Actress Bai Ling said she is confronting a dark chapter from her past: sexual abuse she suffered as a teenager at the hands of Chinese army officers.
Bai, 44, who was a soldier in a People’s Liberation Army performance troupe from age 14 to 17, told The Associated Press in a recent interview that she was "opening a wound that was very secret to myself, that even my parents don’t know."
Therapy she received during a US reality TV series helped her understand what she endured in the 1980s and the psychological marks it left on her, Bai said.
She was pressed to have sex with her superiors, with one encounter leading to pregnancy and an abortion under an assumed name, Bai said, adding that other women serving with her in Tibet were also forced into sex and regularly plied with alcohol.
Bai stressed that she blames individual officers and not the Chinese government for events that have haunted her life and work.
The actress ("The Crow," "Red Corner," TV’s "Entourage") said she worries about how her revelations on VH1’s "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew" will be received. The show, which airs Sunday, is in its fifth season.
"The only comfort is that I’m using this platform to help others. I know that my story is so powerful and honest and so simple," Bai said. "Even if I can help one child and make them feel they haven’t been forgotten, that’s the only comfort I have."
Bai "did go through something terrible and was able to access it and deal with it," said Dr. John Sharp, part of the "Celebrity Rehab" treatment team this season. He is a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and a practicing psychiatrist.
She had deflected memories of "these men who were sexually abusing her" so she wouldn’t fall apart psychologically, Sharp said. "But when she got in to a safe place … she was able to admit to herself what she’d been dealing with."
Until now, Bai said, she didn’t even perceive her treatment by her army superiors as abuse: "Because of the Chinese culture of obedience, you don’t ask questions. … You follow and obey."
A Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman in Beijing said the government had "not heard of this report. This is not within our scope to comment." A call to the Ministry of National Defense was not immediately answered.
Her career and life have suffered because of the unaddressed torment of her army experience, she said. The actress has become known for eyebrow-raising remarks (she claims she is from the moon), a 2008 shoplifting allegation and wild, alcohol-fueled behavior — including flashes of nudity — that has made her a paparazzi target.
Anyone who has a drug or alcohol problem "was abused in some way and trying to hide," said Bai, who is writing a book about her youth, "Naked in Tibet."
She doesn’t consider herself an alcoholic, instead she contends she is allergic to even small amounts of drink. As she talked, Bai referred to herself with unguarded, sweepingly dramatic descriptions. At times, she was tearful.
"I accidentally or innocently destroyed the beautiful Bai Ling that everybody loved, that beautiful, talented actress. Instead, the media bring me out as this crazy slut showing her nipples everywhere," she said. "I become this character the pop culture Hollywood machine created. Somehow, I become a victim to that image."
Bai said she decided to appear on "Celebrity Rehab" because of repeated entreaties by the show’s producers. Others featured in the latest edition include former baseball player Dwight Gooden and actress Sean Young.
Within a three-month period this year, onetime participants "Grease" star Jeff Conaway and ex-Alice in Chains bassist Mike Starr died, putting the show under a cloud. Host Drew Pinsky blamed Conaway’s death on doctors’ over-prescription of pain pills.
Bai said she appreciates the help she received through the show yet is "terrified" of public reaction to her candor. She’s not drinking, Bai said, but is still struggling emotionally.
Her solace, she said, is that her story might "touch people’s hearts" and help others.