April 1, 2011 -- Ashley Judd, one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood and a crusader for AIDS awareness, reveals in a new memoir, "All That Is Bitter and Sweet," that she was the victim of incest and abuse.
Judd, 42, writes about her traumatic childhood, attending 13 schools before she was 18. She says she struggled with depression and loneliness as her mother, Naomi, and her half-sister, Wynonna, traveled as successful country singers -- the Judds. Not a singer, she was left with her father during the school year.
Judd, the star of "Double Jeopardy," writes of abuse at the hands of numerous men, including an unnamed family member. She also writes that she was exposed early and inappropriately to sex because of her mother's affairs with men.
"This doesn't surprise me," said Amy Palmer, senior editor of In Touch magazine, about the memoir, which comes out April 5.
Coincidentally, she said, Naomi and Wynonna Judd go on tour again in 30 cities on April 10.
"When you are trying to make it in show business, everything else falls by the wayside. She was left alone so much with her mother and sister touring the country to make it. Something suffers and it was Ashley's childhood."
Judd's admission is one chapter in her family's traumatic narrative.
"You couldn't script this," said Palmer. "It could be a mini-series of the week. This family has had so much tragedy, one by one. It's an amazing kind of cautionary tale about when you chase fame. All of America thinks I want to be famous. They have it all. But there are pitfalls to super stardom."
Ashley's mother struggled to raise two girls on her nurse's salary before she took up a career as a singer. She and Wynonna reportedly wore second-hand clothes and occasionally lived without electricity or indoor plumbing in poor, rural Kentucky.
Naomi Judd, now 65, was the daughter of a Kentucky gas station owner and a riverboat cook. She was abandoned by her boyfriend Charles Jordan, the father of her first daughter, Wynonna, who was born in 1964. Naomi was only 18 at the time.
She then rushed to marry Michael Ciminella and gave birth to Ashley in 1968, but the troubled relationship only lasted four years. She ended up raising both daughters as a single parent.
With her daughter Wynonna, Naomi signed a contract with RCA Records in 1983 as a mother-daughter duo. The Judds charted 23 hit singles and won five Grammy Awards in less than a decade. The duo was successful but the mother-daughter relationship was tumultuous.
Naomi Judd was forced into retirement in 1991 after she was felled by chronic Hepatitis C. Wynonna continued as a solo artist.
Wynonna, 46, has had her share of trauma. Her marriage to Arch Kelley III ended after two years in 1998. They had a son and a daughter. She remarried her former bodyguard, D. R. Roach, in 2003, but three years later, he was arrested for sexual assault of a child under the age of 13.
Wynonna Judd Battles Weight, Money Problems
Wynonna Judd also struggled publicly with her weight, telling Oprah Winfrey in 2004 that she had a "severe" dependency on food.
She found herself in need of help handling money after moving from a childhood of poverty to international stardom.
"I literally went from the outhouse to the White House," she told "Good Morning America" last year. "I traveled, I took friends, I rented jets. I loved the great rock star lifestyle."
Her financial woes became so bad that Judd turned to a one-of-a-kind residential treatment center, called Onsite, that treats money disorders.
As for her sister, Ashley Judd, she said her abuse started as pre-teen when she was growing up in Kentucky. An old man lured her into an empty storeroom by telling her he would give her a quarter to play a pinball machine, and then molested her.
She writes she was traumatized again when her family and other adults wouldn't believe her. Later, Judd said she was a victim of attempted rape while she was working as a model in Japan.
Ashley says she only learned to fight her demons after entering rehab for depression at Shades of Hope in Texas. Therapy sessions there exposed memories of childhood incest. Judd said she still has bouts of depression.
The stunning actress, who has three times appeared in People magazine's list of "The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World," said she wrote her book to help others with the shame.
Judd left Hollywood after her marriage to Dario Franchitti in 2001 and now spends her time in her husband's home in Scotland and on a Tennessee farm that she now shares with her mother and sister.
She will return to the screen in the film "Tooth Fairy" this year.
Celebrity watcher Palmer said writing the book and working as an advocate for those living with AIDS also helped Judd exorcize her painful childhood.
"She has put all her energy into philanthropy," she said. "She felt like she had a connection because she felt like a victim herself."
"Her story is so appealing and that's why we are interested in it," said Palmer. "It's her way of healing."