NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 12: Brooke Shields attends MoMA’s Twelfth Annual Film Benefit Presented By CHANEL Honoring Laura Dern on November 12, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Craig Barritt/Getty Images for MoMA)
Brooke Shields has never shied away from talking about the ways she was sexualized as a child star in Hollywood. But now the actress is revealing that she was raped as a young adult.
In new documentary Pretty Baby, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Shields did not name her attacker but detailed the events of a sexual assault that occurred shortly after she graduated college at Princeton, during a period where she was struggling to find work after her early success. Shields met with the man in question for dinner, ostensibly to discuss work. She then returned to his hotel room to wait to call a taxi.
“He said, ‘Come back to the hotel and I’ll call a cab,'” Shields explains in the film. “And I go up to the hotel room, and he disappears for awhile.”
Shields, feeling uncomfortable in a room that wasn’t hers, decided to use binoculars the man had left in the room and watched some volleyball players out the window. “The door opens, the person comes out naked, and I’ve got the binoculars and I’m like, ‘S—,'” she continues. “And I put the binoculars down and he’s right on me. Just like, was wrestling.”
Continuing with her account, Shields explained that she didn’t try to run away because she feared it would provoke further physical violence. “I was afraid I’d get choked out or something,” she says. “So I didn’t fight that much. I didn’t. I just absolutely froze. I thought one ‘No’ should’ve been enough, and I just thought, ‘Stay alive and get out,’ and I just shut it out. God knows I knew how to be disassociated from my body. I’d practiced that…. I went down in the elevator, and I got my own cab. I just cried all the way to my friend’s apartment.”
The actress didn’t even process the experience as a sexual assault for a long time. Even when it was pointed out to her by her security specialist Gavin de Becker. “He said, ‘That’s rape.’ And I said, ‘I’m not willing to believe that,'” she says.
Shields had already been sexually objectified by Hollywood, appearing nude and kissing a 29-year-old Keith Carradine in the 1978 film Pretty Baby (which lends its title to the documentary) when she was only 11-years-old. At 15, she appeared in two more films, Blue Lagoon and Endless Love, that included sex and nudity, as well as her iconic Calvin Klein jean ads that touted, “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins.”
Pretty Baby Brooke Shields
Getty Images/Courtesy of Sundance Institute Brooke Shields appears in documentary ‘Pretty Baby,’ which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival.
Even with that history, Shields couldn’t help but feel that she was culpable in some way for her own assault. “That was what I had to do to my brain,” she admits. “He said to me, ‘I can trust you and I can’t trust people.’ It’s so cliché, it’s practically pathetic. I believed somehow I put out a message and that was how the message was received. I drank wine at dinner. I went up to the room. I just was so trusting.”
She then goes on to say that she wrote her attacker a letter, writing that he had destroyed a “huge trust” in him, but that it was dismissed.
“I just threw my hands up and said, ‘You know what, I refuse to be a victim because this is something that happens no matter who you are and no matter what you think you’re prepared for or not,'” she concludes. “I wanted to erase the whole thing from my mind and body and just keep on the path I was on. The system had never once come to help me. So I just had to get stronger on my own.”
Shields has previously addressed being sexualized from a young age in two memoirs. But this is the first time she has revealed details of an assault of this nature.
Lena Wilson (Miss Americana) directed the documentary, which will be on Hulu later this year.
Additional reporting by Mike Miller.
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