Teri Hatcher

At age 41, Golden Globe-winning actress Teri Hatcher seems to be a fabulous success story, thanks to her career comeback on the smash hit Desperate Housewives—but Teri's real life is not all award shows and Hollywood glamour. In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Teri revealed a painful secret that has tormented her for years—a secret so haunting she's considered taking her own life. Like one out of four women in the United States, she endured sexual abuse as a child.
Teri Hatcher and Oprah Winfrey

Teri says her uncle, Richard Stone, molested her for three years, starting when she was 5 years old. She remembers the abuse in heartbreaking detail—from the parking lot she says he'd drive her to, to the color of the car's upholstery, to "what his penis looked like."

"I've never had repressed memories," Teri says. "There's nothing that I haven't lived with every single day."

Teri says she remembers feeling "a lot of shame" for knowing what would happen when she would get in the car with her uncle, and for choosing to get in anyway. "I guess I wanted that special attention. That's part of the horror and the blame of the victim," she says. "You're seduced to believe you are responsible for it."
Teri Hatcher

In 2002, Teri was at her parents' home helping out with a yard sale when her mother, with whom she had never discussed the abuse, handed her clippings from a local newspaper. The articles were about a current case against Teri's uncle—Stone was charged with molesting a young girl, Sarah Van Cleemput. He became a suspect after Sarah committed suicide and implicated him in her goodbye note.

Teri says her first reaction to Sarah's story was a feeling of empathy. "I relate to this girl's pain," she remembers thinking. "I relate to feeling the shame—like you are at fault, it's something you did, [and] you don't know how to get out of it."

Sarah was 14 years old when she wrapped her head in a towel, put a gun to her temple and shot herself. Investigators suspect she had endured sexual abuse at the hands of the Cleemput's neighbor and family friend Richard Stone for at least three years. In a note to her family, Sarah wrote, "If you don't know why a normal teenager does something like this, ask Dick."

Sarah's parents say their daughter was a cheerful, fun-loving girl, and her suicide came "out of the blue." Sarah's mother, Ingrid, admits that looking back, there were signs of abuse. She remembers a disturbing incident in which Stone "took a piece of chocolate out of [Sarah's] mouth with his mouth." Ingrid remembers her daughter also started avoiding Stone and "didn't want to be anywhere near him."

Ingrid says she felt guilty at the time for being suspicious. "I thought, 'You shouldn't be thinking something like this because he's a close family friend,'" she says.
Teri Hatcher

After reading the newspaper clippings, Teri wasn't sure if her story could help in the case against Stone—but she decided to contact the district attorney just in case. "I know something about this case," Teri remembers telling him, "and I really only want to come forward if you think it will make a difference. If you tell me that your case is all sewn up and you've got all the evidence you need and you don't need me, then I'd just as soon not be a part of it—but I don't want him to get off."

Teri was surprised to learn that without Sarah's testimony, the prosecution did not have enough evidence to convict. In fact, the case was just two days from being dismissed!
Teri Hatcher

Teri's detailed account of her own molestation proved invaluable to the prosecution. Stone's defense attorney was given a copy of Teri's private deposition, and within days, Stone pled guilty to four counts of child molestation. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison. The prosecutor said that without Teri, the case would have been dismissed and Stone would still be on the streets.

Sarah's sister, Claudia, says that by speaking out Teri not only achieved justice for her sister but also helped the family better understand Sarah's state of mind. Ingrid says she is also grateful. In a special video message, she thanks Teri from the bottom of her heart.
Teri Hatcher and Oprah Winfrey

Teri admits that being sexually abused as a child has damaged her self-esteem. Her mother also played a major role in her emotional development. "[My mom] was very self-sacrificing...but almost to a bad point," Teri says. "She just never took anything good for herself, and that was kind of my role model and sort of what I ended up doing."

Her mother's selfless nature inspired the title of Teri's book Burnt Toast. "It was an expression that came out of my mouth when I was doing a Barbara Walters special," Teri says. "I was explaining what I do, you know, that I eat the burnt toast. I take what is last, and I learned that from my mother."

When Teri celebrated her 40th birthday, she says she began to reevaluate her life and how she wanted to live it. "I thought, 'I don't want to do this anymore. There has to be a balance between taking everything for yourself or taking nothing...and in the middle is the golden buttery brown toast,'" she says.

While searching for that perfect piece of toast, Teri sat down and wrote her book, which Oprah describes as a "personal journey to self-acceptance." The book doesn't discuss Teri's sexual abuse, but it does tackle Hollywood rumors, her sex-starved marriage, single motherhood and a string of ill-fated romances.
Teri Hatcher

In Burnt Toast, Teri opens up about her marriage—revealing that she and her husband never had sex on their honeymoon and that sexual intimacy was a source of frustration. Teri says she used to ask herself, "Am I not attractive? What's wrong with me?"

