On Friday Pamela Anderson told an audience at Cannes that she is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse several times over. She was speaking at the launch of her new animal rights charity, The Pamela Anderson Foundation, and she poignantly said that part of the reason she has always felt a strong affinity for animals is because she felt like they saved her when she was suffering.

Anderson said she was first molested by a female babysitter from the ages of 6-10, then raped when she was 12 by the much-older brother of a friend’s boyfriend, and then gang raped by her first boyfriend and six of his friends in the ninth grade. “Needless to say, I had a hard time trusting humans,” she said. “I just wanted off this earth.”

Throughout it all she remained silent because she didn’t want to cause trouble. Her father was an alcoholic who wasn’t always around, and her mother had two waitressing jobs. “My mom was always crying,” she said. “I couldn’t bear to give her any more disruptive information.”

Anderson is the kind of woman who was always going to stand out—she was first “discovered” on the Jumbotron at a football game—but her warmth and eager desire to use her celebrity to help others make her stand out even more. She’s been an animal rights activist throughout her career, and put a face to hepatitis C when she became infected. After she wrote a column about having the disease for Jane, the magazine’s editor, Jane Pratt, told Larry King that one girl wrote in to say that she had hepatitis C too, and she was grateful when Anderson came out “because I felt like no one wanted to touch me, and I know people want to touch Pam Anderson.”

By sharing her history of sexual abuse at the launch of her own foundation, Anderson is once again showing people that there is hope, and success, after even the hardest experiences.