Rahsaan Patterson on Surviving Sexual Abuse

The former Kids Incorporated star says it's time for black people to stop avoiding the truth.

(Continued from Page 1)

TR: When and why did you decide to speak publicly about the abuse that happened to you?

Once that statement was made, there were people who took offense to that, because they thought I was using it as an excuse for my sexuality, which was not the case at all. It wasn't a cause-and-effect thing -- I simply decided to be honest about both in one interview ... I don't think people really considered the reality that when people are abused at such a young age, it kind of sets them on a path that they didn't get to discover on their own.

TR: You've said that child sexual abuse being in the news was one inspiration for your song, "Don't Touch Me." Was that a reference to Eddie Long's story? The Penn State child sex abuse scandal?

RP: The more news that makes its way to the public, the more the issue is brought to the forefront. The important part is to know that people don't just wake up and [abuse children]. When something happens to someone, particularly as a child, when there is no healing involved and no message of prevention or just a conversation to make the child feel safe, the person has to live with that. It eventually festers and messes with one's mental and spiritual well-being. When you go to church and the bishop is potentially sleeping with boys, it's contradictory to the word [of God].

Things keep being revealed [about sexual abuse of children], and it's in the forefront of everyone's mind for, like, the first month, but what are people doing after that? You tweet about it for two weeks, but then what?

TR: Was your dissatisfaction with the public's response to news of child sexual abuse part of what inspired your partnership with RAINN?

RP: Yes, I met with them last year and this song solidifies the affiliation. RAINN presents people with a safe haven for being able to come to them and express whatever has happened to them. In the middle of the night sometimes they get calls from someone 70 years old to express what happened to them. It's a place for people to feel safe to begin a healing process. 

TR: You're the only black male celebrity currently associated with RAINN. Is it unusual for black men to talk publicly about sexual abuse?

RP: Absolutely. Coming forward is an issue for males in general. And then there's the black males ... it's unfortunate ... that's an issue that I think really needs to be honed in on and focused on. For those of us who do reveal [sexual abuse] when others turn a blind eye to it, that's more rejection and shame that the person feels. It doesn't do any good for us as black families to avoid the truth of what's happening in our churches, our lives and our families.

Jenée Desmond-Harris is The Root's staff writer.