Rosie O'Donnell Reveals She Was Sexually Abused by Her Father as a Child: 'It Started Very Young'

Rosie O'Donnell reveals she was sexually abused by her late father during her youth

'Smilf' press conference, Los Angeles, USA - 06 Oct 2017
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Rosie O’Donnell is opening up about a traumatic childhood experience.

In an upcoming book, Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View by Variety’s New York bureau chief Ramin Setoodeh, O’Donnell talked for the first time about the alleged sexual abuse she endured at the hands of her late father, Edward Joseph. (Joseph died in 2015.)

“It started very young,” O’Donnell, 56, told Setoodeh of the alleged abuse. “And then when my mother died, it sort of ended in a weird way, because then he was with these five children to take care of. On the whole, it’s not something I like to talk about. Of course, it changes everyone. Any child who is put in that position, especially by someone in the family, you feel completely powerless and stuck, because the person you would tell is the person doing it.”

Details of the alleged sexual abuse appear in a chapter about The Rosie O’Donnell Show, which aired from 1996 to 2002.

A rep for O’Donnell declined to comment.

During an appearance on The Howard Stern Show in November, O’Donnell discussed her own mental health — “I have major depressive disorder — luckily, I’m medicated,” she said — and admitted to experiencing “suicide ideation” years after her alleged sexual abuse.

September 28, 2018
Sonja Flemming/CBS

“It means you think about it,” she explained. “You never make the plan necessarily of how you’re going to do it.”

She then connected the sexual abuse she experienced as a child with her body-image struggles.

“I think it’s what your body does to protect you if you’re a kid who’s sexually abused, which I was,” she said. “You kind of disconnect from your body, you dissociate. You don’t pay attention to it. You don’t want to love it, because it’s kind of betrayed you in some way.”

O’Donnell, who shares four children with ex-wife Kelli Carpenter-O’Donnell — sons Parker, 23, and Blake, 19, and daughters Vivienne, 16, and Chelsea, 21 — also opened up about the sudden death of ex-wife Michelle Rounds, who died of apparent suicide in September 2017 at age 46.

“You knew Michelle, and that was a very troubled situation,” O’Donnell, who is now engaged to girlfriend Elizabeth Rooney, told host Howard Stern.

O’Donnell told Extra in October 2017 that Rounds’ death was “very sad, very tragic” and addressed her ex-wife’s hospitalization in September 2015 for an apparent overdose, alluding to it as a suicide attempt.

“It was not the first time,” she said. “There was a time in September 2015. You think love has the answer. But mental illness has no say.”

O’Donnell has been a longtime advocate for those who battle mental illness and depression, as well as victims of sexual abuse, even speaking out against alleged sexual predators such as Bill Cosby, which included a very heated debate with her former costars on The View in 2014.

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