What I Learned From Tyler Perry On Oprah: Revealing His Horrific Childhood Abuse

By Aiyana Ma’at While online yesterday I came across an article that told of the Tyler Perry interview that aired on Oprah just yesterday. When I finished reading, I promised that I would stay up (until 1am) for the repeat of the show. I just knew this was big. Well, I made it—until 1am that is—and it was so worth it.

Tyler Perry has to be one of the most courageous people I know (…not that I really know him. Smile…) He spoke of pain so deep you could feel it coming through the television screen. He says his childhood was—“Hell”, plain and simple. And, as he told his story the world got to hear just how hellacious (Is that a word? It is today.) his childhood was. As I listened to him talk about the intense beatings and hatred he experienced at the hands of his father (Who by the way had this to say about Tyler speaking out: “If I had beat his ass one more time he could have been Barack Obama.”) my heart hurt and tears welled up in my eyes. As I listened to him talk in detail about the molestation he experienced by several adults—all before the age of 10—I felt fear rising in my chest as I thought about my 4 innocent and precious children who my husband and I love with all of our being. I thought about the fact that this world is filled with some deeply disturbed and pained people and as one of our viewers commented yesterday—hurt people truly do hurt people.

However, as Oprah & Tyler’s conversation went on I felt the energy of the interview begin to shift and I knew in that moment that more important than the pain and the hurt, more incredible than the shock and awe of his horrible childhood, more impactful than the shame, confusion, anger, and craziness of it all—is the impact he will have on so many people who have experienced sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. I am clear about this—there is power in owning and telling your story. Not only is it healing for you but you ignite the fire of healing in so many others. So, what did I learn and have re-affirmed from watching Tyler’s incredibly transparent and authentic interview? We must tell our stories…

Oprah & Tyler Call Each Other Close Friends

Below: An excerpt from the article (“The Buzz” with Jennifer Brett) I read that made me stay up until 1am to see Tyler Perry’s powerful interview.

Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey had a frank conversation about the most difficult time in his life during the episode that aired Wednesday. He discussed, in great candor, physical abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his father, and sexual abuse by several others. “Predators know when a child is an easy mark,” Perry said. He remained silent for years, not wanting to cause his mother pain. After she passed away last year, he said, he felt it was time to bring it out into the open. “He knows and I know that because of who he is, this is going to be a pivotal moment not just for him but for millions of men who have survived the unthinkable and have never told a soul, especially their wives,” Winfrey said at the beginning of the show.

By the time he was 10, Perry said, he had been sexually abused by both a woman and several men, and was subjected to regular beatings by his father. His Aunt Jerry was in the audience and confirmed his recollections. She lived around the corner from Perry’s family when he was young, and said she once pointed a gun at Perry’s father after young Perry was beaten. “It’s hard for me to look at that child,” Perry said. “I feel like I died as a child. My father – he hated me so much and I couldn’t understand why. I was sickly all the time, I had asthma. He hated that about me.”

As a coping mechanism, Perry said he learned to escape mentally, explaining, “Every time somebody was doing something to me that was horrible, I could go to this park in my mind.” He also credits his faith for seeing him through. “I was suicidal. I thought, what is the point of living? My mother was my saving grace. She would take me to church with her. I wanted to know this God who made her so happy. I don’t know where I would be without faith in my life. She didn’t have much but she gave me Jesus.”

Perry’s father is still alive. “I don’t care” what he thinks about this going public, Perry said. He said there is “no remorse” on the part of his father, but he supports him financially, and pays for the home he lives in. “I forgave him,” Perry said. “The same amount of strength to take it, is the same amount of strength it takes to let it go. As a man I am not going to sit here and let myself suffer anymore.” Perry has often said that watching Winfrey’s show many years ago, long before they met, first inspired him to begin writing. He brought that up again Wednesday. By that time, both he and Winfrey, and probably everyone in the audience, were in tears.“On behalf of all the people who will never get the chance to sit here and tell you how much you have changed their lives over the past 25 years, I just want to thank you,” he told his friend. The two team up again on Nov. 5. On that day, the audience will consist of 200 men who will share stories of being abused, as Perry did on Wednesday.

To read the full article click here.

7 replies
  1. Cynthia
    Cynthia says:

    I saw this interview and it was very emotional for me. People like Tyler, Oprah and Dr. Angelou inspired me to speak out and not be ashamed. Until I spoke out, it seemed as though I just attracted abusive folk. I was molested by several family members by the time I was age 12. When I did have the courage to speak about it to my then pastor, he raped me in his church office. I was a mess and it took me years to recover. Now, I am silent for no one!! I am also convinced that we need to tell our stories. Otherwise, we will retreat and not live up to our full potential and allow our abusers to have power over us. I choose to be FREE an UNASHAMED.

  2. DJS
    DJS says:

    I was abused as a child and I never told anyone. Not a single person until a year ago. When I did that my life just started to get better and better. Speaking about this taboo topic in the black community is not popular at all. But, we need to break the silence and tell our stories no matter how hard it is or how uncomfortable it makes other people. It really is the key to letting go the pain.

    • Brooke
      Brooke says:

      I agree, we need to break the silence. There are too many lives that are damaged over these secrets and too many people act like stuff doesn't happen in families, especially the Black community.

      I commend you for breaking your silence, it was helpful when I broke mine. There can be freedom and healing in telling our real stories.

  3. Kandi
    Kandi says:

    I just think it's interesting that Tyler Perry coming out with this lines right up with the upcoming release of his new movie….hmmm I'm not saying his story isn't real. It's just interesting the timing of this whole thing. I'm just saying

    • Cynthia
      Cynthia says:

      Sometimes exposure to certain situations brings things to the surface and you are forced to deal with it. The pain doesn't leave until you let it out.

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