BERRY: For five years, beginning when I was 13 years old, I operated a pornographic Web site.

GIFFORD: the arrest of a homeland security official...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He graphically explained to a 14-year-old girl what he would like to do to her.

GIFFORD: yet another teacher/student sex scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ms. Hope (ph) has been charged by New Castle County Police Department with 28 counts of rape in the first degree.

GIFFORD: With us one-time "Dynasty" star Catherine Oxenberg. She says a relative sexually abused her when she was a little girl. Her husband, actor Casper van Dien, he says a female babysitter sexually abused him when he was eight years old.

And Alison Arngrim, she played Nellie Olson on "Little House on the Prairie," she says a family member sexually abused her when she was only six.

And, Joyce Meyer, the evangelical minister and best-selling author says she was sexually abused by her father.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.


GIFFORD: Hi, everyone, I'm Kathie Lee Gifford in tonight for Larry King here in Washington, D.C. Also joining us in our Los Angeles studio is Dr. Astrid Heger. She's an internationally recognized expert on the medical diagnosis of child abuse and neglect and a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Southern California, welcome to you doctor and thank you, everybody, for joining us.

April is the National Child Abuse Awareness Month and April 5th was the National Day of Hope, which was commemorated here in Washington, D.C. Doctor, first of all, let's go to you and talk about the fact that child abuse and the problem of it seems to be or is it more prevalent now or is it just because we're reading about it so much more in the media?

DR. ASTRID HEGER, PROFESSOR CLINICAL PEDIATRICS, USC: Well, I certainly think we're reading more about it in the media but from my experience in my clinic I think we are seeing an avalanche of child abuse cases that are coming into the clinic, certainly child sex abuse cases and more and more child sex abuse cases related to the Internet which has certainly made the news this week.

GIFFORD: Well we hear the statistics and they're just, they're unbelievable. I know here in Washington we lit a candle with three wicks to commemorate the three children who die every day from sexual abuse or neglect.

And this year we had to add a fourth wick because the statistics are going the wrong way, aren't they? There are more children now. And then also you hear the statistic that three million cases of child abuse are reported every year but they think it's a far greater number than that isn't it?

HEGER: Oh, I think we're seeing probably maybe only 25 percent or 30 percent of the cases reported. Most of them go unreported and this is the reason I think we're doing the show this week and tonight is that maybe turn that around and get more people to step up and report and to also deal with the abuse that had happened to them when they were kids.

GIFFORD: Yes. Catherine, you and Casper have both been very brave and very open about the fact that you're both victims of early child abuse. Can you tell us your stories briefly?

CATHERINE OXENBERG, "DYNASTY" STAR: Yes. I didn't know that I was sexually abused until like I don't know about 14 years ago. I had been plagued with an eating disorder and had long time problems with depression and anxiety. And it wasn't until my eldest daughter, who is now 15, reached the age when I was abused that I started to have memories.

And first they came back in dreams and then they came back in full body memory so I relived the experience. And, I thought I was crazy at first because I knew that, you know, I had some forms of abuse but I never, ever suspected that I had been sexually abused.

And, subsequent to finding out what was the root cause of my addictions and problems with depression many of the symptoms went away and the need to hurt myself and find other ways to self destruct kind of just disappeared.

GIFFORD: And weren't you the one that actually noticed because of some of the behaviors in Casper that he indeed probably had been abused as well and you had to point it out to him? How did that all come about?

OXENBERG: Well, I believe that when you heal a wound like child abuse it gives you the equal capacity to sense it in others and almost, it is like a sixth sense. And, I think maybe the second day, this is so strange, the second day that I ever saw him I was looking at his hands and I said, "You know, you have so much shame in your hands."

And he pulled his hands away. He felt I guess very -- I mean he should probably say how he felt but as if he felt really exposed. And he said "What are you talking about?" I said, "It looks to me like your hands were made to touch something that you didn't want to touch and I can sense it."

So, I mean he started to open up to me and he divulged that he never discussed this with anybody that he had been forced to do things that he didn't want to do and that he had been abused and it had -- he realized in retrospect colored so many aspects of his life in a self destructive way and he was able to move into a positive recovery.

GIFFORD: Had you just gotten used to, Casper, just keeping it quiet, just putting it in the back of your brain and trying to just be a man, be tough, stick it out whatever?

CASPER VAN DIEN, ACTOR: Well, my problem was I never forgot about what happened to me. I was eight and my babysitter, she was 18 and she made me do a lot of things that we don't even need to go into.


VAN DIEN: But she just made me promise never to tell anybody, say that I was a good Christian and that I believed in God and I didn't want her to go to jail and that I loved her and that I could keep a secret and you didn't want anything bad to happen to her did I?

