Tyler Perry On His Childhood: “It Was A Living Hell”
Many see the funny jokes, the Hollywood parties, the fame, and the box office dollars from actor, director, writer and producer Tyler Perry, but many don’t know the full story of what he endured to get here. There are a number of blogs touting that he lived out of his car for years until he was able to start being successful in plays, but what about before that?
For years, Tyler says he suffered brutal physical abuse at the hands of his father and severe sexual abuse at the hands of several adults growing up. Inside or outside the home, Tyler says he never felt safe.
As a little boy who was molested by three different men and one woman before the age of 10—before he even knew what sex was–it was something like out of a twisted, sick horror movie.
In an in-depth interview with Oprah in 2010, Tyler revealed the gory details of his traumatic childhood and shares his personal story—a story of strength, power and, ultimately, triumph.
Oprah says she never realized how brutal Tyler’s childhood really was. When she asks Tyler to describe the early years, his answer says it all. “[It was] a living hell,” Tyler says.
As a picture of a young Tyler flashes across the screen, he start to tear up and tears start flowing. “That’s hard for me to look at,” he says. “I feel like I died as a child.”
To endure the violent beatings, shouting and name-calling, Tyler says he used his imagination to escape.
“I could go to this park [in my mind] that my mother and my aunt had taken me to. … I’m there in this park running and playing, and it was such a good day,” he says. “So, every time somebody was doing something to me that was horrible, that was awful, I could go to this park in my mind until it was over.”
One particular beating Tyler says he’ll never forget is the time his father brutally whipped him with a vacuum cord.
“To this day, I don’t know why he did it. But I remember him cornering me in a room and hitting me with this vacuum cleaner cord. He would just not stop. There are all these welts on [me], the flesh that’s coming from my bone, and I had to wait for him to go to sleep,” Tyler says. “When he fell asleep, I ran to my aunt’s house, and she was mortified when she saw it.
After another vicious beating from his father, Tyler says he blacked out for three days. “He played these mind games with me,” Tyler says. “This one in particular, he wanted me to change a tire.” As Tyler worked to loosen the bolts, he says his father screamed and cursed at him. Even Tyler’s mother and uncle tried to help him…but they couldn’t prevent the inevitable.
“[My father] couldn’t get the bolts off [either] because they were rusted,” Tyler says. “He looked up at me, and there was a smirk on my face. All I remember is him tackling me, and I remember holding onto a chain-link fence so tight, my hands are bloody and he’s hitting me.”
Every day, Tyler says he lived in fear that something, even the smallest little thing, would set his father off. It got so bad, young Tyler took drastic measures. One day, he says he slit his wrists and tried to commit suicide.
“I thought, ‘What is the point of living?'” he says. “My mother was truly my saving grace, because she would take me to church with her. I would see my mother smiling in the choir, and I wanted to know this God that made her so happy. If I had not had that faith in my life, I don’t know where I would be right now.”
In addition to the brutal physical abuse, Tyler says he also suffered severe sexual abuse at the hands of four different adults.
Tyler says he was fiver or six years old the first time he was molested. While building a birdhouse with an adult male neighbor, the man put his hands in Tyler’s pants, he says. “I’m thinking, ‘What is this?'” Tyler says. “And I felt my body betraying me, because I felt an erection at that age.”
Tyler says he later endured sexual molestation at the hands of a male nurse and a man he knew from church. “[The man from church] used God and the Bible against me to justify a lot of the things that were going on. It was so horrible,” Tyler says. “And that was my first sexual experience, with this man performing oral sex on me as a boy.”
When Tyler was just 10 years old, he says he was also molested by a friend’s mother. Tyler says he was over at his friend’s house while the mother was arguing with her boyfriend in another room. Then, she suddenly appeared in…