Matlin at a book signing for I’ll Scream Later
AE: Your book starts off with you effectively closing the door on Hollywood after you won the Golden Globe for Best Leading Actress in a Drama. You checked into Betty Ford two days later, and almost no one supported you, not even your family. Do you look back now and just sort of marvel at the courage that took?
MM: That Marlee is a such a different person than who I am now. I want to give her a hug, then a kick in the ass and say, “You should’ve gotten yourself to rehab sooner.” But we can only do what is right when the time feels right, so I guess I’d cut her some slack.
It wasn’t about courage for me. It just felt right. I wasn’t out to prove anything. I just wanted to get my life back.
AE: You said in rehab you started telling the “gritty parts” of your story — an image I love. What made you decide that now was the right time to write your autobiography, to share the gritty parts with the world?
MM: There were two factors that led me to write the book and all the “gritty” parts. First was that little show called Dancing with the Stars. As a result of being on that show, I got so many letters telling me I was an inspiration — the fact that I danced without hearing the music. It got to the point that every week it was all people were saying about me, and I wanted them to know that I was more than just that.
It was probably, too, the fact that I was playing myself on the show, and opening up, that I realized I hadn’t had the chance to tell people who I really was, but if I did, perhaps they’d be inspired by the other things I had overcome in my life than simply my deafness.
The second factor that motivated me to write the book was watching my daughter turn 13. She was the same age as I was when I began to use drugs and suffer the molestation, and I instantly reflected back. I knew the only way she would not experience what I had experienced was if I told the truth, came clean, put it all on the table.
Yes, it wasn’t pretty and no mom wants to look bad in front of her children, but she had to know what I went through so she could know what to avoid. You can’t preach if you don’t come clean with what you’re preaching about, and I am so glad she knows. The truth can only empower, I believe.
Matlin at the Disney Channel’s Cheetah Girls premiere in 2008
AE: You talk a bit in your book about your abusive relationship with William Hurt and the molestation your suffered as child from a babysitter and a teacher. Where did you get the courage to speak out about it so truthfully?
MM: The biggest obstacle to overcoming abuse and molestation is keeping silent about it. Everyone who experiences it probably thinks it’s only happening to them and to talk about it would be so shameful and destructive. But the only person that is being destroyed by the silence is themselves. Talking about it can potentially help the next person — and the person after that — to get out, to make the call, to get some help.
As I’ve always said, “Silence is the last thing the world will ever hear from me.”