“Dancing With the Stars” professional dancer Cheryl Burke said in her latest podcast episode that she was molested by a ballroom dancing teacher when she was growing up. She told her podcast guests, Tamra Judge and Teddi Mellencamp, that it was the first time she had ever talked about it publicly.
Here is what Cheryl said and how she’s dealing with the realization:
Cheryl Said She Only Recently Realized What Her Coach Was Doing Was Wrong
On the May 17 episode of her new podcast, “Burke in the Game,” Cheryl said talked about how she matured very early and in the world of ballroom dancing, she was around a lot of older men. In working with her therapist in light of her separation from husband Matthew Lawrence, she has realized a lot of things, including that what one of her ballroom dancing teachers did was actually sexual molestation.
“I’ve never talked about this, really. But the same thing that happens with the [Olympic] gymnasts happens in the ballroom world,” said Cheryl, in reference to Larry Nassar, the team doctor for the United States women’s national gymnastics team who was convicted of sexually assaulting multiple minors in his time as the team doctor.
Cheryl went on to say:
There’s a category called pro-am where you dance with your teacher. My teacher was a lot older than me … there was times when I was being sexually molested, literally … [it was] the same coach that was teaching my mother and I’m just realizing it now, very recent, that what he did was wrong. But there was a part of me that felt that I wanted that attention.
She added that as a kid, she wasn’t “able to even voice it, put words to it,” in reference to what was happening to her.
Cheryl Also Said That Ballroom Dancing Was Maybe Not the Place For Her as a Survivor of Sexual Abuse
Cheryl has been outspoken about how she was sexually molested by her family’s driver, beginning when she was just 4 years old. She testified at his trial and he eventually went to prison, but she said on the podcast that that really “skewed” a lot of things for her.
“[M]y definition of a man was skewed. I was in abusive relationships, physical and mental, until I moved here to LA when I was 21,” said Cheryl, adding, “That was my definition of love.”
She also said that the ballroom world was maybe not the best place for her as a survivor of sexual abuse.
“To put someone with child abuse and her history in the ballroom world, it really set me up for lots of abuse because I had older — I had sex when I was really young … had sex when I was 13. My dance partners were older than me and we were traveling the world alone because my mom was obviously trying to put food on the table, she had her company. No chaperone,” said Cheryl.
This echoes some things she has said previously about growing up too fast in ballroom dancing. In a video on her YouTube channel from 2020, Cheryl talked about how hard it was as a young teen in ballroom dancing.
“I grew up pretty fast just from being in the dance competition world, you kind of have to,” said Cheryl. “I was already traveling on my own across the world with my dance partner because my mom couldn’t just put her life on hold and come for months at a time to England where we would train every single summer because she was working and she was supporting my partner and I, so that we would be able to go to England.”
Cheryl added, “So I thought of myself as just being really grown up and having to take care of myself.”
“Dancing With the Stars” returns for its 31st season in the fall of 2022 on Disney Plus.