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Tyler Perry reveals painful secrets on “Oprah”

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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.

“That is Madea,” Perry said during the show, pointing to his aunt and referring to his gun-toting, no-nonsense character.

Perry become emotional almost from the beginning of Wednesday’s show, and teared up as photos of himself as a boy were displayed.

“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.”

Winfrey noted that at 41, Perry has his 10th movie coming out, “For Colored Girls,” and is second only to James Cameron in terms of Hollywood earning power. Yet material wealth don’t erase childhood trauma, said Winfrey, who has been candid about her own abuse as a young person.

“I remember three abusers in particular,” Winfrey said. “By the third time I thought, I must have a banner on my head. I must be drawing this to myself.”

Perry responded, “Predators know when a child is an easy mark.”

He said that he’s been in five serious relationships, and that every one of those women have helped him understand part of his past and begin to deal with it.

“So many men will not talk about this. I had to do it to be free,” Perry said. “Everyone who is abused, there is a string to the puppet master. What I started to do was untie the strings.”

Perry’s father is still alive. “I don’t care” what he thinks about his 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.

116 comments Add your comment

Coleen Harkin

October 20th, 2010
5:17 pm

Thank you Tyler for letting Oprah know the impact she has had on my life for the last 25 years. She saved my life . Oprah you will be missed. Tyler you are a gentle giant. God Bless your mother. Thank you both again!

Grace

October 20th, 2010
5:21 pm

He was very honest. He talked about how passive his mom was but his aunt (who he taylored the Madea character) was the opposite. She was in the audience and said his dad would never beat him in front of her. She didn’t understand why her sister was so passive. Reminded me of my mom and her sister. My mom was strong while my aunt let every one in her life run over her. She would even give money to her husband’s mistress.

Great Job Tyler

October 20th, 2010
5:26 pm

Great show! Tyler is such an amazing man, the more he grows the more he transforms into something even more sublime. Can’t wait for the movie!

Elizabeth Vining (Green)

October 20th, 2010
5:26 pm

I want to thank you Oprah and Mr. Tyler Perry, I know your pain..My father also was a strict man…whipped me and my brother with belts leaving burises all over our bodies…I was nine years old when I was molested I remember that day as if it was yesterday…It was an Uncle and I see this man everyday as of today…I never told anyone until I was 30 years of age..I have such a hard time talking with men even on the telephone..I know Im not the only one he has molested…I also was suicidal I loved my mother she was only 15 when she had me..And she was the best mother but my father was so mean..I hated my father and loved my father my father was abusive to my mother…I can remember being five years old and I was listening to my father beat my mother I got put on my dress I was going to run away..my father heard me and he whipped me…I was so tired of listening to my mother being beat…I had no out…thank you for sharing your story…God Bless God is Good

cindi

October 20th, 2010
5:37 pm

As I calmly watched this show I fully understand the impact on the lives of others who share this experience. Several years ago I unintentionally shared my molestation at a church meeting (4 other women were present). After weeks of “nagging” from one of the women present I agreed to speak on my experiences at a women’s prayer brunch. Many women present openly cried with me. Little did I know after my presentation one-by-one a high percentage of the women present would come to the microphone to emotionally thank me for the courage to reveal similar personal experiences. The power to break this travesty of justice and heal ourselves sometimes starts with “one” voice. Thank you Tyler and Oprah for this opportunity for millions to heal themselves. My personal shame became an opportunity for myself and others to heal.
P.S.–My mother, who also knew, thought she was powerless to protect me as well.

