Since 2010, “Little House on the Prairie” star Alison Arngrim has spoken publicly about the sexual abuse she endured for three years as a child. The molestation occurred before Arngrim took on the “Little House” role of villain Nellie, she says, and while abuse can happen to anyone, Arngrim tells OWN Digital that children in Hollywood are particularly vulnerable.
“See, the way child predators work, it’s like the old thing about Willie Sutton: Why do you rob banks? ‘It’s where they keep the money,’” Arngrim says. “Child predators go, ‘Well, where are they keeping the children? And where might there be some children who are not being supervised all the time by their parents?’ Oh, look ― agent, child manager, photographer, casting director. These are also things where a child predator will say, ‘Oh, wow, what if I got a job doing that? How many parents would leave their kid alone with me?’”
In Hollywood, that answer appears to be, “Plenty.”
“There were parents dropping their kids off at these guys’ houses,” Arngrim says. “Did it occur to you that maybe it’s odd for a 40-year-old guy to want that many 11-year-olds in his pool without their parents all day?”
“With show business, it’s very weird. People will get star-struck,” she continues. “If their next-door neighbor said, ‘Hi. You hardly know me, but I would like to have your children over and stay in my house and not have you there,’ you would say no... But, someone very rich, someone very famous, someone who’s an agent or a manager or a star comes up and tells you this, people say, ‘All right, let me pack a bag.’”
“Did it occur to you that maybe it’s odd for a 40-year-old guy to want that many 11-year-olds in his pool without their parents all day?”
In Arngrim’s case, her abuse was perpetrated by a relative and ended when Arngrim was 9. She never told anyone about it until she was an adult, however, despite having people around her whose support and love could have made a huge difference in her youth.
“I had people I could have told. Can you imagine if I had told Michael Landon or anyone on ‘Little House on the Prairie?’ Of course they would have done something,” she says. “But you don’t think of that when you’re a kid. You don’t know. You don’t think like a grown-up.”
Now, Arngrim is helping create a platform for people to share their stories of survival, called the Indomitable Spirit Symposium. The kick-off event will be held at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles on Feb. 25.
“We’re gathering up these people who have these incredible stories of courage and strength and survival ― people who have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds,” Arngrim says. “[We’re] talking about how they did this. Come to this and hear... Come. Find out what we’re doing.”
For more stories like this, sign up for the This Week on OWN newsletter.