Cheryl Burke Opens Up About Matthew Lawrence Divorce, Childhood Sexual Abuse, & Sobriety In Powerful Full Red Table Talk Interview

[Warning: Potentially Triggering Content]

Cheryl Burke is getting candid about all the trauma she’s faced over the years.

The Dancing with the Stars pro appeared on the latest episode of Red Table Talk on Wednesday, where she opened up about how years of sexual abuse, physical abuse, and toxic relationships she experienced eventually led to her addiction to alcohol. Joining Jada Pinkett Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norrisas well as trauma psychologist Dr. Alfie Breland-NobleCheryl first shared that she has been sober for four years now — but has had a tough time with it since her divorce from Matthew Lawrence earlier this year:

“It’s not easy right now, especially during this divorce. [It’s] waving at me. I didn’t want this. My parents got divorced and I would’ve loved to not have. That wasn’t the plan going in. I’m not proud of it, for sure. But then there’s also a point where I need to put myself first and my sobriety first.”

100% she needed to put herself first.

Related: Did Cheryl Expose Ex For Cheating & Taking Viagra??

She continued:

“And I’m choosing not to date. Date myself, right? Easier said than done because, you know, there’s a difference of being alone versus lonely. And I am just trying to adjust and take the time because I owe it to myself. But one day at a time, one minute at a time.”

The 38-year-old television personality went on to talk about the trauma and pattern of abuse she dealt with over the years, recalling how it all started when her parents got divorced when she was only 2. She said:

“My first memory as a kid was seeing my father with another woman.”

That’s rough — but unfortunately it gets worse.

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Her mom began dating a man who later became her stepfather. When they got married, her stepdad needed someone to watch her at times and hired a “retired mailman in his late 60s” to babysit her. Cheryl says he started to molest her when she was only 5 years old:

“It was more of a grooming experience. Because it wasn’t intercourse. It was other — you know, stuff that happened, sexual acts — but I never physically felt hurt. Like, there were moments — and I’m gonna say it now, it didn’t feel bad. It was actually intimate. He was grooming me, and he was my definition of love. This is what love equaled, right? Seeing my father’s infidelity, being abused by this old retired mailman, and I didn’t really know what a ‘healthy’ relationship is or was. There wasn’t a stable father figure in my life. It’s like brainwashing at those moments in your childhood when it really matters.”

That’s what makes grooming so insidious. Heartbreaking…

The television host said the abuse continued for “many years and no one said anything” before her older sister’s friend “did the right thing, ran home to her parents, and told them, and then they contacted my family.” Cheryl up ended testing against the man when she was nine — and he was charged to 24 years in prison. Eventually, Cheryl became involved with ballroom dancing — something she said “saved my life”:

“Ballroom was something that was fun, but you had to grow up fast. Here I am wearing tiny little skimpy dance costumes, eyelashes, fake tan and I’m 11. It was amazing. I mean, thank god for dancing, it saved my life.”

While Cheryl is thankful for dancing, she didn’t realize until later in life that it wasn’t always a safe environment:

“But within this industry of the competitive ballroom world, it is so much a man’s world. The man leads the woman follows — off the dance floor and on the dance floor. And with that comes abusive partners and abusive coaches. Were there acts of sexual abuse and mental abuse? 100%. And am I just coming to realize that? Yeah, for sure, as I continue to do the work.”

Then Burke looked back on her high school experience and alleged she had two boyfriends “that were visually and emotionally abusive to a whole other level.” She explained:

“For me, love equaled abuse. Love equaled infidelity. Love equaled manipulating, narcissistic behaviors.”

That’s when she recounted the incident when she was horrifically whipped with a belt in front of her ex-boyfriend’s parents, who sat there and did nothing. Despite the terrible moment, Cheryl remembered being in denial about what happened at the time:

“It wasn’t like he was hitting me. He was whipping me. But I would see these welts and even that, I was like, ‘Oh, that’s not really there.’ I think I was in shock, and fight, flight or freeze. Got in my car, he jumped in his car, kept banging up the back of my car so that I’d pull over, and I wasn’t allowed to have friends, let alone dance. I wasn’t allowed to stay at after school programs or even, God forbid, look at somebody.”

She added:

“Because of this person who was very controlling. It didn’t stop my relationship with him because I loved the, ‘Oh, everything’s gonna be OK.’ I was addicted to that. This is what I’m trying to reprogram in my brain, is that constant adrenaline rush that I’m so addicted to. It’s not sustainable.”

This is what eventually led her to drink in order to “numb” everything going on in her life:

“I was just in survival mode. I used alcohol to numb. And I’m an addict and I was a functioning addict. It was when I wasn’t drinking people were like, ‘What’s wrong with you?’”

Cheryl then said she figured out she was “only attracted to chauvinistic men” and “mommy daddy figures” – to the point where she was “disgusted” by her first dance partner because he was too “sweet.” Later on, she touched on her divorce from Matthew and revealed that she only got married to him in 2019 to see if she was “good enough”:

“I mean, we dated when I first got into this business in 2006, and then took a break for a decade, dated again. An ex for a reason, right, but also, I think, for me — and it has nothing to do with my ex whatsoever — I wanted to see if I could get married, ’cause there was a lot of this internal ‘Am I good enough?’ Then there’s also a point where I need to put myself first … I owe it to myself. The trauma bond, though, is real.”

We have a ton of appreciation for Cheryl being so open and honest with her story. You can watch the entire Red Table Talk episode (below):

If you or a loved one is experiencing domestic violence, help can be found by calling 800-799-7233 or texting START to 88788. Additional resources can be found at

[Image via Red Table Talk/YouTube, Matthew Lawrence/Instagram]

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