Gloria Estefan Reveals She Was Sexually Abused by a Family Member at Age 9
Gloria Estefan is opening up for the first time about being sexually abused by a family member at just 9 years old.
The "Conga" singer, 64, revealed her past trauma in an episode of Red Table Talk: The Estefans on Facebook Watch, with niece Lili Estefan, 54, and daughter Emily Estefan, 26, by her side.
"Ninety-three percent of abused children know and trust their abusers. And I know this because I was one of them," she said.
Estefan said the abuse started when she was 9 years old and attending a music school taught by a distant relative, someone her mother "trusted."
"He was in a position of power because my mother had put me in his music school, and he immediately started telling her how talented I was, and how I needed special attention, and she felt lucky that he was focusing this kind of attention on me," she recalled. "He put it in a way of, 'Oh, you're so good at this, and let me teach you whatever.' And then, it starts little by little and then it goes fast."
The three-time Grammy winner said she was aware that she was in a "dangerous" situation, and though she tried to ward the man off, was unsuccessful, as he threatened violence if she took the abuse public.
"I revolted and I told him, 'This cannot happen, you cannot do this,' and he goes, 'Your father's in Vietnam, your mother's alone, and I will kill her if you tell her,'" Estefan recalled. "And I knew he was crazy because at no point did I ever think that it was because of me that this was happening. I knew the man was insane and that's why I thought he might actually hurt my mother."
Estefan said she came up with various excuses to get out of going to music class, but her mother still had no idea what was happening, as sexual abuse "was not talked about at all in her lifetime."
The singer even shared a recording of a conversation she had with her father while he was in Vietnam, in which he says that the man has praised the young Estefan's musical talents to her mother, while Estefan calls the classes "a little boring."
Eventually, Estefan said her anxiety grew to the point where her hair began to fall out, and she was frustrated enough to run to her mother's room at 3 a.m. and fill her in.
"I couldn't take it anymore. I told her about it and the police came and she said, 'This is what's happening.' And they told my mother not to press charges because they said I was going to go through worse trauma having to get on a stand and testify," she said. "And that's the one thing that I feel bad about, knowing that there must have been other victims."
Among those other victims was an aunt, whom Estefan said was also abused by the same man in Cuba when she was a child.
Estefan said she had one more encounter with the man many years later, when she was rising to fame with her hit "Conga" and her abuser wrote a letter to a local paper criticizing Estefan's music.
"At that moment, I was so angry that I was about to blow the lid off of everything," she recalled. "And then I thought, 'My whole success is gonna turn into him and his…' I go, 'You know what? It's that manipulation and control, but that's what they do. They take your power.'"
The episode, which is part of the new season of Red Table Talk: The Estefans, premiering Thursday, also featured former Bachelorette Clare Crawley, who discussed her experience being sexually abused by a priest while in first grade.
Estefan said diving into her painful past was difficult, and that she didn't even tell the show's producers that she'd be discussing her abuse, which was previously known only to her family members.
"I wanted to deal with this subject matter because it is so important to try to prevent. I also did not want to sit here quietly while you share and are brave," she told Crawley. "I knew one day I would share this story. I was waiting for the right opportunity and space to do so. And this is one of the reasons I said yes to the table at all. Because we wanted to create this space where we talk about important things and hopefully it will make a difference to everybody that's watching out there."
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 connected to a certified crisis counselor.
This story originally appeared on people.com