What Did The Real-Life Menendez Brothers Say About Their Alleged Sexual Abuse?

Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
I’ll admit it: as a middle-of-the-pack millennial, I know nearly nothing about the Menendez brothers murder case. I wasn’t alive when the California siblings gunned their parents down with shotguns in 1989 and I would turn 4 only months after they were finally convicted of murder in March 1996. At that point, my parents were too busy taking me to see All Dogs Go To Heaven 2 to talk to me about high-profile patricide.
So, I had no idea sexual assault would live at the heart of Lifetime's Menendez: Blood Brothers. It was obvious something nefarious was going on the moment rich family patriarch Jose Menendez (Benito Martinez) slides out of bed, leaving his wife Kitty Menendez (Courtney Love) alone in the dark. When evidence of actual sexual abuse goes down between Jose and his younger son Erik (Myko Olivier) I was legitimately shocked. Blood Brothers becomes even worse when older son Lyle Menendez (Nico Tortorella) reveals he was also abused as a child. The only answer to such a disturbing surprise was to Google whether all of this trauma was real or a gossipy dramatization of the case for the sake of a Lifetime movie.
Of course, the abuse allegations proved to be the cornerstone of the Menendez brothers’ defense throughout their iconic murder trial. If you’re like me and didn’t know the extent of the Menendez family's alleged abuse — or you’re just a little fuzzy on the details — it’s time to hear it straight from the brothers’ mouths. Scroll through the gallery to see everything the real-life Lyle and Erik Menendez have said over the years about their parents’ reported abuse.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
September 1993

Going into the Menendez case, both prosecutors and the world believed Lyle and Erik were spoiled rich kids who murdered their parents out of greed for the family fortune. Then Lyle took the stand and revealed he and his younger brother had allegedly suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of their millionaire entertainment executive father. The admission was so revelatory, the New York Times said the eldest Menendez son "transformed a trial in which some of the jurors had begun to doze off."

Lyle claimed he had been molested between the ages of 6 and 8, while Erik was abused from the age of 6 until he was 18. The Hollywood son explained his father had raped him once and forced him to perform oral sex often. Inappropriate nude photos of Lyle during childhood were also uncovered.

Despite all of this, Lyle denied he and Erik killed their parents for revenge. Instead, he said the siblings executed Jose and Kitty out of fear, as the young men had supposedly threatened to expose their abuse only three days before the murders.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
September 1993

While Blood Brothers focuses on the abuse Lyle and Erik say they suffered at their father’s hands, Lyle claimed he was also sexually abused by his mother, Kitty. The older brother revealed his mother would go topless or naked in front of him when he was 11 and "would ask him how she looked," the Los Angeles Times reported at the time of the trial. At this time, Lyle also said he shared Kitty’s bed and he would touch her "everywhere."

"She was enjoying it," he testified, admitting he did not enjoy it and eventually ended the abusive situation at age 13.

As of this year, Kitty's brother Brian Anderson still denies there was any abuse in the Menendez household.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
December 1995

The Menendez brothers had a retrial years after their original court date. During that time, Erik shared an alarming memory of when his father’s "gentle, loving" sex — which was actually rape — turned more violent than usual. The family patriarch allegedly burst into Erik’s room, threw his son into a wall, forced him into oral sex, and later sodomized him, Court TV explained.

"It hurt me and made me very confused," Erik reportedly said. "I just thought it was something I had to overcome and I would get used to it."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
January 2007

Lyle and Erik were convicted of murder months after their December 1995 testimony. While many went on to question their abuse allegations, Lyle continues to stick by his statements.

"There’s always going to be skepticism," he told People in 2007. "People think I just hopped up on the witness stand and told a story that a sleazy defense attorney made up. But many people knew there was sexual abuse in this family."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lifetime.
January 2017

As shown in Blood Brothers, the siblings apparently did speak to their cousins about their alleged abuse. "One night, I was in my room changing the sheets in my bed, and Lyle came in," their relative Diane Vander Molen tells ABC News. "He became very serious about asking me if he could sleep in the other bed next to mine and saying that he was afraid to sleep in his own bed because his father and him had been touching each other down there, indicating that it was his genital area."

A fictionalized version of of Vander Molen also appears in the Lifetime original movie. Her ABC comments were related to a rare interview with Lyle, where he said of his mindset at the time of the shotgun murders, "I was just living in the wake of what had happened. Now you have secrets upon secrets. I was just trapped in the same nightmare of these things that I obviously cannot tell anyone about."