And so I kept it a secret until I was 32 and I was shocked when Catherine said that about my hands. I was like she's the first person to catch me, you know or...

GIFFORD: You felt exposed?

VAN DIEN: Yes, I got completely exposed and I felt threatened but kind of a sense of relief too because it started to unfold for me and I started to realize patterns that I had brought up in my life where I, you know, hadn't been a faithful man in many ways, in many of my relationships and I had created all these lies and it had created a lot of problems for me.

And when I first told Catherine and I told my parents because I had never told them, I told them at 32, they both cried and they said, "Why couldn't you tell us?" And, I just felt, oh God I should have been able to.

My parents are awesome and they had the response that most parents should have when you -- when you divulge something like that and I should have been able to tell them but I just -- I was -- I was convinced not to.

GIFFORD: Well the irony is that the victim is the one that feels so shamed and yet it's the perpetrator that should feel the shame. It's all messed up.

VAN DIEN: Shame too.

GIFFORD: Is that typical, doctor, Dr. Heger?

HEGER: Oh, I think the kids always take responsibility for what happens to them and I think they are absolutely terrified of telling and they're absolutely responsible and they're the center of the universe.

And, if something bad happens to them, it's their fault and that's one of the reasons why kids can't tell. And the other reason is because we really don't want to hear what they have to say.

GIFFORD: Exactly. And was it the same with you Alison? You kept it quiet for a long, long time too right?

ALISON ARNGRIM, ACTRESS: I did and the doctor can tell me if this is accurate or not but I read a study that the average length of time between being abused and actually telling anyone is usually 14 years. And, my abuse ran from the time I was six until I was nine and I was 20 when I went into therapy and told someone. So, it was really to the day.

For me it was very difficult because being on television, being a child star, the pressure to look normal or better than normal, perfect, was very high and I'm really, really good at looking like stuff doesn't hurt (INAUDIBLE).

GIFFORD: Well you're a good actress. You're a very good actress, right, yes. What about you, Joyce? You had a situation where it was your actual father.

JOYCE MEYER, EVANGELICAL MINISTER: Yes, my father abused me for somewhere between about 12 and 15 years and as I got older and became a teenager it became a very, very regular thing, happened at least once a week and sometimes more.

And I ended up really with a lot of personality disorders, not so much eating disorders and drugs and things like that but I just, first of all I really didn't like myself at all and didn't really realize I didn't like myself but I didn't and carried a lot of shame.

And, you know, like you've already said most children that are being abused think there's something wrong with them. You know it seems to me like I had a record playing in my head most of my life but that kind of just played over and over and it just said "What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me? What's wrong with me?"

And so, I grew up really just feeling like I was flawed and something was wrong with me and all the years that I was at home I did try a couple of times to tell some different relatives and, like the doctor said, most people really don't want to hear it. You know they don't want to get involved.

GIFFORD: Too close -- too close for comfort. MEYER: They don't want to hear it.


MEYER: And really even back in the days when this was happening to me, which was in the '50s, people really didn't want to hear about it.

GIFFORD: Well the healing has started for all of you with finally coming forward and talking about it.

MEYER: Right.

GIFFORD: And we'll be back in just a few moments to talk more with our panel, so stay with us please.


TERI HATCHER: But you'll excuse me this is the first time I've kind of gone to this personal place for myself. Maybe some of you know what I'm talking about. These experiences that we have in our lives, both personally and professionally, leave us with a choice, a choice to use our experiences to enlighten and empower and change people's lives and that is a choice that I am getting behind and want to be behind and getting to be a part of this organization is allowing me to do that. It's a choice to not remain silent and it's a choice to raise our voices in a strong way to say to perpetrators that we are not going to be silent.




OPRAH WINFREY, TV HOST: I remember in Baltimore years ago the first time I ever heard somebody talk about it on TV I couldn't believe that it had happened to somebody else. And, I was so tempted then. I was 22 years old the first time I heard it and I hadn't told anybody about my own and I was like I wanted to meet with the woman afterwards but didn't have the nerve to say this happened to me too. So, years later when I had the confidence on my own show to do it I did it.


GIFFORD: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Kathie Lee Gifford filling in for Larry.

We're discussing child abuse and child neglect and the aftermath of it. And, it's pervasive. It's an epidemic and we're hearing more and more about it and the statistics are growing and it's -- we're going to have to start talking about it before anything starts changing.

And, Dr. Heger, isn't it true there's an old saying that you're only as safe as your secrets or something like that or what's the old saying about that?


