How Top Gun Star Kelly McGillis Survived Sexual Assaults and Emotional Struggles to Live a 'Quiet, Normal Life'
Kelly McGillis, now 58, was viciously raped by two men 34 years ago
She starred in some of Hollywood’s most acclaimed blockbusters, but offscreen, Kelly McGillis faced almost unimaginable struggles.
The actress, best known for starring in Top Gun, Witness and The Accused, has revealed she is a survivor of two brutal rapes, as well as several assaults – all horrific incidents she detailed on social media after her home was broken into and she was attacked last week.
McGillis, now 58 and living in North Carolina, was viciously raped by two men 34 years ago – a life-changing attack she detailed to PEOPLE in 1988.
Before Fame, Horror
In 1979, McGillis relocated to New York City from Newport Beach, California, to study acting at the Juilliard School. At the time, she previously told PEOPLE, she “was so terribly naïve about the ways of the world.”
Three years later – and a year after being mugged at gunpoint – McGillis was getting out of the shower when two men broke down her apartment door, she said.
Despite her screams, McGillis was forced into the bedroom with a knife held to her face. The men took turns sexually assaulting the actress, all while spitting on, hitting and stabbing at her with the knife.
“They kept switching and telling me they were going to beat me until I was dead,” she told PEOPLE. “At that point I thought I would die, and I had resigned myself.”
Eventually, police arrived, chasing the men off and taking McGillis to the hospital. Both men were arrested within a month of the incident. One, a 15-year-old, served more than three years in prison. Charges against the second alleged attacker, 20, were dismissed, however, after fingerprints and evidence left at the scene failed to incriminate him.
A Downward Spiral
“The first few weeks after the incident I couldn’t eat or sleep. I twitched incessantly,” McGillis detailed to PEOPLE in 1988. “I would gasp suddenly without being able to control it.”
Scared and depressed, McGillis said she gained 30 pounds and began to rely on alcohol – an addiction that would eventually lead to rehab. She struggled to trust men and ruined relationships.
“Finally in 1984 I went into therapy for a year because I was tired of beating myself up for something I didn’t do, and I realized I would have no future if I didn’t stop,” McGillis said.
Later, her abuse struggle expanded to drugs, eventually landing her in a Pennsylvania halfway house, she told The New York Times in 2010.
A New Lease on Life
It seemed as if McGillis had found peace by 2009. She was eight years sober, her relationship with her children – she has two grown daughters with her second husband, Fred Tillman, whom she divorced in 2002 – was long repaired and she was ready to come out as a lesbian, a surprise to many after two marriages to men.
But the romance wouldn’t last – by 2013, she and Leis had parted ways.
McGillis channeled her past problems into helping others – working with women at a New Jersey drug and rehab facility, she told The Oklahoman newspaper in 2013.
“I find it’s just an amazing gift to see people come in hopeless and to be given some hope and some desire to live, and some tools for hopefully changing their lives, their children’s lives, their families’ lives,” McGillis said.
She also re-entered Hollywood – an industry she’d long left behind to focus on her children. In 2013, she appeared in the cannibal horror film We Are What we Are. “I think I kind of look at things now with like, ‘Have I done it before? Would it be fun? How long away from home is it?’ ” she told Yahoo of joining the cast.
The June 17 break-in at her home has left McGillis rattled – and reopened old wounds, despite the arrest of the alleged intruder.
In a Facebook post from two days after the incident, the actress further alleged that someone from her past had stalked her and once attempted to poison her pets and destroy her personal property.
She also revealed that she was gang-raped by three men when she was 12.
“After each one of these attacks I moved thinking I could find a safe place. Not,” she wrote, adding, “I am now left with all the terrifying feelings of PTSD and trying to pull myself out of the very depth of the all consuming depression and despair. All that background pain has pushed itself to the fore of my psyche.”
McGillis has since obtained a concealed carry permit for North Carolina, writing on Facebook, “All I have ever wanted is to feel safe. Safe in my own home.”