Elvira's Cassandra Peterson Accuses NBA Pro Wilt Chamberlain of Sexual Assault: 'I Kept That a Secret'
Peterson opens up to PEOPLE about the "shocking, embarrassing, traumatizing" experience, which she never told anyone, with the exception of her ex-husband Mark Pierson, before the release of her book, Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark.
The Elvira: Mistress of the Dark star, 70, details the alleged assault in her new memoir, recounting a party at Chamberlain's Bel Air mansion in the 1970s. He offered to show her his custom-built closet for his NBA jerseys, where he forced her to give him oral sex, Peterson writes.
"Why didn't I try to scream, fight back, or get away? When a seven- foot-one, 300-pound man has his hand wrapped around your neck, there's really not a lot you can do," she writes in the book. "Should I have reported him to the police? Are you kidding? What chance do you think a former showgirl/ out-of-work actress would have against a sports superstar?"
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Chamberlain, who is largely considered one of the greatest NBA players of all time, died of congestive heart failure at 63 on October 12, 1999, following years of heart trouble and deteriorating health.
"I just kept it quiet and didn't say anything for my whole life," she tells PEOPLE. "And the sad thing was he was a friend. He was a friend for so many years who had made it even feel worse and creepier and like I was an idiot."
The Elvira's Movie Macabre host credits the Me Too movement with helping her grapple with the assault decades later. "I didn't tell anybody about that story. It's shocking, embarrassing, traumatizing and I really kept that a secret from everyone," Peterson says.
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"So talking about that now with the advent of Me Too, that's when I started thinking about it again," she adds. "And it started making me really angry that I suddenly felt like... I mean, I was a victim but it felt more like I was the perpetrator of some crime [like] I'd done something wrong."
"I mean, I almost had myself convinced that I was a very bad person for letting that happen. And then when the whole Me Too movement, I started thinking, 'Wait a minute. I didn't do anything wrong. You did something wrong. You did something very wrong,'" Peterson adds.
She writes in the autobiography about several incidents of sexual assault she experienced, hoping that her candor will help other survivors cope with the trauma.
"I thought if I can share my story, it might make one person out there feel like, 'Wow, this can happen to anybody at any time and no, I'm not, I didn't do anything wrong,'" Peterson explains. "I don't know why, somehow reporting sexual threats and sexual assaults makes the victim feel like they're the one who committed a crime."
Peterson also used her book to come out of the closet, revealing that she's in a happy 19-year relationship with another woman, Teresa "T" Wierson. "I'm very aware that there will be some who will be disappointed and maybe even angry, but I have to live with myself, and at this point in my life, I've got to be truthful about who I am," she writes.
Cassandra Peterson's memoir Yours Cruelly, Elvira: Memoirs of the Mistress of the Dark is available now.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.
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