GIFFORD: You're only as sick -- you're only as sick as your secrets, yes. You think you're safe with them but you're really -- they're really making you sick aren't they?

HEGER: Well they are and I think that the terrific thing about talking about it and terrific for me to be here with such brave people who are willing to actually talk about what happened to them is that the secrets are out. And, secrets for kids who have been abused, especially sexually abused, is like getting a splinter in your finger and it never gets well until you get it out.

Whether you're a 6-year-old when you disclose or whether you're 22 years old or whether you're 35 years old it's important to be able to say "Hey, listen, I have this splinter and I need somebody to help me get it out." And when you tell it's so cathartic and so healing and it's neat to see kids beginning to talk about it.

GIFFORD: Are there statistics about how victims of abuse become abusers as well? How prevalent is that?

HEGER: Well, you know, fortunately -- let's say the good news first. Fortunately, most kids who are abused as children don't become abusers but there obviously -- the biggest risk factor for becoming an abuser or predator is having been abused as a child.

So, it's critical, absolutely critical that we identify these kids early and we get them the treatment and the help that they need in order to be successful adults.

GIFFORD: When I was growing up it was always the guy at the movie theater or something that your mother and father said you have to be careful of. We were all on the look for the flasher.

Now it's so much more pervasive. On just the news this week about the man in the homeland security, deputy of press, Brian Doyle I believe his name was and yet another instance of the child and the teacher situation.

Is it just that we're becoming more media savvy about it or has this always been going on? It's just hard for any of us who love children and have children to believe that anyone could hurt a child that's not their own, much less their own children, Dr. Heger. Shed some light on that please. Why does it happen?

HEGER: Well, I think that it's unfortunately we breed more and more abusers in this country because we aren't -- we are afraid to do prevention methods. We're afraid to talk to kids about sexuality and we're afraid to listen to them. We're afraid to give them the skills because we don't want to make them afraid of the world.

And, you know, the world is a dangerous place and we are inviting strangers into our house every day through the Internet and we're saying to our kids "Oh, we want you to be Internet savvy and be smart" and so we're inviting strangers in to entice our kids out of the house. And so, of course, we should see, we're going to see more and more of it. I'll tell you the good news.

GIFFORD: Good, please.

HEGER: The good news in my clinic is because we are talking about it that I see children who disclose quickly, more quickly than they did when I first started doing this 20 years ago.

GIFFORD: So they know they're not alone. That's a huge part of it isn't it?

HEGER: Yes and we talk about it more and actually I give credit to the media and I give credit to the schools that they are willing to put prevention programs and have programs like this on LARRY KING LIVE to talk about it.


HEGER: I don't think most parents on the other hand are really comfortable about talking to their kids about their sexuality or about predators or about the guy at the movie theater.

GIFFORD: At the movie theater. That's what I wanted to ask Catherine and Casper about. You all are parents. You've got beautiful children. Because of what you've been through how do you approach talking about it with them? Do they know that you have been through this personally?

OXENBERG: Yes, not the little ones obviously. I have babies.


OXENBERG: But my almost 15-year-old, yes. I don't tell her in detail what happened to me but I definitely tell her that I was abused and I don't fill her with fear but she's well informed so that she can, you know, make intelligent decisions.

And, I'm not hyper vigilant about where she goes and who she spends her time with but I'm informed. You know, I'm the only parent apparently amongst all her friends who actually calls the other parents to find out what their parameters are and I'm shocked by that.

Parents do not know what their kids are doing. So, and maybe I'm old-fashioned but I know that it's not worth being in denial about that. The consequences are too terrible. So, I want to know where she is and, you know, we do talk about it. We talk about sexuality. We talk about what could happen to her.

And this is not even just me. On the news every single day there are stories about young girls being abducted and that's got to be terrifying for her, so we have to talk about it definitely.

GIFFORD: Joyce, you're an evangelist and you're a best-selling author. What place does personal faith take in this kind of a situation? How important was that to your recovery and your healing or are you still healing on a daily basis? Will you ever be completely healed?

MEYER: Well, it is definitely a process and you do get, you know, better and better. I think sometimes in the beginning you may feel like you're never going to get better but if you stick with it, you will.

And there's definitely steps, some real keys that I remember for me was first of all I had to face well this did happen to me and there's not really anything I can do about the fact that it did happen but I can do something about my future.

I think it's really important for people to realize that you don't have to have a good beginning in life to have a good finish and that it's never too late to begin again. It's never too late to begin to get well because, you know, the thoughts always come, well I can just never get over this, you know.

