Tyler Perry Opens Up About Surviving Abusive Childhood

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Tyler Perry may be one of Hollywood’s most inspiring success stories. With an empire worth more than $1 billion, Perry worked his way up from almost nothing. Perry opens up to People about surviving and thriving, despite a childhood marred by abuse, trauma and depression.

ESCAPE THROUGH IMAGINATION

The 50-year-old writer, director and producer tells People that when home life got really bad, he’d hide under his front porch and use his imagination to travel to a safer place:  “I could escape and be somewhere else.” 

Perry was raised in New Orleans by his later mother Maxine (who inspired his iconic character Madea). She was married to his father Emmitt Perry, a construction contractor who once abused Perry so badly with a vacuum cord, he says the skin was ripped off his back. 

“I don’t think I ever felt safe or protected as a child,” Perry tells People, adding that his mother never felt she could leave because “He had a job and was a provider.” 

SEXUAL ABUSE

The physical beatings Perry received were the tip of the iceberg, he reveals. He says three men and one woman abused him before he turned 10. 

 “It was rape,” he says. “I didn’t know what was going on or the far-reaching effects of it. I just moved through it.” 

SALVATION

What helped him early on, he says, was faith. “I’m so grateful for that,” he says. “If I wouldn’t have had that, I don’t know where I’d be. That was our North Star, the Bible, faith, church.”

FORGIVENESS

Perry says he was always close with his mother, who died in 2009. His father, who he learned at age 41 was not his biological father, not so much, though he has forgiven him and supports him financially. 

“[It took] a tremendous amount of prayer,” Perry says. “But the biggest thing that helped me understand it is that me holding on to what I was holding on to wasn’t hurting him…but it was killing me.”