The Diverse Ways They Each Coped With Child Abuse 

Keeping Black Men Healthy: Most of these celebrities were riddled with fear and shame, while some responded to the reality of their abuse with resistance or humor.

Charlamagne Tha God; Chris Brown; R. Kelly
Charlamagne Tha God; Chris Brown; R. Kelly Michael Buckner/Getty Images; Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images; Earl Gibson III/Getty Images

What is especially sinister about child molesters is that they often take advantage of a child’s ignorance about sex to perpetuate the assault.

When Oprah Winfrey spoke to admitted child abusers and their therapists about the tactics and strategies they used to groom their victims, one of the most disturbing revelations was when the predators described how they could manipulate the assault so that it felt good for the victim.

“That confuses the child into blaming themselves when it’s never the victim’s fault,” Oprah said during the interview. Oprah was the victim of a rape at age 9, and molestation from age 9 to 14.

There are several instances in which famous African-American men—only after having spoken about their early sexual encounters (often with women who were much, much older than they were)—realized or, more often than not, were told that they might have been victims of sexual abuse.

In part 3 of The Root series Keeping Black Men Healthy (read parts 1 and 2), we look at celebrities who shared these personal stories of child abuse, with a particular emphasis on the aforementioned kind of abuse: men who either did not understand or did not completely agree that they were, in fact, sexually assaulted as children. The stories of R&B star Chris Brown and New York City radio and TV personality Charlamagne Tha God come to mind.

Their experiences shed light on the role that race and gender can play with regard to sexual predation, and how young black men are not often raised to think of themselves as capable of being victims of sexual activity. In fact, some black boys perceive most sexual activity as “a source of pride—or a rite of passage—instead of abuse.” 

R. Kelly

R. Kelly’s experience sits on the side of the spectrum that suggests he had a healthy awareness of the foul play taking place during his assault. In his 2012 autobiography, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, the R&B icon describes how he grew up in a house full of women who walked around half-naked, and that one woman in particular would have a young Robert take pictures of her and her partner having sex.

Another woman began to sexually abuse Kelly when he was 10 years old and did so for several years. The silver lining to this—however faint—is that Kelly described how he felt ashamed about the molestation, which is a normal reaction for a young child who was forced into such horrid acts. It suggests that he immediately knew something was awry.