That was one of the things that happened to me. I thought in the beginning well because this happened to me my life will always be flawed and, you know, of course as a Christian and reading the word of God I learned very quickly that God's got new beginnings for us and that he wants to help us have the good life that he, you know, planned for us to have.

And then the second thing that was real important for me that God helped me work through was self pity because I really had a chip on my shoulder and felt really sorry for myself and like I was the only one.

GIFFORD: Yes, having a pity party.

MEYER: Yes, because people weren't talking about it. I really thought for a long time, well, you know, I'm the only person in the whole world that's going through something like this.

GIFFORD: Joyce, we need to go to a break.


GIFFORD: And you now know you're not the only one. We all now know that there are way too many victims of child abuse and child neglect.

MEYER: Right.

GIFFORD: We'll be right back, LARRY KING LIVE.


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: What was the first instance that brought you to this world at age 13?

BERRY: You know it's an interesting process these pedophiles and these predators. They'll take a child who is a normal kid who goes to school, has their friends and they will manipulate their minds in ways that you can't even imagine. For myself the last few years has been deeply traumatic. It's been a life that I can never have imagined that I would have lived and I'm just thankful to be out of it.




KING: How early on were you abused?

ANNE HECHE, ELLEN DEGENERES' EX-LOVER: I believe before I could speak.

KING: You trace it back that far? What's your earliest memory?

HECHE: I have physical memories of crying out for something and not being able to form words. And the way that I remembered my abuse was through -- well, three different sessions of therapy.

But I didn't believe anything until I was 18 years old except that I could fly down the steps and it was the one memory I had. And when I showed up to therapy for the first time, I said "I remember that I could fly down the steps and if you don't believe that I did for real and it wasn't in my mind, then you shouldn't be my therapist." And from that point on I started to go into my life and discover what had really happened.


GIFFORD: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE talking about children and the victims of neglect and abuse which is an epidemic in our nation now and in the world.

We're talking with Alison Arngrim, also who is very well known for her role on "Little House on the Prairie." Alison, I know you've become quite a bit of an activist and an advocate...


GIFFORD: for victims of all of this. Nobody could do it better because you know the cost of this kind of abuse. Aren't you trying to enact laws in California that will -- well tell us where the status of that is at this point.

ARNGRIM: Oh, we have so much going on,, National Association to Protect Children, our executive director will be testifying this week at the child pornography hearings in Washington, D.C.


ARNGRIM: We're doing laws all over the place. We passed a law in California that took down the incest exception. In many states there are laws that allow someone who sexually assaults a child to receive no jail time or very limited sentence as long as they're related to them, which is insane.

GIFFORD: Which makes absolutely no sense, right.

ARNGRIM: Because usually the molester is close to the child, very often related in the reported cases.

GIFFORD: So, let's put them on probation and put them back in the home where they can continue to do it.

ARNGRIM: Exactly where they proceed to do it again and child has now testified.

GIFFORD: And isn't a lot of that -- isn't that a lot because they want to keep the breadwinner in the family somehow?

ARNGRIM: Absolutely. It's based on very archaic, outdated laws, really seeing children as property and it's outrageous and we took that out in California. That's no longer the law and we're halfway to changing it in New York.

GIFFORD: That's fantastic. I didn't know the status of that. That is just fantastic.

ARNGRIM: We won.

GIFFORD: All right. Now there's another law here pending in Congress that I've been involved with here in Washington, D.C., which is similar and it's basically to establish a national register of sexual predators with substantiated cases of child abuse.

So, let's say a guy that's been abusing children in Florida can't cross the border into Alabama and just get lost in the system. We want a national registry so that's what we're working on here and that's looking very good.

And we'd love to get every one of you involved in that because you're such great spokespeople for this horrible problem. Can I put you on the spot and ask you all to be a part of this?




GIFFORD: OK, Dr. Heger, can I ask you the same thing? There's no more powerful thing than putting people on the spot on television because it changes the world when you can do that.

HEGER: Well, I think it's so important that we identify who the predators are in our communities and I think the rights of the children to know when somebody is there and could prey on them outweighs any other possible barriers to getting these laws passed.

ARNGRIM: Well, I'm very excited too about the state-to-state communication making it national because one of the problems we have now is we have all these ordinances, oh someone is going to be allowed to live here, live there. They're on a list but, as you said, it's virtually meaningless. They simply cross a border. So, we have all these laws but they're not really completely thought out. They don't have the full impact.

Many of the Jessica's laws that they're passing around the country with 25-to-life sentences only apply to predators who are not related to the child or don't know the child.

GIFFORD: Which is I think -- I hope people are just appalled by that. It makes no sense. Again, that's the power of television letting people know that this is the thinking still in our nation in some areas, so all the more reason we can all get together and agree on this subject.

