Anne Heche: Crazy? A Survivor Speaks Out
Many people thought the late actress Anne Heche was crazy, a privileged eccentric. Her wild ups and downs and bouts of mental illness were well documented by the press. Eccentric? She had been a successful actress with a colorful love life, most notably her relationship with Ellen DeGeneres. Her journey included a couple of marriages and two kids. Crazy? Was the odd behavior fueled by substance abuse? Yes and no. What the public and entertainment influencers did not know was the root of what drove Anne Heche’s very erratic behavior. I knew. As a survivor, I understood it all too well. I was a victim of familial sexual abuse.
I understood the secrets and suffering that led her to create an alter ego. Only a survivor of childhood abuse can comprehend the need to find a way to survive the violent physical attack an innocent child suffers from familial abuse. Fantasy worlds and alter egos are common methods used by young victims to live through it. According to an interview in 2001 on ABC, “Heche stated that she created a fantasy world called the ‘Fourth Dimension’ to make herself feel safe and had an alter ego who was the daughter of God and half-sister of Jesus Christ named Celestia.” It was a form of self-protection to hide her shame and suffering.
Her battle was to survive and live beyond her childhood trauma and the haunting memories. Sadly, Heche could never escape them. Her tragedy was that she could not beat the devil. She could not obliterate the horror she suffered as a child. She could not overcome the mental scars of that brutality and did not achieve healing or freedom to live authentically as herself: Anne Heche.
A Heavy Load for a Child to Carry
I am the lucky one. I survived 17 years as a child sex trafficking victim where unspeakable abuse and torture were leveled by immediate and some extended family members. In my life, God interceded. I tried to end my life three separate times before the age of 12 but no one knew. Going to school was my “safe place” away from family predators, but I never stopped wondering if at any moment someone would find out, someone would “know” what I was hiding inside. It was a heavy load for a child to carry.
Each day was another day of self-loathing, fear and hopeless desperation. Like Heche’s family, my family worked hard to control the fake image everyone else saw — often through force and public humiliation. Family predators are “protected” by their bloodline. Child victims have no escape — nor any advocates. I wanted to hurt myself to stop the gnawing shame and pain of my filthy past and all its secrets. I wished I could be anyone but me. Like Heche, I was trained to be the perfect pretender. Decades later, I achieved a healthier, more authentic self that allowed me to live forward, live freely, and not be defeated by shame demons.
I developed excellent coping skills. I put on a game face in public which made it possible for me to operate in any situation, including work, church and unhealthy relationships. However, my game face did not fill the void in my identity. None of it made me feel whole, human or worthy. It was my faith in God that sustained me. Faith, effective counseling, and a deep calling on my heart to reach other young victims who have been violated, abused, and often abandoned — even by their own families.
Why Does This Ignorance Still Exist?
Anne Heche sought out healing and to see good in her life. Her battle was made more difficult because there are so many, including medical professionals, who did not know how to effectively help a victim of such depravity. Why does this ignorance still exist, considering the multitudes of victims of child abuse and human trafficking? Combating that lack of awareness is a key tenet of Voices Against Trafficking (VAT), a 501(c)3 entity I founded, in part, to heighten public awareness in this country about violence against children. The cost of collective ignorance is immeasurable. Its long term effects are irreversible in terms of our nation’s future.
Anne Heche was a casualty of the war against the innocent. The truth is that she was a victim of familial child sex abuse. She lost her fight against the evil forced upon her by those who should have loved and protected her. May her life and death be a rallying point for those who are fighting against predators and human traffickers. Each member of Congress, law enforcement, educational institutions, medical and mental health care communities, civil rights advocacy centers, and every community needs to join in the effort to stop the abuse against our children. The most innocent among us deserve to have their human rights and dignity protected.
Anne Heche created a courageous image throughout the violence and shame she endured. Honoring her is honoring all victims. For more information, visit Voices Against Trafficking.
Andi Buerger, JD is Founder of Voices Against Trafficking. Her books, Voices Against Trafficking: The Strength of Many Voices Speaking As One and A Fragile Thread of Hope: One Survivor’s Quest to Rescue, are available on Amazon.com. She is a sought-after speaker and frequent guest on radio and television regarding the issue of human trafficking.
Editor’s Note: Anne Heche’s mother publicly disputed Heche’s claims of child sex abuse at the hands of her father. Meanwhile, Heche’s new film The Girl in Room 13 on Lifetime is a fact-based drama about human trafficking.