Julianne Hough opens up about abuse

A beautiful and talented dancer, singer, choreographer and now actress, Julianne Hough has what most would call the dream life.


But it hasn’t always been that way.

On news stands Jan. 8, Hough is featured in the new Cosmopolitan magazine talking about her struggles with abuse while living in London at age 10.

“I was abused, mentally, physically, everything,” she says. “I was a tormented little kid who had to put on this sexy facade because that was my job and my life. But my heart was the same, and I was this innocent little girl. I wanted so much love.”

Hough describes living away from her parents to study at the prestigious Italia Conti Academy of Arts with her brother Derek. That’s where the abuse began.

“I’ve been through certain things that have sucked the life out of me,” she told Entertainment Tonight, “and just the light about me was gone.”

It breaks my heart to hear stories like this, which seem all too common in the entertainment business. I can’t imagine what her parents went through, seeing potential in their child and sending her away to have amazing opportunities and finding out she was in a terrible situation.

Hough isn’t the only child who was sent away by her parents for better training. Young Gabby Douglas, Olympic gold medalist and all-around champion at last year’s Olympics, also traveled miles from home to live with another family, the Partons, so she could train with Liang Chow who coached Olympian Shawn Johnson to win both a world championship and gold medal. But that story had a much happier outcome, and Douglas still refers to Travis and Missy Parton as her “second parents.”

It’s so hard to let our children go, and I think the struggle about the right timing, the right place, and the right situation will always be one fought by parents as they lay down at night. And how you can ever really be sure of their safety and well-being is another worry.

But Hough says “what’s past is past” and has forgiven her abusers. She says her role as Katie in the new movie “Safe Haven” based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks has helped her heal.

“Being Katie, I relate a lot to her,” Hough tells ET. “The fact that she had been in one situation that just sucked the life out of her, and it was a bad situation, and she needed to change and move on and kind of find her own again. And through that you find love and everything.”

There was one particular scene where she says, “I went from bawling to containing to laughing to crying again. Josh was crying. I think it was the most therapeutic moment of my life.”

“Safe Haven” opens Valentines Day.

What are your feelings on sending your precious ones out into the wicked world? When does opportunity take precedence over comfort and stability — or should it ever?


  1. Angela

    For any other struggling with abuse, I ABSOLUTELY recommend you read “Healing from Abuse” by Janene Baadsgaard. The subtitle is “How the Atonement of Jesus Christ can mend broken hearts and broken lives.” It’s simply amazing.
    As to the question posed by the article, that’s definitely a hard question and one you can’t simply answer point-blank in the comment section unless you say something like “that is up to the parents, the child, and how they all feel about it, relying on a lot of thought, prayer, and study as to whether or not it is a good decision, and after that, where to send them.”

  2. Terry

    Are you kidding me? Her parents shipped her and her little brother out of country at age 10? Really? Because they saw potential? How about the potential of being raised in the Gospel by a mother and father in a loving, nurturing enviroment. It’s obvious these people had money…why not invest in their regular education. College? Well, she’s a “star” now but look at the price the family has paid. Was it worth it?

    • Catsissie

      The parents sent her with her brother, probably feeling that if the two siblings were together, they could watch over each other. There is no way they could suspect anything bad would happen, especially if they were good, loving parents themselves. And we also do not know if perhaps the ten-year-old Julianne did not dream of being a dancer the way the young Gabby wanted to be a gymnast, and the parents saw this as a way of giving her the chance to live her dreams. Dance requires a great deal of talent, something that perhaps young Julianne displayed in abundance. We don’t know, nor do we really have the right to judge the parents. Last time I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see God or Jesus looking back. Did the rest of you?

  3. Jeremy

    If the question was when do you push the bird out of the nest the answer is easy. When our children are fully capable of living on their own would be my answer. Until then it’s our job to keep them safe and teach them how not by exposure but by simulation (wing flapping). Our soft society makes it too easy too soon to send them out on their own, and we unfortunately as a society lack the wisdom not to.

  4. Juan Figuroa

    Abuse happens everyplace, even in good homes, where kids have been well taught. It’s not humanly possible to stand over every child every minute of every day — and even if you could, that would in itself constitute a form of abuse. I admire those who can forgive and move forward. It’s the only peaceable way to live.

    • laslarry

      Of course abuse can happen anywhere, but why increase the risk exponentially by sending 10 year old kids to a foreign country where you have no oversight at all.

  5. sanpaco

    The article doesn’t say what kind of abuse. Not to minimize the topic at all, I just think there is a huge difference between someone going to a training school where the teachers are mean and someone being molested or physically beaten on a daily basis.

  6. patricia

    kinda think it’s not right to send children away at such a young vulnerable age. never agreed with european ideas on that. Heavenly Father gives us these children to raise and nurture–not to pass it on to someone else for some temporary glory in this world.

  7. Opinionated

    No matter how talented my child is, I would never send them away to study somewhere else. There is NO WAY I would relinquish my parental responsibility to someone else for more than the daytime away at school.

  8. Raeann Peck

    Could parents not have traveled and lived with their children to protect ones so young and vulnerable?

  9. Scott

    I have a problem with disclosing your abuse for the purpose of generating publicity for your upcoming film.

  10. CindyB

    Some of our town’s young soccer players were molested by their traveling team coach. This was not known until one became an adult and had so many emotional problems he brought it to light, to protect others. If I had it to do all over again, I wouldn’t have let my kids stay overnight at other homes. Even a family we were friends with and trusted broke up later over child molestation from the father. You never know what is going on and being hidden. I now even regret having my girls babysat by a family with 4 older boys (once a week only). I was so naive because this was a good family but my girls were left to play in that basement where all of the boys rooms were. One of my adult daughters has symptoms of repressed sexual abuse and I wonder if those boys or some neighbors with 3 older boys who made forts with our girls may have taken liberties with her. Maybe someday we will know but maybe not. It haunts me.

Leave a comment

DeseretNews.com encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.