We'll be right back on LARRY KING LIVE.


MARIE OSMOND: I think it's one of the most sick things that can happen to a person because it robs you of your boundaries. It robs you of natural thinking.

KING: So it never leaves you?

OSMOND: Well, I think the scars are very deep. I believe in healing. I think that I'm doing fine but I think periodically things creep up, insecurities. I think it's horrible.




KING: I had a heart attack, it made me stop smoking. That turned into a good heart attack.

OPRAH WINFREY, TALK SHOW HOST: I think all things can turn into good things if you let them.

KING: Is there anything good about abuse?

WINFREY: Well, I think it's made me stronger now. I don't think that there's anything good about abuse when you're going through it.

KING: Can't be?

WINFREY: No. It's a national shame is what it is. Yes, but go ahead, say what you want to say.

KING: Why is it so around?

WINFREY: I think it happens more than it doesn't happen.

KING: And it must have always happened. WINFREY: And it has always happened.

KING: It's not a new phenomenon.

WINFREY: And I think that if my show or anybody's show has served any purpose in the world to bring that out of the closet, then that's really good. If we've got kids talking about it, or women who are battered talking about it, then I think that's really good.


GIFFORD: April is child abuse awareness month and we're all here tonight to discuss this pervasive problem.

Casper, I wanted to talk to you a little bit. Were you afraid your secret was going to come out some day?

VAN DIEN: I never wanted it to ever come out. I was -- I was going to keep that promise. It was more like a threat, if you think about it. I think I was keeping a promise, that the young boy in me, was keeping this promise to this woman and so that kept me a victim until I was 32, until I told the truth.

When you come out and you talk about it, you're no longer a victim. Then it's over, you can deal with it. You can do whatever you're going to do, you can get over it, you can stop living a lie. And that's what I did, I lived a lie.

And that lie was compounded with, I had canker sores in my mouth and I would get sick twice a year, along my birthday and also when the instance happened in the summer, twice a year for three weeks at a time, really high fevers, vomiting. And as soon as I spoke the truth, I haven't gotten a single canker sore and I haven't been sick since then. So it's amazing, I have no sore throats, no nothing, and I'm like cured.

GIFFORD: Because you spoke the truth. Just the release of that. How did you feel right after this? I know the initial reaction to Catherine was you were embarrassed and flustered and stuff. But eventually, once you realized that this was the beginning of a healing, how soon did it take to impact your behavior and see things change in your life?

VAN DIEN: Well there was years of me realizing what I had become and what I was because I had created an onion. So there were layers upon layers and I had no understand. I just knew I was angry. I was really, really angry.

And I was hurt beyond believe because this happened to me. And here I was keeping this secret and did nothing but damage me more. So it took years of figuring things out and, you know, almost a failed marriage and Catherine was just the most amazing woman, and the most amazing wife. And the amazing thing about her is she already led this path, she already went this way. And so to somebody go through it, it kind of like clears the path for you and makes it a lot easier.

GIFFORD: And it gives you hope. It gives you hope that you can have it, too.

VAN DIEN: Yes, and it's true. It is so true. To speak the truth is the only way you're not going to be a victim. As long as you keep that secret, you're a victim. You're not helping anybody, you're not helping that person, you're not helping yourself.

GIFFORD: We're going to put a number on the screen very soon. It is the hotline number for Child Help, an amazing organization that for years now has been at the forefront of battling this problem. We're going to meet the founders of Child Help and find out what's going on in the world now to combat this.

But in the meantime, Dr. Heger, before we bring the ladies on, speak to us as parents, whoever is watching right now. What this is the one single thing we could do to most protect our children?

HEGER: I think we need to learn to talk to our children and listen to their answers all the way to the end of the sentence. Imagine if we actually tucked our kids in bed tonight and sat there and asked them about their day, and took the time to listen to their answers all the way to the end of the sentence, rather than saying, "I can't hear that, that is too tough for me to hear," and we interrupt them and we're too busy.

It's communication and it's what Catherine talked about in terms of awareness and knowing where your kids are. And you don't have to make your kids afraid of the world any more than we do when we fence a swimming pool and say, "We're going to keep our kids from drowning, we're not teaching them to be afraid of the water, we're teaching them there's really danger." And that's what we need to do. And talk to the kids, talk to them.

GIFFORD: There are so many tell-tale signs of physical abuse, we see welts, we see bruises and that sort of thing. Physical abuse is so much easier to identify. What signs -- like emotional signs can we as parents be looking for in our children?

