It’s the confession that stunned the world this week: Mackenzie Phillips appeared on Oprah to admit publicly for the first time that she and her father, famed '60s musician John Phillips (of The Mamas and the Paps), had a ten-year sexual relationship. During her appearance, Phillips also uttered a sentence that most definitely has never been said on Oprah before: "I am here to be the face of incest."
Phillips went on to say that the reason she is sharing her story, in addition to purging herself of her own demons, is to give other incest victims the strength to speak up: "I know that I can't be the only one this has happened to. Nobody's talking about this, and someone needs to put a face on not only nonconsensual incest but consensual incest." (Oprah Winfrey herself has spoken up as a victim of childhood incest, which may be why Phillips chose to speak to her.)
So far, it looks like Mackenzie’s public confession is having its desired effect. According to ABC News, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network has experienced a 26% jump in hotline calls this week, while traffic to its Web site has nearly doubled. A supervisor at the organization credits Phillips’ inspiration: "Whenever a person hears another person's story about being assaulted, that gives them the courage to come forward."
Clearly, celebrities have the power to do what even therapists and family members can’t always accomplish: to remove some of the stigma from taboo subjects, and to inspire ordinary people to speak out. So, given that celebrities have this power – does that mean they’re obligated to use it?
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