Pamela Anderson credits Playboy magazine bosses with saving her life following the sexual abuse she suffered as a child.

The Baywatch star first posed for the men's magazine in 1989 and became the publication's first Playmate of the Month, and now she reveals the late Hugh Hefner and his publishing partners helped to "empower" her as she took charge of her sexuality after she was molested as a child by a "bad female babysitter".

"I was painfully shy as a child," she tells Us Weekly magazine. "As a young girl, Playboy empowered me. It really saved my life. I felt very trapped inside and needed to free myself. It was a breakthrough for me, and there I met artists and activists and gentlemen. It has been a fun and wild life."

Pamela insists her road to becoming a successful model, actress and now activist has not been easy, but she urges those who have been through similar experiences as herself to keep pressing forward to achieve their dreams.

"I encourage everyone to be brave and step outside your comfort zone," she says. "It's a springboard into the unknown. And when you can do this, you can really live."

"We've all had some kind of tragedy in our lives," she adds. "We just have to remember that and be good to each other."

In November, Anderson sparked controversy when it appeared she had suggested women should have known better than to meet disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein in hotel rooms, alone. She later clarified her comments, insisting she was only warning other women what not to do.

"Hollywood is difficult," she continues. "It is not my favorite place to be. But it is a business, and if this is the life you want, you play the game. I'm happy to be living in France now. Hollywood is too much. I'd rather use my energy in other ways."