HEGER: It's interesting, you're absolutely right. When we talk to the med students about how to diagnosis physical abuse, it's because there's stuff right there. And that's clear.

GIFFORD: Physical evidence.

HEGER: That's right, it's clear. And in sex abuse, there is really very rarely medical evidence or physical findings.

GIFFORD: Unless they develop rashes or physical problems.

HEGER: Rarely, rarely. Usually, they fail school, they are not sleeping, they have eating disorders.

GIFFORD: Suddenly?

HEGER: Excuse me?

GIFFORD: Their behavior changes that suddenly? HEGER: Oh yes. You can actually sit in the clinic and say to the parents, "So when did this behavior change and who was new in their life? And did they have a new teacher or did they have a new caretaker?" And they go, "Yes." That's when they started failing school and that's when they had nightmares or that's when they started wetting the bed. And it's just phenomenal to look at the behaviors. They're just screaming at the parents, saying, "Hey, there's something wrong here."

GIFFORD: And they want to be rescued.

HEGER: Absolutely, absolutely.

GIFFORD: Then why don't they come forward right away and say it? Is the shame that great that they can't speak it?

HEGER: They are absolutely ashamed, but they're also afraid. They're afraid that if they tell, something bad's going to happen to them. If you tell, you're going to go to jail. If you tell, I hear it all the time, you're going to go to foster care. If you tell, we're going to lose our home. Don't tell. And you know what, if it's a father in the household, it's like, if you tell, I could go to prison and it would be all your fault.

GIFFORD: Then the child feels responsible for keeping the whole family together as well.

HEGER: Absolutely. The 6-year-old little girl is responsible for paying the rent and keeping her dad out of jail and making her mother happy and we want her to step up and tell? I don't think so.

GIFFORD: In the meantime, their childhoods are shattered and there chances for any kind of normalcy in a future life are gone. We're going to right back and discuss -- I wish we had four hours, but we'll be right back, "LARRY KING LIVE," thank you.


KING: You were writing in the book about being sexually molested at the age of 11.


KING: What did that do to you?

HAWN: It scared me. But the reason I wrote the story was because I thought it was important the way my mother and everybody in the family handled it.

Our brains imprint a certain thing as how we -- our family remembers certain things and how they react to it. So if your mother reacts to it in a way that's "Oh, this is so terrible, how dare you, whatever," that's what goes into a child's brain.

It was terrible, it was horrible, and you remember it that way. And my mother didn't do it that way, which I write about it in the book. She handled it in a very practical way. She actually talked about him being sick and knowing it had nothing to do with me. And I actually gained a modicum of compassion for this man.




KING: In your book, you wrote that you were sexually molested at age 10 by your stepfather, who was Lex Barker, right? One of the "Tarzans."


KING: Did you tell your mother what happened?

CRANE: Well, you know, Larry, I was so terrified to tell anyone. And we know so much more about it today.

KING: You were 10?

CRANE: I was 10. And he threatened that if I told anyone, I would be the one to be sent away and I believed him and children believe adults. I think if anything that came out of that is the fact that anyone that is having this problem, I don't care, you know, who they are today, go tell somebody. Because there is help and as a child, you don't realize that you can be -- somebody can step in and stop it.


GIFFORD: We're back on "LARRY KING LOVE." Joyce, I wanted to ask you how important do you think the whole concept of forgiveness is? Should a victim of child abuse forgive the perpetrator just for their own health?

MEYER: Well I think it's extremely important and is very possibly the key to healing for people. I think so often when we think about forgiving someone, we think that we're doing them a big favor and they don't deserve it.

But really, when you forgive, you're doing yourself a favor, you're releasing yourself from the need to have to continue being angry about something that you really can't go back and undo.

I always say, what's the sense in staying mad at somebody that's probably out having a good time and doesn't care that you're angry? And, you know, of course in my own situation, it's been a real miracle, because I was able to finally, after many, many, many years, lead my father to a relationship with God. And he's now in nursing home care and I'm actually responsible for his care.

I just think it's amazing how God turned that situation around to where the man who was almost used to ruin my life is now dependent upon me for his life and I can do it and do it with joy. To me, that's true freedom, to not have to hate him for what he did to me.

GIFFORD: I'd like to think that your story is a typical one but something tells me it probably isn't. What about you, Alison, have you been able to forgive this member of your family that did this to you?

ARNGRIM: No. I don't hate, I don't walk around 24/7 angry, which I certainly have.

GIFFORD: Or which many people would think you have the right to be.

ARNGRIM: And that's the thing. I don't think -- forgiveness, if it's an individual, spiritual choice is a marvelous thing. I feel badly, I see many very, very young children pressured to forgive their rapist and attacker when they have no concept of they'd be doing.

