19, 2010, I was able to catch most of The Oprah Show, on which
the mother, father and brother of Oscar-winning actress, comedienne
and talk show host Monique appeared. They sat down to peel back
the layers of the sexual abuse and molestation she, on more than
one occasion (on the Oprah Show, in an interview with Essence
Magazine and in talks with Barbara Walters), says occurred at the
hands of her elder brother, Gerald.
In telling his story, Gerald says:
"I'm here today to first acknowledge what I've been in denial
for 37 years, and that is I did assault and inappropriately touch
my sister in manners that were uncomfortable for her. And for
that, I apologize and I'm humbly sorry that those actions had taken
Monique has compared her brother and his actions to that
of a "monster." In fact, she says tapping into that darkness
is what enabled her to pull off the vile role of the mother in the
film Precious. "I knew very well who that monster was. I knew
Mary Jones," Mo'Nique told Oprah. "So when [the director]
would say, 'Action,' that's the monster that I became."
Unfortunately, getting touched "down there," inappropriately
kissed or suggestively approached by relatives and authority figures
is not as uncommon as we probably hope or pretend it is. According
to child abuse organization Darkness to Light, one in four girls
and one in six boys is sexually molested before the age of 18. Moreover,
according to the organization, about 39 million adults who have
survived childhood sexual abuse exist today.
I am among them. But as I watched the excuses, denials and refusals
to come to terms with the toll of what really happened on behalf
of Monique's parents and even her brother, I felt like it all came
Here's what Monique's mother said about her daughter's public disclosure:
"I only hope with doing this, this can cleanse her heart. This
can make her feel better about herself. Okay, it took until she
was 42 to do this. I don't care how long it took. I'm just happy
She also talked about feeling embarrassed, exposed and "hurt."
When Monique told her mother about her brother's advances years
after it had stopped, her mother made him leave the house for two
weeks, only to unceremoniously allow him back in. "It was just
like we were mad yesterday but today we're not," she said on
Wow. Just wow. But like Oprah said, that's what so many survivors
of sexual abuse do. They act normal, as if nothing seismic has happened
and keep the beat going on. You see, from around the ages of 5-8,
an older male cousin touched and kissed me like I was a grown woman
and as if we weren't related by blood. And I also know that I am
not the only one among us who was so treated by him. I was also
approached by substitute teachers during my middle and high school
It wasn't until I was around 18 that I realized why I was the way
I was, why I made some of the choices I had, why I was so seemingly
provocatively open and inclined. It all went back to those formative
years when the innocence of my very foundation developed untold
cracks and vulnerabilities. What else could have made a 12-year-old
seek acceptance by no means other than sex, only to end up raped
when she changed her mind? What else could have made a girl who
was smart and came from stability by all appearances act out in
defiance and dismissiveness, only to use that same body that was
violated as a tool to feel wanted, desired, accepted, on some level?
I remember, like Monique, years later telling my mother what
had happened. She was very nonchalant about it, even making excuses
for my cousin because he was "slow" or developmentally
delayed. As if that's an excuse. Like I, as a five-year-old, had
a clue about what that meant and should have exercised a sense of
agency in preventing it from happening. As if an elder touching
a child can be excused by pretending they didn't know any better.
If he didn't know it was wrong, he would not have always done it
when no one was around, always peeking around corners and through
Today, I cannot stand to be around or look like him. And
for years, I tolerated his presence at family gatherings and such.
But like Monique, I think I'm going to cut that cord and just bounce
(that is, leave, for non-urbanely inclined) whenever he appears.
I cannot bear his visual and even more so cannot stand my children
even being in his vicinity.
Today, I don't blame my mother for her response. I believe it's
rooted in the same ignorance that makes so many black folks believe
things like we can't be gay, don't get AIDS, never have psychological
issues and can be spiritually redeemed even if we sin all week,
as long as we go to church on Sunday.
I lover her, but I will always hate the way she responded, and my
parents' failure to connect the dots between that series of events
and later ones that occurred.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist K. Danielle Edwards is
a Nashville-based poet, writer, blogger, adjunct professor and communications
professional, has had works featured in or on National Public Radio,
The Root, The Washington Post, Mythium Literary Journal, Black Magnolias
Literary Journal, MotherVerse Literary Journal, ParentingExpress,
Mamazine, Mamaphonic, The Black World Today, Africana.com and more.
She has authored a novella-memoir, Stacey Jones: Memoirs of Girl & Woman, Body & Spirit,
Life & Death (2005). Click
here to contact Ms. Edwards.