To faithful readers of Essence, Mo’Nique’s admission that her older brother Gerald Imes sexually molested her is nothing new. Before her Oscar-confirmed performance as Mary Jones in Precious was widely seen, Mo’Nique first shared her pain in 2008 with Essence, a publication that has long provided a safe space for its female readers. Within the black community, those claims were shocking. Sibling incest is even more rarely discussed by women than assaults by biological fathers, uncles, close family friends and their mothers’ boyfriends. In fact, many victims of molestation often find comfort and understanding with their siblings. The Color Purple easily springs to mind. So, imagine if that refuge is simply not an option.
Given the subject matter of Precious and Mo’Nique’s disturbingly realistic performance, it’s little wonder that Barbara Walters would discuss Mo’Nique’s own abuse for her long-running Oscar special in detail. Thanks to Oprah and many other talk shows and magazines, we are more used to victims coming forward. But only recently have we turned the spotlight on the molesters themselves. If we are to find answers and true healing, the source of the problem has to be addressed. That’s why we are so fascinated by Gerald Imes coming forward. Understandably, Mo’Nique did not participate but it is quite powerful that her parents did.
You can’t make this stuff up. It’s hard not to feel for the parents and their confusion but it drives home precisely why people don’t come forward. (And, for all those who don’t understand Tyler Perry’s appeal, do note that he consistently addresses molestation in everything that he does. That’s exactly how pervasive it is.) As brave as this family is being in openly discussing what happened within their family, they more than illustrate what’s wrong.
Yes, Mo’Nique went along with the family for many years and just two and a half years ago, to their confusion, stopped communicating with them at all. They can’t comprehend why that happened. Speaking with Oprah, their mouths were moving in admission but their words failed to reflect the severity of the situation. Playing Mary Jones, looking Precious in the face every day and having to truly come to terms with a similar experience in your own life, has to be traumatic. Then to top it all off, you’re bouncing from award show to award show, tackling late night television, raising young children and being a wife. There’s not much time to understand how your family feels about what happened to you.
Mr. and Mrs. Imes, along with their other son Steven, as well-meaning as they are and, as much as they love Mo’Nique, truly do not comprehend the gravity of her pain. When Oprah tried to enlighten them, they didn’t really get it. She needs time, not “we know you were telling the truth, Gerald admits it now, so let’s come together and be family again.” That’s not going to work. Of course, the burning question is: what will?
The Imes family should be applauded for making this critical step. They didn’t make it alone, however. Because Mo’Nique is famous, they, unlike so many others, have been forced to look the ugly truth in the mirror. Gerald is courageous and shows what consistent counseling can accomplish. Consulting a minister on a regular basis should not be devalued. That’s counseling as well. Instead of asking Mo’Nique to come home to the family, however, perhaps they should ask her to meet them in a safe haven like the church that has changed Gerald’s life. Perhaps Mo’Nique would be more receptive to visits where the entire family deals with this traumatic issue in the presence of a therapeutic stranger, rather than coming into a situation where everybody feels they are fine but her.
It should not go unnoted that, yes, so many of our troubled men have also been abused. Interestingly, though Gerald could out himself as a molester, he chose to protect his perpetrators by not revealing their names on national television. More than likely, his aggressors were men and not women so identifying them would associate him with homosexuality and heaven forbid that. More and more, a man molesting a little girl is viewed as an egregious act against her, but a man assaulting a little boy is still viewed by too many of us as an indication that the little boy is gay. Just recall the feedback NFL player Laveranues Coles received regarding his admission to Oprah that his stepfather molested him in 2006. Instead of focusing on the abuse, many people speculated about his sexuality.
And we haven’t even touched on the substance abuse issues Gerald raised. No, this edition with Oprah didn’t leave us with all the answers. It did, however, broaden the dialogue. And, if we keep identifying and attacking the problem, we’re bound to solve it one day.