Nov 6, 2010

My Letter to Oprah

Dear Oprah,

I can hardly remember a time in my life when you haven’t been on air. As a youngster still living in Zambia, I saw the power you yield with your words and actions in my own life. Your weight losses and gains are mirrored almost identically in my mother’s life, as are your various hairdos.

You’ve annoyed me, you’ve made me laugh and most importantly, you’ve inspired me! Through you I learned big words like self esteem and empowerment.

Watching Tyler Perry narrate on your show the story of his upbringing which held painful memories of physical and sexual abuse brought me to tears. I cried not only for him, but also for others who have lived through the agony of having their childhood innocence ripped away at the hands of once trusted parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, teachers, etc.

Silence is often a silent killer for the survivors of abuse, particularly child molestation. We often pretend these things don’t happen in our homes, and through this denial give the predators more power over our children.

Getting women and girls to speak out about their abuse is still difficult particularly in the black community, and I can’t even imagine what it’s like for our men. We raise our boys to be tough and to not show vulnerability. They learn they should in control, and that true masculinity means being strong and not showing weakness.

Well, what greater show of vulnerability is there than to stand with 200 other men in front of family members and the whole world, declaring that you were a victim and a survivor of child abuse? I applaud you for opening this door, and hopefully through this, healing may come for those who need it.

I hope that someone who watched the show this past week or the next one airing on November 12 will find the courage to speak out and seek help. Sexual abuse is about power – the power the abuser has on his or her victim. Even years after the fact, the power still remains when the survivor finds coping difficult.

Furthermore, I hope this opens dialogue between parents and their children about the issue. Only then can we start fostering an atmosphere that encourages children to be forthcoming about any untoward behaviour they may have faced, and where parents looks for tell-tale signs that often serve as warnings.

I honour your bravery and genius that drive you to continue to break down such ugly and painful barriers.



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