Pamela Anderson Talks Childhood Abuse & Early Sexualization

Trigger warning: this post contains references to sexual assault. For most of her life, Pamela Anderson has been a subject of public fascination, and in 2022, the former Playboy Playmate’s sex tape with then-husband Tommy Lee was the subject of the Hulu limited series Pam & Tommy, despite not having her blessing. But in 2023, she’s taking her story back. Ahead of her memoir and Netflix documentary Pamela, A Love Story, both due out on Jan. 31, Anderson opened up to People about her childhood and early experiences that informed the rest of her career and life.

Anderson didn’t consider herself pretty as a child, but rather “athletic and funny” and a kid who liked bugs, snakes, nature, and climbing trees. Focusing on those interests helped her cope. “I didn’t like that I had any kind of qualities that were attracting the wrong kind of attention,” she reflected. Anderson also said a female babysitter first sexualized her and forced her to “play weird games on her body.” She played along if only to shield her brother from similar treatment. “She threatened me not to tell anyone. Or else. I was trying to protect my brother,” she explained. “I didn’t want it happening to him and so I would do things so she wouldn’t touch him. And that’s where it all unraveled. I was very ashamed. I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t know what to do.”

The abuse didn’t stop there. A few years later at around age 12 or 13, Anderson said she was raped by a man a decade older than her, another incident she told no one about. “Part of me just gave up. That was kind of another nail in the coffin,” she said. Despite the trauma, the incidents gave her a thick skin. “I could not have survived my adult life without the strength I learned early on.”

Anderson called her big break at Playboy “divine timing.” She became a Playmate at the magazine in her early 20s, and she holds the record for the most number of Playboy covers. “I needed to take my power back as a sexual being, as a woman. I remember looking at the pictures, thinking I still didn’t like them but they’re OK. And then I thought, ‘Well, I really flipped the script,’” she said. “On one hand I was vulnerable but I also felt how could it be any worse than where I was? And if I have a choice with my own body I’m going to take it. I’m going to choose for myself.”

Looking back now, Anderson is hopeful that telling her story in her own words is “empowering” to those in similar situations. “I’m sure there are people struggling just like I have and I wanted to tell those people you’re human and you’re not bad. I want to help,” she said. “When someone tells you not to say something, that’s when you need to say it. It’s the shame of the secrets — or the embarrassment.” Reflecting on her story now is “kind of like the beginning of understanding my entire life,” she said. “I wanted to make sure it was from the heart.”

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, you can call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit

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