Carrie

October 20th, 2010
5:38 pm

I think it took alot of courage for Tyler Perry to talk about his molestation in front of millions of viewers. I admire him very much for the work he continues to do. I hope this will give other men who were molestation the courage to talk about it. May GOD continues to BLESS Tyler Perry.

marnie

October 20th, 2010
5:51 pm

I am starting to feel emotion again, after going through memories, then, putting them aside; in turn feeling suicidal. Trying to cluch for straws, trying to reach out for help from therapist, not getting responses, trying to reach out to “friends”, questioning trust in myself and others’, questioning my beliefs; all from abuse issues, sexual and other; while I was a child.
Thank you for helping me feel my feelings again, although, I feel I will continue trying to get help, I do feel more and the possibility of hope,, I just hope it lasts, since I have been sexually assaulted recently, which brought up memories and have not been out of my apt in 2 weeks because of the fear a being assaulted again, and the possibility of being raped, again. Respond if you can,
Sincerely,
—Marnie

marnie

October 20th, 2010
5:51 pm

Enter your comments here

Rod

October 20th, 2010
5:54 pm

Call me cynical, but I have a feeling this interview is a precursor to his coming out of the closet. I think he knows he has to do it before someone else outs him. Just my theory.

Mensah Daudi Ambidwile

October 20th, 2010
6:01 pm

Although i did not get to see that segment of the Oprah Winfrey show, some years ago, a woman that i consider a little sister to me, were conversing on the telephone. Suddenly, she became very quiet. When i inquired if she was allright, she related to me that she had just had the reliving of the experience of being raped as a toddler by a family member. As an older brother to my play sister, i felt so helpless for her, and yet, relieved that i was there for her as she tearfully remembered this most traumatic experience in her very young life. So, again, to Mister Perry, Yahweh continues to work through the most precious life that Yahweh bestowed upon you, my Brother. Much Love & Respect…

Betty Walker

October 20th, 2010
6:04 pm

I really enjoyed watching the show today. I really admire Tyler and all of his work, He really has done an excellent job of portraying the African American race without over doing it or making us look like true asses. Keep up the BEAUTIFUL WORK.

m. johnson

October 20th, 2010
6:12 pm

Marnie, I am praying for you. Please check out online resources for sexual assault victims and reach out to a trusted friend for support. Eventually, you will find the strength to move beyond these unspeakable tragedies.

I believe in you!

LoveMeSomeTylerPerry

October 20th, 2010
6:19 pm

Thank God for your strength in telling your story Mr. Perry. You are truly a very giving and forgiving man. I hope your stories continue to help others who struggle in their lives. Glad your mother gave you Jesus, as you so eloquently said. I hope you continue to have much success and I can’t wait to see For Colored Girls.

ANDESI

October 20th, 2010
6:23 pm

Rod…who cares. He is a human being, with feelings. Too many people have been molested, and in that brings about sexual confusion. Little children know nothing, and even in molestation, they are being taught something that might confuse their natural sexual growth..and during their formulative years.
Thank you Typer Perry for being brave enough to discuss this subject. It is sure to help someone else realize that they too can rise above abuse. Damnation to the abusers.

Rebecca B.

October 20th, 2010
6:29 pm

When Tyler mentioned the Preacher…it made me think of the allegations against Bishop Eddie Long. We all need to pray for those young men because just as it was hard for Tyler Perry to come forward, it was hard for those young men as well. I comment Tyler Perry and those young men for their courage. What happens in the dark does indeed come to the light. I suspect that Bishop Longs attorneys are working on a settlement behind the scenes. Probably will have a clause that the boys cant talk about it.

l.jones

October 20th, 2010
6:34 pm

Marnie,

PLEASE know that you are NOT ALONE! There is hope for you, there is help out there, and if you seek guidance and counseling, the sun will shine on you again! Your abuser(s) wants you to hide yourself and never speak out…that’s how they win. That’s how they keep you down. REFUSE TO BE HELD DOWN BY A LOW-LIFE ABUSER!! These type of people actually hate themselves so much that they seek to destroy & violate others in hopes of making you feel as unwanted and rejected as they do. Please continue to seek help. There are online crisis and rape counseling services that are free and available 24 hours a day. Sexual and physical abuse can happen to anyone and I am thankful that Mr. Perry shared his story to demonstrate this. Hiding in your apartment won’t make this go away. It will only make it worse because your abuser will see that you are withdrawing from the outside world. When you isolate yourself, you become more vulnerable to their attacks. So reach out, get the help that you need and know that I am praying for your protection and healing! God Bless You!

