Actress Marisol Nichols revealed that she was gang raped when she was just 11 years old in an emotional new interview about her efforts to combat child sex trafficking by volunteering in undercover sting operations targeting predators across the country.
Nichols, who currently plays Hermoine Lodge on the CW drama Riverdale and is perhaps best know for her role of Audrey Griswold in Vegas Vacation, recounted the horrifying experience in a feature published by Marie Claire on Thursday.
The Chicago native, 46, said she and a friend were at a party with some older boys in the mid-1980s when ‘a few of the boys’ raped her after she downed nearly an entire bottle of Seagram’s Seven gin.
‘It ended up being my worst nightmare,’ Nichols said.
Actress Marisol Nichols (pictured in October) revealed that she was gang raped when she was just 11 years old in an emotional new interview about her efforts to combat child sex trafficking by volunteering in undercover sting operations targeting predators across the country
Thirty-five years later, Nichols said the memories still haunt her in fragments as she remembers ‘waking up on a bed with no underwear on and everyone laughing’.
She said that after the rape she was ‘kicked the sidewalk in my stomach in the middle of winter’ as someone told her: ‘Get up, b****.’
Nichols said she knows that the rape wasn’t her fault, but she still struggles with the guilt of getting into that situation.
‘What the hell is an 11-year-old doing putting herself in a position at a party with a bunch of guys smoking pot and drinking alcohol?’ she asked rhetorically.
‘It changed the entire trajectory of my life in a day.’
Today, Nichols’ trauma serves as one of the main motivations behind her efforts to stop sex trafficking through the nonprofit she founded in 2014: Foundation for a Slavery Free World.
She frequently volunteers with law enforcement on stings, posing as a child to lure predators to waiting agents.
While she’s proud of the work she’s doing now – she’s not so proud of where she was three and a half decades ago.
Nichols launched her nonprofit Foundation for a Slavery Free World in 2014. She is seen speaking at the Human Rights Hero Awards the following year
News of Nichols’ rape quickly spread through the town in the days after it happened, prompting her to spiral into a cycle of substance abuse that would continue into her 20s.
Nichols currently plays Hermoine Lodge on the CW drama Riverdale
‘I did a lot of [drugs],’ she said, noting that she got most for free from older men. ‘I would go to the city and scrape the [cocaine] block and weigh and measure and mix it.’
It wasn’t until she enrolled in classes at the College of Du Page, a community college in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, that Nichols began acting.
She and a friend tried out for a play on a lark – and she had forgotten all about the audition when the director called and told her she’d received a call-back that would later earn her a lead role.
‘These guys took a chance on me,’ Nichols said of two of her drama teachers.
She eventually moved to Chicago to pursue a career in acting, and in 1995 moved to Los Angeles after she was cast in a pilot.
Two years later she made her silver screen debut in Vegas Vacation.
Nichols is perhaps best known for her role of Audrey Griswold in Vegas Vacation (1997). She is pictured second from the left in the film
Once in LA Nichols discovered the Church of Scientology, of which she is a member to this day.
She credits the church with getting her clean and helping turn her life around.
‘Honestly, Scientology is what saved my freaking a**. I’d probably be dead,’ she said.
Nichols would go on to star in a number of movies and TV series, including crime dramas CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Cold Case.
To research police roles, Nichols sometimes went on ride-alongs with homicide and narcotics detectives.
‘It gave me mad respect for these guys,’ she says. ‘It sparked my interest in the trafficking world, realizing and really being on the other side of the underbelly of society.’
Nichols became interested in law enforcement whilst researching police roles. She is pictured on NCIS in 2014
When her career stalled around 2012, Nichols used the down time to explore the world of human trafficking and became inspired to do something to stop it.
Then in 2014, she launched her nonprofit – Foundation for a Slavery Free World – which hosts events and conferences to raise awareness.
Determined to be an authority on the subject, she agreed to witness an undercover sting that resulted in Department of Homeland Security agents asking her to apply her acting chops to another operation.
Nowadays, Nichols takes a more active role in organizing stings by reaching out to law enforcement agencies directly to offer her services in catching predators.
She’s participated in half a dozen stings over the past five years – posing as a child over the phone or as a parent pimping out their offspring.
Marie Claire reporter Erica Hayasaki tagged along on one of the stings whilst writing her piece about Nichols, describing how the actress posed as an 11-year-old girl to entice a predator to a motel room in a Midwestern city where authorities were waiting to arrest him.
That sting ended up being unsuccessful – so Nichols turned her focus on the next one, knowing that each attempt is invaluable.