Teri can even pinpoint the exact day she conceived her daughter, Emerson. "It was the only time we had sex that year—Valentine's Day," she says.

Looking back, Teri now understands why she stayed in a relationship that lacked intimacy. Sex wasn't the issue...Teri's problems could be traced back to the abuse she suffered as a child.

Since the divorce, Teri says she's done a lot of work on herself and now she's looking for love!

"[I] really want to have sex," she says. "[I] really want to find somebody that I can trust and go deep with and [have] crazy wild sex...did I say sex?"
Ryan Seacrest

Since returning to the small screen as one of the co-stars of Desperate Housewives, Teri has been at the center of many Hollywood rumors. Now, she's ready to set the record straight.

"[There are] no catfights on the set [of Desperate Housewives]. I'm not anorexic. I don't make $285,000 an episode. I haven't renegotiated my contract. I'm not trying to get off the show because I want to do movies," she says.

Teri's love life has also attracted a lot of unwanted attention. In March 2006, she was photographed kissing American Idol host Ryan Seacrest on a secluded beach. Oprah wants to know...what's the deal with that?

"It's such a non-story" Teri says. "All the things you read in the tabloids about me and men are really non-stories."

Teri says she and Ryan were set up by a mutual friend, and after two group dinners, they met for a lunch date at an out-of-the-way location. "Interestingly enough, I haven't seen him since that day," she says. "We knew that the [pictures] had been taken, which must have bothered him enough. An hour after he dropped me off, he called to say, 'I don't think I can do this with you.'"
George Clooney

Before Teri and Ryan made headlines, tabloids reported that she was dating Hollywood heartthrob George Clooney. Teri says there's no truth to those widespread rumors.

"That was really fabricated," she says. "We went to one dinner back in December, and that was it. No kissing."

Both Teri and George denied that they were an item, but reports about their relationship continued to appear in magazines. "Boy, they would not let go of that one! I read things about how he sent me a teddy bear and chocolates for Valentine's Day, and I'm in my mailbox going, 'Did he really? Because I didn't get them,'" she says. "Now they actually refer to him as my ex-boyfriend. It's hilarious."
Teri Hatcher

Tabloid reporters aren't the only ones faking it in Hollywood. Teri says most actresses rely on tricks of the trade to look red carpet ready. When donning a designer gown, Teri depends on the "removable boob job"—fashion form tape that supports the breasts and accentuates the bust.

"Then there's also the fake hair...everybody puts in the fake hair," she says. "It's all very fake—the whole thing."

Teri draws the line when it comes to Botox. "I just don't want to put weird things in my body," she says. "I'm not 25, and I would like to stop having to try to look like I'm 25. Being 41, maybe it's an age where I feel like I want to embrace my inner beauty more than what's going on out here."
Cast of 'Desperate Housewives'

For millions of Desperate Housewives fans, Wisteria Lane wouldn't be the same without Teri Hatcher. Little do they know, Teri says she almost blew her audition!

Just one week before landing Desperate Housewives, Teri had a disastrous audition for another ABC sitcom. "Not only did I not get it, the feedback was sort of like, 'You had a chip on your shoulder,'" she remembers.

After hearing the negative reaction, Teri says she cried for about 18 hours. That same day her manager called to tell her about the Desperate Housewives audition. She desperately needed a job, but she says she knew she wouldn't get the part looking like "a wreck." She asked her manager to move the audition, and, a week later, Teri walked into the Desperate Housewives audition with a fresh attitude. "[I thought,] it's a new day. It's a new opportunity, and I'm just going to be me," she says. "It was one of those auditions that goes so well that you walk out and you go, 'I don't even care if I get this because that went as well as it could go.'"

After two seasons, Teri says she loves her job more than ever. "I love the role of Susan," she says. "I've never, ever had such a great role. I have more fun playing her today than I ever did when we started."
Teri Hatcher

When Teri accepted the Golden Globe for best actress in a comedy series, she said, "A network gave me a second chance at a career when I couldn't have been a bigger has-been."

Since landing her role on Desperate Housewives, Teri says her life has been turned upside down, but the important things in life have remained the same. "In a way, [life] hasn't changed. I still have the same friends," she says. "I just have more opportunities, and one of the greatest things is what you're able to give back."

Teri says she hopes that she's setting a positive example for her daughter, Emerson. "I hope to eat less burnt toast than my mother did, and I hope [Emerson] never eats any," she says.

When looking back on her life, Teri says she doesn't want people to remember her only as a victim of sexual abuse. "I want to be defined as what I am," she says, "which is a woman, a mother, an actress, a friend and a molestation survivor."