Bev

October 20th, 2010
6:53 pm

Mr. Perry’s admission demonstrates courage and I applaud him for being so honest. There are countless adults who carry the burden of a painful childhood, so I hope his story encourages people to seek help and not feel isolated.

outspoken1

October 20th, 2010
6:55 pm

didn’t bother to watch…never seen any of his shows or movies….
don’t care anything about him or his stuff.

that is all for now

Fred

October 20th, 2010
7:01 pm

I’ve never really cared for either Oprah or Tyler. I think they are both a bit racist. I admire Oprah and what she has accomplished. I’ve pretty much ignored Perry. But I wanted to watch that show today lol. After reading the account by Jennifer Britt, I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to. I think i may have to research Mr. Perry a tad more. It’s just that……….

I have a really hard time reaching out to folks who want to divide my country. I don’t see “black Americans” and “white Americans,” I just see Americans. I wish all the hyphenated people would go the hell back to where they think they need to be if they just can’t be AMERICANS. That goes for every hyphenated group, Irish-Americans, Asian Americans, Mexican-Americans, ect………..

Sorry. I got on my soap box. I’ll have to check Mr. Perry out a bit more thoroughly, I reckon I should have just left it at that.

Marnie: Hang in there.

Jennifer DeeCee

October 20th, 2010
7:10 pm

I felt for Tyler Perry today. I really did and do. Let me say that I LOVE his aunt Jerry. VIVA AUNT JERRY!!!! I hate that Tyler went through that horrific abuse. I, too, had such similar things happen to me in childhood. When he said that his father would just STARE at him for hours–that was my biological mother. It’s amazing how much us abusees have in common. It really helps to hear these stories, it really does. There should be no shame for us anymore once we realize that something was done TO us, to our bodies but we are resilient and healing is within reach. I hope Tyler is in/gets deep counseling for all of that. I can imagine how all that confusing abuse (especially sexually) has done to him.
Wow. Amazing that he supports his father. I can’t even imagine giving my biological mother a dented penny.
I hope he writes a book about his experiences/childhood. What a healing that would be for ions of (black) men.
Tyler, we’ve got your back.

Dana

October 20th, 2010
7:17 pm

No, Tyler is not gay. He made it clear that he was receiving conflicting messages from abusers being both men & women and he did not say that he ever had sex with a man. I think it’s bravery at it’s highest for him to tell the world in order to free himself and help others like the young woman in the audience.
He often spoke of his Madea character being like his aunt only his aunt is much worse. I think being that character allows him to just go off & do and say all the things the normally mild mannered, shy Tyler never would AND it pays homage to the one woman in his life that never would allow herself to just take it (his aunt), the one who always stood up for him.
Tyler is awesome & I pray he will continue to heal and be successful.

Pamela

October 20th, 2010
7:32 pm

Thank you Mr. Perry for telling us your horrific story. I’m so happy that you allowed Jesus to come into your heart so you could forgive all those awful things that happened to you in your past. Let go and let God is a motto for everyone to live by. Your stories have always helped so many people.

God Bless You Tyler :)

Mrs Carter

October 20th, 2010
7:46 pm

WTF, I agree. How are you replying to someone else’s message and can’t spell half the things you write? Fred, thanks for admitting that you will research Mr. Perry a little more. That’s wonderful. Learning more about someone and allowing a more open-minded opinion.

Moe

October 20th, 2010
7:51 pm

I applaud Mr. Perry for making the statements he made today. That took real courage. I also feel that he did state in this interview that he did do things in his 20’s that he had to “walk through” clearly he was talking about being in gay relationships…Something is probably about to come out and this was getting everyone ready for the drama…

Mary Furlong

October 20th, 2010
7:54 pm

Today, I saw and heard a real man for the first time. I knew there was something special about Mr. Perry but now I know why.

