In her upcoming memoir, Open Book, the 39-year-old singer reveals that she was sexually abused for six years as a child. In an interview with People, which also released excerpts of the book, Simpson shares that she confronted her abuser years later.
"I needed to confront my abuser," she tells the magazine. "It was extremely painful and still is. It’s still shocking. That little girl in me wanting to do the right thing, not knowing how to stand up for herself and not knowing how to stop it."
"I felt like a lot of who I am, the character of who I am, was built through the trials and the pain of abuse," Simpson adds. "I allowed it to happen, so I felt that I was as much of the abuser as the abused. So I was very shameful during that time, from 6 to 12 years old."
In her book, Simpson writes that her parents, Joe and Tina, didn't say anything to her when she eventually told them about the abuse.
"Normally, I would’ve candy coated it, and I didn’t. They understood why I needed to have it in the book," she says. "I know as parents they wanted to protect me from everything in the world. I was a preacher’s daughter and I was so protected -- and also I wasn’t. It’s hard for a parent to hear that -- but it also wasn’t their fault."
"It felt good to say it out loud and then it never happened again," she says. "From that moment on, we never went back to that place and we were never alone in that situation again. It broke their hearts. Their way of dealing with it was to make sure that it never happened again."
Simpson expanded on her parents' reaction in an interview with Hoda Kotb, which aired on Wednesday's episode of Today.
"My parents' reaction -- they did the best that they could. That's a heavy thing to hear from your child," she said. "They ignored it with their words, for sure, but they took action, and I never had to do the sleepovers again. I never had to go back."
The abuse, Simpson told Kotb, left her feeling confused.
"At the time I didn't really understand what was happening. I knew something was wrong. I knew it was wrong what was going on," she said. "This was a very close person, and she was being abused. It happened throughout a long time in my life. I was a preacher's daughter. I was taught to be a virgin until I got married, and so I never wanted to share these sexual things that were happening because I didn't want to hurt anybody."
"I wish I would have spoken up earlier but I’m glad that I can now," Simpson adds to People. "As a mother, that’s why I wanted to tell people about it -- that it’s not your fault."
"I knew that I wasn't present. I knew that something was off," she said on Today, before referencing her 2017 interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which led many to wonder if she was OK.
"I can't even watch the interview," she admitted. "I can't watch it. It was a weak moment for me, and I wasn't in the right place. I had started to spiral, and I couldn't catch up with myself, and that was with alcohol."
Later that year, Simpson reached her breaking point when she couldn't help her kids get ready for Halloween.
"I honestly couldn't even tell you who got them ready. I was just dazed and confused, and I just wanted to go to sleep," she said. "I didn't take them trick-or-treating. I didn't show up for my family. I took the picture and I made the world think that I showed up."
That experience made Simpson realize that she "had to surrender."
"I just want to continue on the path that I'm on, and at this point in my life, now, I'm strong enough to deal with anything that comes my way," she said. "Because I don't have something to retreat to that will numb me from actually going through it."
"I said, 'Mom, that's the man I'm gonna marry.' Absolutely. I knew. I was 19 years old, but I knew," Simpson recalled of meeting her first husband. "My dad thought I was too young. He knew that life had a lot for me. He didn't want anything to hold me back."
Following their wedding, the couple starred on a MTV reality series about their life, Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. The series, Simpson noted, shone a light on their marital woes.
"I would watch episodes back and I didn't like what I saw. I saw what people were laughing at and what [they were] loving about it, but I also saw a lot of eye-rolling, and that wasn't just editing. That happened on- and off-camera," she said. "I think that our success together was beautiful, but our success separately was not as accepted."
One of those individual successes, Simpson said, came when she covered Rolling Stone, something she and Lachey were initially supposed to do together.
"He was supposed to be on the cover with me, and they were like, 'No,'" she said. "I felt a lot of resentment. I felt that the love wasn't enough. I'm not a liar. I cannot stay in something and play a role. I've tried it many times in my life and I just can't do it."
Through her memoir, Simpson hopes that her fans "are really going to understand me... for the first time."
"They're gonna see everything that I have gone through and all the fear and the struggles that I did face. How I came through on the other side,' she said. "... It's about walking through fear and it being OK to be afraid. And the other side of fear is what's so beautiful. That's when you get the reward."