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Tyler Perry suffered so much physical, sexual and emotional abuse growing up that he tried to kill himself, but he eventually found the inner strength to overcome his harrowing childhood and even forgive his perpetrators, he said on Wednesday's The Oprah Winfrey Show.
The successful actor, writer, director and movie studio owner, whose film For Colored Girls opens Nov. 5 and who is listed among the most wealthy celebrities, told Winfrey that he is speaking out now in an effort to lift the shame for men who've endured similar abuse.
Perry, 41, said his childhood in New Orleans was "a living hell," and recounted repeated verbal assaults and physical beatings from his father. "He hated me so much, and I couldn't understand why," Perry said.
Perry said he was also sexually assaulted at age 5 or 6 by a neighbor and then by a male nurse in a hospital, by a man in church "who used God and the bible against me" and later by the mother of a friend. "Predators know when a child is an easy mark," he said.
What got him through, he said, was an ability to "leave myself" and take his mind to a park until the abuse ended. That strategy usually worked except for one particularly horrendous beating from his father, which he said caused him to black out for three days. "I think I died that day," he said of his emotional state and he later slit his wrists.
His mother, whom Perry said also was abused by his father, was too passive to help. "She did not have that backbone to stand up for herself, so certainly she couldn't stand up for me," he said. Still, she was his "saving grace" because she took him to church and helped him find faith. She died last year.
As a result of the repeated abuse, Perry became violent, he said, burning down a house and a car, stealing and being kicked out of school. He also had intimacy and sexual problems.
But his life started to turn around when he was 28, he said, when he finally confronted his father on the phone and told him how the abuse affected him. He was then able to gain the realization that "even though those things happened to me, it was not me," he said.
Perry said his father felt no remorse and even implied that the beatings were helpful. But Perry forgave him anyway, saying, "The same strength that it took to take it is the same amount of strength that it takes to let it go." Perry continues to financially support his father because, "My mother always said honor your father and mother," but he doesn't care about seeing or hearing from him again.
The filmmaker said that he wasn't able to reveal the extent of his abuse until after his mother died, but that now, "I feel this tremendous sense of now it's the time to take care of me."
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