Photo Credit: Dr. Billy Ingram/WireImage
For 25 years, Oprah Winfrey has been giving women the courage to come forward with their stories of surviving abuse. Now she wants to empower male survivors to do the same. As a follow-up to Winfrey's October 20th sit-down with filmmaker Tyler Perry -- who spoke for the first time about the repeated physical and sexual abuse in his childhood -- Winfrey will dedicate two shows to the stories of men who were sexually abused as children. Winfrey is calling the shows "two of the most phenomenal" she's ever produced.
The first show, airing November 5th, will introduce an audience of 200 men, each holding a photo of himself at the age when he was first abused. Tyler Perry and a psychologist specializing in male sexual abuse survivors will speak to the crowd. On the second show, airing November 12th, the men in the audience will be joined by their significant others to discuss how the abuse has affected their relationships.
This is obviously not the first time that The Oprah Winfrey Show has taken on the issue of child abuse. Winfrey herself is a sexual abuse survivor, and came out spontaneously on an emotional episode in 1990. However, the fact that she's talking to men, and not women, is significant. When Perry told his story to Oprah, he said that being molested made him extremely confused about his sexuality.
"I knew I liked the little girls in the neighborhood, but this man was doing something to me and my body kept betraying me," says Perry, who was being sexually abused by a man at his church. "It took me all of my 20s to figure out what this was that this man had given me to carry inside of my heterosexuality that did not belong to me. This is why so many men will not talk about this — the shame of having to admit that."
Men are more likely than women to keep complicated emotions buried, and to fear that revealing abuse makes them somehow weak. Unfortunately, denying a childhood trauma is the worst way to deal with it; by burying that pain, victims force it to leak into their relationships with their significant others, and even their children. Oprah says she hopes that these two episodes "can be an open door to freedom" for men who have been abused. In her final season, perhaps Oprah will lift yet another veil of silence: allowing abused men to finally bring their pain out in the open, without fear of judgement or blame.
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- Tyler Perry Tells Oprah: I Was Sexually Abused as a Child