Dumbarse

October 20th, 2010
7:56 pm

WTF, You do realize that some people posting with super obvious Black names aren’t actually Black .

Jennifer Brett

October 20th, 2010
8:04 pm

Hello everyone,

Thanks for the discussion. I’m leaving the commenting on this blog open, because I want you to be able to continue dialogue on this important topic. However be aware that we’ll delete offensive posts and ban those posters’ IP addresses permanently. I’ve already severed connections with a few bloggers this evening and won’t hesitate to permanently ban IP addresses linked to racist, homophobic content.

Jennifer

Fred

October 20th, 2010
8:04 pm

I’m always open minded Mrs. Carter. I never liked Jim Carey either and wouldn’t watch any movies HE made until I saw The Majestic. I think I can safely say that I don’t care for Jim’s “comedy’ but his dramatic roles are thought provoking. I saw the Majestic LONG after it was released.

Based upon what I have read here today, I owe Mr. Perry a perusal of his work. Any man who can “man up” and tell what he told today is deserving of respect.

I guess I should say that anyone who is as successful as Perry is I should check out more, but remember Seinfeld? He has never made me grin, much less chuckle. Laugh is not an option without a grin or a chuckle…………

Whatever happened to Arsenio? HE is funny.

Fred

October 20th, 2010
8:07 pm

Why did you have to write that Jennifer? now I have to go back and see what got deleted………..

Transparently refreshing !

October 20th, 2010
8:21 pm

After viewing the Oprah show, I have come away with more respect for Tyler Perry. He is truly an overcomer. To be so transparent and honest about his ordeal was truly amazing. Releasing pains of the past seemed to be a wonderful healing balm for him. May he continue to use his gifts as a beacon of hope and inspiration to help others for many years to come.

Sloprah

October 20th, 2010
8:21 pm

Did she tell him how much his TV shows and movies SUCK?

Atlanta Housewife

October 20th, 2010
8:22 pm

Enter your comments here

Love Tyler

October 20th, 2010
8:28 pm

Tyler thank you. I didn’t see the show because I don’t have or watch TV. But, I love you, your movies, plays, and your ability to connect and engage with all people. You are so AWESOME. I’m married, but my husband knows I love all things Tyler Perry. Continue to serve, praise, and worship J-E-S-U-S — He alone will get you through.

TessaBridges^

October 20th, 2010
8:42 pm

Marnie_You are very brave to reach out. Now, you must follow-thru. Contact:
What ever 800# in your area for DV.CALL/CONTACT ASAP_they will have
some sort of safe shelter for you Nad, childern if you have them. Make sure you gather all important documents_social security cards, birth certificates and money for a cab if possible [it will get you quickly out of an area] and money to pay for it, all in a safe place…[with your minister, church] Know that
you deserve respect and safety. Don’t be afraid, and don’t continue to subject yourself to danger. I’ll be looking for your words. Save travels. You are loved.

Kimy

October 20th, 2010
8:52 pm

Tyler, Thanks for keeping it real. We now know your story but continue to enjoy your glory.

qaadirs

October 20th, 2010
8:57 pm

I agree with you… and later a ….movie!!!

Alicia

October 20th, 2010
9:06 pm

Marnie, Stay strong you will get through it.

I. Jackson

October 20th, 2010
9:11 pm

I watched the Oprah Show when you were on. I cried with you, because that happen to me, and it took me many years for me too go on with my life. It was a friend, who I thought was a friend, but was not who did this to me. The thought of it sometimes comes up. And I know that God is with me, because He has been with me thirty and half years. If I had not seen this on TV, I know that this e-mail would have never be written, Thanks to you Tyler Perry. And may God keep blessing you.

Alicia

October 20th, 2010
9:16 pm

I sometimes find it difficult to read these comments, but I must say I am presently surprised that everyone with exception of a few cornball knucklehead comments managed to say something positive. We seriously need to pray for Marnie. Pray only if you know Jesus and has his best interest in us loving one another at heart.