GIFFORD: It really is more of an adult concept.

ARNGRIM: It's people saying, forgive so I can forget about it. And I have found that changing things, that helping others, that speaking out now about child pornography, about the incest exception, about what's going on, and actually altering these things, that will now serve to make it a safer world for other children, has done me enormous good over the last couple of years.

GIFFORD: Every time you help someone else, you're healing yourself?

Casper and Catherine, do you feel the same way?

VAN DIEN: I think you need to forgive, not for the other person. I don't care about that other person at all. You need to forgive for your own self so you can have your life, so you don't sit there and lament over it, and let it ruin or create other scenarios for yourself.

You just need to forgive and know that you didn't do anything wrong. So it's got to be a personal, internal forgiveness. And if you have forgiveness for the other person, that's fine, but it's more or less you need to have forgiveness for yourself.

You didn't do anything wrong and the only thing that you need to do is talk about it, get it out, get it done with, and then you can move and put it behind you. The past is behind you, there's nothing you can do about it. And then you can move on. I mean, there's nothing you can do about. You can't change the past, but you can stop it from happening again by being honest.

OXENBERG: I think there are different levels of forgiveness. And I have moments where I really do experience complete forgiveness. And then I see that he as the perpetrator was himself once was a victim and that somehow frees me.

GIFFORD: Gives you compassion. OXENBERG: Gives me compassion. Do I ever want to see him ever again in my life, no, I don't. Would I expose my children to him? No, I would never. And probably -- in those moments that I cannot find that forgiveness in my heart, I know that that's limiting me in all my other relationships in my life and creating a barrier between me and expressing my love fully. And then I ask God, I ask for divine intervention. I ask God to forgive on my behalf because that makes it a little bit easier for me.

GIFFORD: When we come back, we're going to meet two women who have made a fresh start and new life possible for hundreds of thousands of children. Forgive me for a little bias here, but they happen to be tremendous heroes of mine. Sara and Yvonne from Child Help will be back with us when we return.

Please stay with us, you have to meet these ladies.


TRACI LORDS, EX PORN STAR: Originally, I started going by Traci Lords in 1984. And that was after I had run away from home. I came from a small town in Ohio. And early on, I had a lot of sexual abuse that had happened to me. I was raped when I was 10-years-old and then my mother's boyfriend started molesting me from the time I was like 10 until I was about 15.

KING: Were you overdeveloped at 10?

LORDS: I was. And it was definitely a curse, at least I saw it like that when I was a little girl because I had all of this sexual energy thrown toward me and I didn't really know what to do with it. And then the very traumatic experience of being raped as a child filled me with shame and a lot of guilt and ultimately, it was one of the reasons I ran away from home.



GIFFORD: Back in Washington D.C. on "LARRY KING LIVE," discussing child abuse and child neglect and the aftermath and devastation of human lives as a result of it.

I'm very privileged to introduced you to two ladies that I've grown to love very much over the last nine years in my limited involvement in Child Help. But this is Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, co-founders of Child Help.

And they founded it in 1959, after -- you'd have to see the "Lifetime" movie about them called "For the Love of a Child" to get their whole background.

They've been basically advocates for children for 47 years now. But Child Help came as a result really of Nancy Reagan, didn't it? Can you tell us how that particular thing happened, either one of you? They're like frick and frack, you can ask either one of them and they'll give you a good story.

SARA O'MEARA, CO-FOUNDER, CHILD HELP: Well Nancy Reagan played a large part in our going into this child abuse arena because she said, "You know, Sara, you have been so successful with unpopular issues. And you have been dealing with the Japanese American children and then the children from the Vietnam War. And she said, no one is really tackling like they should the dilemma of child abuse." And we didn't realize there was such a dilemma in this country.

GIFFORD: You'd never experienced it?

O'MEARA: Never. And so, she said, "I know the governor pretty well."

GIFFORD: She always calls him her roommate.

O'MEARA: "And I think I can get you a grant if you will accept, to really take this challenge and go after it." And we did.

GIFFORD: We lit a candle at the Capitol for the four children that die every day. What do you think the statistics really are? How many children do you think really die every day?

O'MEARA: Well every 10 seconds a child is abuse

YVONNE FEDDERSON, CO-FOUNDER, CHILD HELP: And they say that there are over four children now who die everyday as a result of child abuse and neglect. And even if one child -- any children would die, it's too many.

GIFFORD: I think people are talking about it more, which is -- are you experiencing that, they're talking about it?

