Cheryl Burke is a work in progress.
In the latest episode of Red table discussionthe Dancing with the stars pro, 38, spoke of years of sexual and mental abuse that led her down a path to alcoholism as a form of self-medication. She also shared how dancing helped turn her pain into a new purpose.
“I was just in survival mode,” she said of her addiction. “I drank alcohol to numb myself. I’m addicted. I was a functional addict. When I wasn’t drinking, people were like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ “
Burke says her first experience of sexual abuse began when she was a child, when a family friend in her 60s began molesting her when she was 5 years old.
“It was more of a grooming experience because it wasn’t sex. It was other things happening, sex acts,” she recalled. “He was grooming me, and he was my definition of ‘love.’ too much what was or was a healthy relationship.
The grooming, she claims, went on for years – until her sister’s friend caught him in the act and ended up telling his parents, who eventually contacted Burke’s family. and ended it. She spoke at length about the experience in the 2015 TLC documentary break the silence.
Burke eventually found a way to heal his trauma through the art of dancing, though that wouldn’t stop him from experiencing other types of abuse from men.
“Growing up, I started ballroom dancing,” she said. “The ballroom was a fun thing. But you had to grow up fast, because here I’m wearing tiny little dance costumes, eyelashes, fake tan — and I’m 11.”
“Thank goodness for dancing, it saved my life. But in this industry of the competitive ballroom world, it really is a man’s world,” she continued. “The man leads, the woman follows – off the dance floor and on the dance floor. And with that come abusive partners and abusive coaches. Have there been acts of sexual abuse and abuse? mental abuse? One hundred percent. And I just realized that? Yeah, sure, as I keep doing the work.
Years of internalizing that trauma led Burke to look for love in the wrong places — and to repeat old patterns.
“In high school, I lived in two worlds: it was like my competitive life in a ballroom, and I was dating two men who were very physically and emotionally abusive, on a whole different level,” she said. Explain. “To me, love equaled abuse. Love equaled infidelity. Love equaled manipulative and narcissistic behaviors.”
During one such relationship, Burke recalled her then-boyfriend whipping her with a belt while her parents watched and did nothing to stop her.
“I had bruises all over my legs. I remember his parents were looking at him and did nothing,” she explained. “It wasn’t like he was hitting me, he was whipping me. I was seeing these marks and even then I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not really there.’ I think I was in shock – in fight, flee or freeze – I got in my car, he jumped in his car, kept banging against the back of my car for me to stop.
“I was not allowed to have friends, let alone dance,” she explained at the time. “I was not allowed to stay in after-school programs or even, God forbid, watch anyone, because of this person who was very bossy.”
Looking back, Burke said she stayed with her ex because she was ‘addicted’ to the ‘adrenaline rush’ of being in a rocky relationship, which she now admits isn’t. sustainable.
“I wasn’t attracted to the nice guy,” she says of those yeses. “I was only attracted to chauvinistic men [because] It feels like home.”
Following his recent separated from her husband Matthew LawrenceBurke has been open about the lessons she’s learned about love, life and healing — which she says is why she ‘chooses not to date’ as she continues to mourn the end of her marriage in a healthy way.
“It’s just me and my Frenchie,” she told Yahoo Life in September. “I’ve been sober for four years now, and with it comes self-reflection. I’m like a sponge and I’m just learning to love myself and really learning to be alone instead of alone. I think it’s very important for me to establish this relationship with myself so that I don’t continue on this same pattern of men and relationships.
At this moment, the dance mom alum says she is using this time to support herself.
“I used to put everyone in front of me and my needs, and I find that I’m doing myself a disservice,” she explained. “I think it’s very important to just breathe and be kind to yourself because it’s not easy.”
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