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Roseanne Arnold Says Her Parents Sexually Abused Her

September 23, 1991 GMT

DENVER (AP) _ Actress Roseanne Arnold left her audience in tears as she recounted the sexual abuse she suffered as a child and said her family’s ″nasty little secret″ nearly drove her to suicide.

″My name’s Roseanne, and I’m an incest survivor,″ said Arnold, star of the ABC comedy series ″Roseanne.″

″My mother molested me as a small child,″ said Arnold, 38, who grew up in Salt Lake City. ″She placed things in my vagina and psychologically and physically abused me as well. My father molested me all through my life.″

Arnold spoke Saturday at an incest conference attended by more than 1,100 incest survivors, therapists and others.

Incest ″is the nasty little secret that has taken all my life’s energy and all my life’s courage to keep,″ she said.

The abuse drove her to consider suicide, to smoke five packs of cigarettes a day and to abuse drugs, alcohol and food, she said.

Arnold’s parents, Helen and Jerry Barr, could not be reached Sunday for comment. The Salt Lake City phone directory had no listing for them.

David Brokaw, Arnold’s publicist, said he didn’t know where her parents live and has no telephone number for them.

Arnold, who got her start in downtown Denver comedy clubs as Roseanne Barr, was introduced by Marilyn Van Derbur Atler, the 1958 Miss America who revealed in May that her father had sexually abused her.

Arnold said people often ask how she transformed herself into a television star.

″I had to,″ she said. ″I thought if I was famous enough, I’d be safe.″

She finally realized that ″there is only one way around the pain and that is through it.″

When she told her mother she intended to speak out, Arnold said her mother’s reaction was: ″Don’t humiliate us.″

Arnold said her husband, comedian Tom Arnold, was molested by his baby sitter as a child and has supported her as she began confronting her past.

″Don’t stay untreated,″ she told the audience, ″It will kill you. My whole life has been about incest. It’s why I married who I married, why I chose what I chose. Incest takes away your power, your access to your thought process, your ability to love, even feel. Incest takes away your life.″

Her hourlong speech left hundreds in the crowd in tears and was followed by a five-minute standing ovation.

″It was so great ... to be in front of 1,000 people, all of whom knew what I was talking about. Incest isolates you in life,″ she said.