Last week, the brother of comedienne and award-winning actress, Mo’Nique, admitted to Oprah and the world that he molested his younger sister. The abuse started when she was only seven years old and continued for more than a year.
I watched the show with awe and familiarity. Mo’Nique’s story is one that is shared by millions of girls and boys. The disturbing and sad story of the youngest and weakest being molested, touched, raped by someone they admire and look up to; the sad story of being crept up upon by someone with whom you share blood; the humiliating story of the perpetrator being allowed back into the family without being chastised or ostracized; the demeaning story of being forced to live as if nothing ever happened.
During the show, I was struck by something Mo’Nique’s father kept questioning. He asked, “What happened?” He said he thought they had resumed life as a regular family. And now, out of nowhere, these old wounds were opened back up. I guess to him, it seemed that old family skeleton had found its way out of the closet. Mo’Nique’s father was genuinely confused. He thought they had dealt with her abuse years ago… so where did all of this come from? Why now?
Well, Daddy Imes, I will tell you. The reason Mo’Nique is sharing her story now is because she doesn’t have to pretend anymore. It’s just that simple… she doesn’t have to pretend that everything is ok. Mo’Nique feels comfortable and secure in herself and her life that she doesn’t have to ‘go along to get along’.
Why now, you ask Daddy Imes. Well, sir, not only does Mo’Nique feel she doesn’t have to pretend anymore, she can’t pretend anymore.
Mo’Nique said during her interview with Barbara Walters that after she had given birth to her twins, her brother visited them in the hospital. She explained the moment she decided that she couldn’t pretend anymore. She said, “and he held one of the twins. And at that moment, I had a conversation with my brother. And we have not spoken since then.” Like I said, not only doesn’t Mo’Nique have to pretend anymore, she can’t pretend anymore.
I know how Monique feels. I understand when you reach a point in your life that you feel you no longer have to pretend. When I was about 12 or 13, I was inappropriately touched by a male relative. He was not a boy a few years older than me; he was a grown ass man feeling me up… someone who knew better. This time, I will spare you the details of the repeated molestation but suffice it to say, while it was not to the extent of Mo’Nique’s abuse, it was violation none the less.
Like Mo’Nique, I managed to put that unfortunate period of my life aside and moved on. To everyone looking at me, I was a well-adjusted teenager, young adult, woman. (In my eyes, I was super teenager, super young adult, super woman!) But then when it came to my sexual being, there were things I never allowed boyfriends, and later my husband, to do to me… things that were ‘supposed’ to be pleasurable. But to me, it felt like violation, like disgust. And I never knew why… until it all came crashing down on me in a book club meeting. During the discussion of a book about sexual abuse, everything suddenly became clear. It was an emotional revelation, but I later recognized it as a freeing revelation. So, that’s why I didn’t like this; that’s why I couldn’t stand to be touched there; that’s why my husband couldn’t do that to me. That’s why. That revelation was freedom.
I recall going home back to North Myrtle Beach and seeing the person who touched me when I was younger. There was a point in which I’d sit down and have a conversation just like nothing had ever happened. Then, there came a point in my life in which I just didn’t have to pretend anymore. I didn’t have to say ‘hello’. I didn’t have to be polite. I wasn’t angry… I just didn’t have to pretend anymore. I was a grown woman with a career, and a husband, and a good life. I just didn’t have to pretend anymore.
So you see, Daddy Imes, years may have passed and your family carried on as if nothing had ever happened. But when Mo’Nique became an adult and felt safe and secure in herself, she realized that she didn’t have to pretend anymore. And the moment Gerald Imes picked up her child, she realized, she couldn’t pretend anymore. Maybe you and the rest of the family should stop pretending too.