June 21, 2010— -- "Little House on the Prairie" is loved the world over for its quaint family drama.
Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson during the series' original seven-year run, still gets e-mails from "Prairie" fans who say the show became their substitute family during their "horrible childhoods."
"Well, it was the same for me," Arngrim, now 48, told ABCNews.com.
In her new book, "Confessions Of A Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson And Learned To Love Being Hated," Arngrim reveals how she was sexually abused as a child, and how the role of bad girl Nellie helped her to heal. She also shares behind-the-scenes tales of one of the world's most beloved series.
Arngrim writes that she was abused by a family member for nearly three years starting at age 6. The abuse made her, an already diminutive girl, even more shy and withdrawn.
That changed when Arngrim got the part of scheming brat Nellie Oleson at age 11.
"People were suddenly intimidated by me," Anrgrim said.
Other times, she was reviled like her character. Since age 11, Angrim has been called "bitch." She's been spat on, pelted with garbage and beaten up.