Sally Field Opens Up About Experience With Sexual Abuse In MemoirSeptember 11, 2018
For her book ‘In Pieces,’ the actress talks about abuse she faced at the hands of her stepfather and at auditions.
Sally Field says she’s finally found her voice to talk about past sexual abuse, abortion and relationships in her memoir In Pieces (out Sept. 18). The Academy Award-winning actress opened up in an interview with The New York Times, published on Tuesday, describing the sexual abuse she says she experienced from her stepfather until the age of 14. In the past, Field has remained private about much of her personal life, which includes two divorces.
In 1952, her mother married stuntman Jock “Jocko” Mahoney, who she says would summon Field into his bedroom alone. In her book, Field writes, “I felt both a child, helpless, and not a child. Powerful. This was power. And I owned it. But I wanted to be a child — and yet.”
She also writes, “It would have been so much easier if I’d only felt one thing, if Jocko had been nothing but cruel and frightening. But he wasn’t. He could be magical, the Pied Piper with our family as his entranced followers.”
Field says she only told her mother about the incidents after she was cast in Lincoln (released in 2012). “Something was growing in me, this urgency that felt gangrenous, and I couldn’t locate it,” Field says of her desire to speak out in In Pieces. “I could hardly breathe and I couldn’t settle down.”
She writes that she had her own “sexual awakening” in high school, leading to a secret abortion she got in Tijuana, Mexico when she was 17 years old.
But the sexual abuse continued later in life, as Field describes an instance in 1968 with musician Jimmy Webb. After smoking a joint, she woke up with Webb “on top of me, grinding away to another melody,” adding to the Times that she doesn’t believe he had “malicious intent — I felt he was stoned out of his mind.”
Webb responded to the Times, writing, “I am being asked to respond to a passage in a book that the publishers refuse to let me read, even at my lawyer’s request, so all I can do is recount my memories of dating Sally in the swingin’ 1960s. Sally and I were young, successful stars in Hollywood. We dated and did what 22-year-olds did in the late 60s — we hung out, we smoked pot, we had sex.”
He adds, “I have great memories of our times together and great respect for Sally — so much respect that I didn’t write about her in my book because I didn’t want to tarnish her Gidget image with our stories of drugs and sex.”
In her upcoming book, she also writes about being harassed in auditions, similar to many stories that came to light in fall 2017 during the #MeToo movement. Field says she was auditioning for the 1976 film Stay Hungry when the director Bob Rafelson said, “I can’t hire anyone who doesn’t kiss good enough.”
“So I kissed him,” Field writes. “It must have been good enough.” (Rafelson denied the event to the Times).
In the memoir, Field details her difficulties in her romantic relationships as well. She dated Burt Reynolds (who died Sept. 6) in the late 1970s and early ’80s and says it was “confusing and complicated, and not without loving and caring, but really complicated and hurtful to me.” The Forrest Gump actress says her partner used drugs like Percodan, Valium and barbiturates and characterizes him as controlling. Field believes their dating issues stemmed from problems with her stepfather: “I was somehow exorcising something that needed to be exorcised,” she says. “I was trying to make it work this time.”
When Reynolds died, Field said in a statement, “There are times in your life that are so indelible, they never fade away. They stay alive, even forty years later,” adding, “My years with Burt never leave my mind. He will be in my history and my heart for as long as I live. Rest, Buddy.”
Now she’s glad he never got to read her book. “This would hurt him,” Field adds. “I felt glad that he wasn’t going to read it, he wasn’t going to be asked about it, and he wasn’t going to have to defend himself or lash out, which he probably would have. I did not want to hurt him any further.”