Former Miss America shares riveting story of abuse she endured

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She is an inspiring woman from Denver who has overcome molestation and abuse – and her mission now is to prevent it from happening to others.

Miss America 1958, Marilyn Van Derbur is speaking at an event this weekend and when you hear her story, you will understand why so many people are riveted by her story. 

Natalie Tysdal spoke to her about why it’s important for people to hear her story.

“Why are they scared to tell?”

“It’s shame. My story was on the cover of People Magazine. It said ‘Miss America overcomes shame.’ Whoever wrote that title understood it instantly. It’s about shame,” Marilyn says.

She is not afraid to tell her story, but that wasn’t always the case…

Natalie asks, “And it didn’t happen just once?”

“No, it went on for 13 years, it was hundreds of times.”

She was sexually assaulted by her father as a child and through her teenage years.

Marilyn was no stranger to the spotlight. She won the Miss America Pageant in 1958. But it wasn’t until years later that she told anyone her secret.

“I was 48 when I could talk to my mother. I couldn’t even tell my mother until I was 48.”

Her life was changed forever, and as Marilyn knows better than anyone, secrets like hers are often never told.

“Children don’t tell, most children never tell.”

“Seventy percent of those who violate children do so while babysitting. Did we ever think about having a precious 16-year-old come babysit our children? We never thought about it.

(BOOK STILL Her book “Miss America by Day” tells her story and gives hope to others.

Healing is something that took Marilyn years. But today her goal is prevention.

“I’m not asking parents to be paranoid, I’m asking parents to be aware it’s happening all the time.

It’s a conversation that she says needs to happen – often.

“We need to talk about… you never inappropriately touch or fondle a younger or less powerful child. You just start with that and then whatever your values are and how to want to work through it through there. It’s never because there are long term consequences.”

Marilyn is speaking at a fundraiser for the Tennyson Center for Children this Saturday night. For more information visit

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