Melaine

October 20th, 2010
9:18 pm

I love Tyler Perry. He is one of Earth’s angels. His life is a testament to the truth of Romans 8:28. “And we know that all things work together for the good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”

Whatever horrific things happens to one in life, God can and will still use one for good if one allows him to. Like the young woman at the very end of the show stated, we belong to God and ourselves (i.e., the God within us). We are made in his glorious image and he is infallible. We might do what others say we have done, but God determines who we are.

Amazed

October 20th, 2010
9:23 pm

It takes a lot to forgive an abusive parent. Children know so little. When they are constantly abused by the very people whom God placed in their lives to love them, then they grow up to be confused and angry. My father was extremely abusive to everyone: his mother, his wife, his children, EVERYONE. It never ceases to amaze me how abusers find the most docile people in the world to abuse.

Tyler: There WILL be a time when your father sits and thinks about what he has done to people. God will see to that. Also, look into your father’s past. He might be hiding some sort of sexual or physical abuse himself. No one is that mean and hateful without those things being forced upon them by someone else.

OldTimer

October 20th, 2010
9:23 pm

The most difficult thing to do in life is to be truthful. It shouldn’t be but it is.

wow

October 20th, 2010
9:26 pm

what courage! never been a big Madea fan, but i have a whole different level of respect for this man now.

Alicia

October 20th, 2010
9:27 pm

Thank You Amazed

Welcome

October 20th, 2010
10:16 pm

Tyler,
I am glad that you shared the most hurting thing in your life with people all over the world. But just because you were faithful first to God and yourself and then others you will be highly blessed. Because others now will come and get the same relief in their lives.

You have set the pace for millions of men in the world to come and get a relief. May God bless you.

Kimmie

October 20th, 2010
10:19 pm

It takes a great deal of courage to reveal secrets so dark and horrible. As evident in this discussion, the interview helped so many. I have always been a Tyler Perry fan. However, now I have a whole new respect and admiration for this man. It also takes a lot to forgive (and continue to financially support) his father, who clearly shows no remorse for his actions. God bless you, Mr. Perry! I am sure that little boy inside is very proud of the man you have become. Marnie, I’m keeping you in my prayers.

shonita

October 20th, 2010
10:42 pm

i watched the show with a friend of mine today and we were both teary eyed and crying at the same time. Some people want to say that this is his way of coming outta the closet, but thats not what i got from the show. The message i got was overcoming childhood abuse, reaching out to others,and how this effects the people that are involved directly and indirectly. Whether he is gay or not that has nothing to do with the man he is today. He is an inspiration to so many people people, myself included.. He has helped me grow on so many ways and made me want a relationship with the LORD more then ever.. I always tell people not to assume( we know what that means) because thats how rumors get started!! love ys tyler and i hope u get that much needed rest u deserve!!!

shonita

October 20th, 2010
10:50 pm

i have to say one more thing and then im gonna stop reading these comments because i realize people can be so ignorant!!! When a child is molested it takes away their innocence.. They dont ask for this to happen to them. I sommend those of you that are strong enough to speak on this abuse u endured and i truly feel that if u havent gone through this then u have no right to judge him or anyone else— great job tyler and oprah

Leigh

October 20th, 2010
11:18 pm

The interview with Oprah was an emotional roller coaster. I cried, applauded, gasped, amazement – the whole works. Tyler Perry is an awesome man. I have yet to reach his level of maturity in the forgiveness area. He gave his sick Father a mansion and supports him financially. Whew! There is a special place in hell for Tyler’s dad. God bless Tyler Perry for sharing his testimony and encouraging everyone to reach for the stars!

BlackBarbieInPink&Green

October 21st, 2010
12:35 am

Seems to me that his father abused him because he had trouble accepting the fact that his son was gay. I applaud Tyler for opening up about his past. It’s a pity that he couldn’t come clean about his sexuality given this is a time when bullying is in the news and a wonderful campaign called “It Gets Better” encourages gay youth to keep their heads up.