FEDDERSON: You know, Kathie, yes we are. And we need to, because we need to be aware of what's happening around us and how it causes our nation such problems, this child abuse problem. You know, if a plane, a 727 plane would crash, they'd have about 120 people on the plane. And if they were all killed in an airplane crash, people would be up in arms.

GIFFORD: It would be on the cover of every newspaper and the biggest story here on CNN.

FEDDERSON: And that's how many people die because of child abuse and neglect every single month. So we must do more about it.

O'MEARA: And it's so hard for these children to tell about it. It's like -- they came out originally, the very first time at the Child Help national day of hope in Congress at our luncheon last year, and after they did and they told the story, they said it's like a heavy coat that they had taken from them. And since then, they have really been such a diehard couple for this cause and to tell about it, it's wonderful.

FEDDERSON: You know that there are ambassadors, at Child Help, just like you are, Kathie. We're so proud of them, and we're so proud of you.

GIFFORD: Well, you know, we all do what we can do. And the more you do, the more you realize you're not doing enough. Its just -- I talked about it at Congress today, that we can all have our opinions about the war on Iraq, you can have your opinion about the Democrats versus the Republicans, but the one thing we should all be completely nonpartisan about is the fact there are children in peril and there are children dying everyday.

And many times at the hands of their very own parents or family members. Do you ever get so discouraged that you just want to...

FEDDERSON: We just wish we could do more, Kathie.

GIFFORD: ... The stories are so horrible, they're just -- to live with that on a daily basis, Dr. Heger was talking about it, you've got this black hole you go into. But you all see the light at the end of the tunnel. How do you keep the hope alive?

O'MEARA: Well we're discouraged for the children that we can't help, of course. But fortunately, we have been on the receiving end of seeing children change their lives and they're like little sponges, you know. They absorb love and caring and nourishment and therapy and so they can be turned around quickly the earlier that we are able to detect this problem.

GIFFORD: Early detection, again.

O'MEARA: That we're able to help them.

GIFFORD: We'll be back in a moment with our few remaining moments to talk about how you might be able to get involved, you might be able to learn more about this incredible organization and how you might also be able to actually save the life of a child. We'll be back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You asked me what I'd do if they were my children? I'll tell you what I do. Better yet, I'll show you. Gentlemen? They're all volunteers. They're on their own time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The answer to our prayers.




GIFFORD: Back with Sara and Yvonne, co-founders of Child Help. I want you, in our last remaining time, to tell people, if they suspect child abuse or if they know of it, not to be afraid of it, right? Give them a hot line number and the Web site.

FEDDERSON: They can call our hotline, 1-800-4-A-C-H-I-L-D. 1- 800-4achild.

O'MEARA: And that's to report child abuse, to get help or give help. And our Web site,, you can find out all of the programs that we do for help. Please call if you know of a child that is in peril, we ask our audience to please call to help them.

GIFFORD: There is hope and there is a link to my Web site as well, which is But there's wonderful little -- these have become so popular since Lance Armstrong had his "Live Strong." This one says "For the Love of a Child." And it's $1, it's just $1. All the money, I know these ladies, they don't pocket it.


GIFFORD: Ninety-one cents out of every dollar, it reaches a child. That's a bargain in today's world. And nothing compares with the smile of a child who has lost the will to smile, has lost the light in their eyes because that's what child abuse does, it robs a child of their very life.

I can't even imagine how some of these children come back from such darkness. But Dr. Heger says they can. Look at the beautiful examples of our panel tonight. I want to thank Catherine Oxenberg and Casper and Alison out there and Joyce Meyer and Dr. Heger for her expertise.

Because thank God there are people like that working in the medical profession who understand it so well. Those of us who are laymen like I am just find it so incomprehensible. Have you found a common theme anywhere along -- with all of your work in this? Of a child that gets abused? Is there a common thing?

O'MEARA: There's no many different reasons. There's our television today, with violence. There's people.

FEDDERSON: The Internet.

O'MEARA: And the Internet, as you said earlier in the show. In the news today, we have to be more careful about our children. We have to care about their hearts as well as their minds. And so, what it takes, is love, caring, nurturing and awareness. And we signed with President Carter, April as child abuse prevention month, 26 years ago. And look what's happened with that. So people are becoming more aware.

GIFFORD: There's still so much work to be done. Our country is defined to me by how we treat our children.

O'MEARA: There's no question.

GIFFORD: Be a part of the solution, not the problem, will you? Find out more about Child Help. I want to thank Larry for having me in tonight. He'll be back Monday with some wonderful guests. And stay tuned for "ANDERSON COOPER 360" coming up next. Thanks, everybody.