“There is no textbook definition for what molestation does to someone. Each individual is different.” –Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry didn’t want to hurt his mother with the truth about what he suffered at the hands of adults he should have been able to trust, so he waited until after she died to publicly reveal the secrets he had kept locked inside for so long. He went on Oprah’s television show in 2010 to talk about how he had been affected by sexual abuse, and how survivors can ultimately heal.
Tyler told Oprah he was 5 or 6 years old the first time he was molested. While building a birdhouse with an adult male neighbor, the man put his hands in Tyler’s pants. “I’m thinking, ‘What is this?'” Tyler said. “And I felt my body betraying me, because I felt an erection at that age.”
Tyler was subsequently molested by a male nurse, and again by a man he knew from church. “[The man from church] used God and the Bible against me to justify a lot of the things that were going on,” Tyler says. “And that was my first sexual experience, with this man performing oral sex on me as a boy.”
Perry’s first sexual experience with a woman happened when he was raped by a grown woman–a friend of his mother’s, who forced him to have sex with her as her own son sat in the bathtub behind a locked bathroom door.
Tyler said he finally was willing to talk about the abuse when he knew it wouldn’t hurt his mother to tell his truth. “She suffered so much horror in her life–surviving breast cancer, the abuse from my father, the belittling, the beatings. And I just could not be a source of pain.”
Perry said he was depressed and suicidal for much of his life, and he thanked Oprah for giving him the tools he needed to heal. He once heard her suggest on her show that writing about your pain is a powerful way to heal, so he took her advice. Those journals he wrote eventually became the stage plays that are the corner stone of the empire Tyler Perry has built.