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Thread: Men dealing with childhood sexual abuse

  1. #1
    Gangsta Boogie Bake n Shark's Avatar Bake n Shark is offline
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    Men dealing with childhood sexual abuse

    Coles Emerges From His Shell, Shedding Pain Layer by Layer


    Oscar Sosa for The New York Times

    Laveranues Coles, left, and Tyler Perry were abused when they were children. Perry was moved by Coles’s story and was hopeful that he might be able to help him.



    By KAREN CROUSE
    Published: November 10, 2006

    HEMPSTEAD, N.Y., Nov. 9 — Rounding a corner, Jets receiver Laveranues Coles surveyed the gaggle of people waiting for him. Coles used to be able to complete the curl pattern from the training room to his locker without drawing a double team of reporters. During his first six years in the National Football League, he ran from the public as if the outside world were the most savage secondary of all, with everybody angling to bring him down.

    This season, though, Coles, the Jets’ leading receiver with 46 catches for 606 yards, has become the team’s go-to guy off the field. His puckish personality has emerged for all to see as he carries himself with a lightness of being that can be attributed to two life-transforming events: his public acknowledgment last year that he was molested as a child, and a phone call that he received soon after.

    The voice on the other end of the line belonged to Tyler Perry, a playwright and actor. From that initial conversation sprouted a friendship that represents the 28-year-old Coles’s first true male-bonding experience outside of football.

    “Just to have another guy that’s in the position that Tyler’s in, that’s more popular than I am, who has dealt with some of the same issues I had to deal with, makes the greatest difference in the world,” Coles said recently. He was dressing for practice as he spoke, adding layer after layer of clothing and equipment while baring what had been hidden inside.

    “It definitely has helped quite a bit,” Coles said. “Because to be honest, after that experience, I always thought everybody was out to hurt me. Now what I do is give everyone a fair chance. It basically helped me by just watching Tyler and seeing how he deals with people.”

    Perry, a 37-year-old New Orleans native who created the character of Mabel (Madea) Simmons, said he was abused by his father as a child. He happened to catch a repeat of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” episode that originally aired last fall in which Coles, who is from Jacksonville, Fla., talked of being sexually abused at gunpoint by his stepfather between the ages of 10 and 13.

    Perry acquired Coles’s cellphone number from Winfrey, who is a friend, because he was moved by Coles’s story and sensed that he might be able to help him.

    “I knew the pain he was in,” Perry said in a telephone interview. “I understood it.”

    He was the same age that Coles is now when he released his unresolved anger and guilt onto the pages of a journal. The entries formed the basis of Perry’s first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which consumed six years of his life and all of his savings before it was staged.

    After that, his career branched out and bloomed. Perry’s stage and film successes include “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “Madea’s Family Reunion” and “Madea’s Class Reunion.” He has produced a TV show, “House of Payne,” and written a book, “Don’t Make a Black Woman Take Off Her Earrings,” which reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list and was voted book of the year and best humor book at the 2006 Quill Awards.

    Perry’s outward signs of success — acclaim and considerable wealth — came after he had reconciled with his father and achieved an inner peace. He could appreciate how much harder it would be for Coles to clean up the emotional detritus from his childhood trauma in the public glare, against the backdrop of the testosterone-charged N.F.L.

    “That had to be stressful,” Perry said. “The courage that it took for Laveranues to come forward and talk publicly about what was done to him is something that I really admire.”

    For Coles, football has always been his means of releasing some of the anger bottled up inside. Between the lines, he could prove his toughness and connect with his teammates in a way that was hard for him in his personal relationships.

    After being drafted by the Jets in the third round in 2000, Coles quickly developed a rapport with quarterback Chad Pennington, a first-round pick in the same draft. Coles was Pennington’s favorite target on the scout team, and he remained so after Pennington joined Coles in the starting lineup in 2002.

    They stayed in touch after Coles left for the Washington Redskins as a restricted free agent in 2003, the richness of their relationship perhaps best demonstrated by Pennington’s offer to take a $2 million pay cut to facilitate the trade last year that brought Coles back to the Jets in exchange for receiver Santana Moss.

    Pennington and Coles have spent hours in each other’s company talking about football and family, but Pennington did not know Coles had been molested as a child until he read about it last year in The Times. “You have all these insecurities about yourself,” Coles said. “You think that other people, if they know, may look at you differently.”

    Coles knew of Perry only vaguely before that first phone call. By the time they hung up after an hourlong conversation, Coles saw in Perry someone he could trust with his feelings. “I think it makes a difference that here’s somebody that doesn’t want anything from me,” Coles said. “Most of the time when I have a conversation with people outside of football, it isn’t like that.” He added: “Tyler understood that I still had certain boundaries and walls in my life as far as relationships with women. He understood why I would shut people out if I felt I was getting too close to them, and stuff like that. It just started registering that maybe he could help me out.”

    Perry donned a flowery housedress, a wig and sensible shoes and transformed himself into Madea, the mother of all caregivers, in part because he did not want his dual messages of love and forgiveness to be filtered through any gender-based stereotypes. “In our society,” he wrote in the foreword of his book, “women are given much more latitude than men to have emotions and express them.”

    Coles donned a football helmet and cleats to find his emotional outlet. Their friendship has been liberating for both because they do not have to wear disguises to address their deepest, darkest feelings.

    To get beyond the pain and guilt of being abused, Perry encouraged Coles to repeat, out loud, “This is not my fault.”

    Coles balked at the idea at first. He said he thought talking to himself would make him feel crazy, not better.

    “In a way, you still have an arrogant side about you that says I’m dealing with this my own way,” Coles said. “As football players, we all have our pride and ego. Once I got past that and started really thinking about the advice he gave me, I thought maybe I should start telling myself that and see if it will help me.”

    Coles was alone in his car, driving to the Jets’ practice facility during the preseason, when he finally said aloud, “This is not my fault.”

    That wrecking ball of a sentence is slowly but surely tearing down Coles’s walls. More people are getting a glimpse of his playful side — witness his needling of the Jets’ first-year coach, Eric Mangini, whom he has called “the Penguin” and “ornery,” among other things. Mangini takes no offense; in fact, he said he would like to see Coles’s personality and playing ability gain him a few endorsements and a higher national profile.

    Coles is speaking up. Last week he said that the chemistry between Pennington and his receivers was being overemphasized to the point of being counterproductive.

    And he is stepping out. Whereas in previous years Coles spent the bye week holed up in his house, he spent part of last weekend, when the Jets were off, in Las Vegas with Perry, attending the welterweight championship bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Carlos Baldomir.

    “I absolutely see the change in him,” Perry said. “He’s so much lighter. I think he’s all-around a happier person.”

    Perry has suggested that Coles keep a journal, and Coles has gone so far as to buy one. But so far, the pages remain blank. Who needs a journal when people surround his locker every day, waiting to record his thoughts? “It’s exciting,” Coles said. “It’s like a whole other world when I walk in here now.”

  2. #2
    renegade
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    This is probably the most unreported type of sexual abuse out there.

  3. #3
    Gangsta Boogie Bake n Shark's Avatar Bake n Shark is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by renegade View Post
    This is probably the most unreported type of sexual abuse out there.
    For obvious reasons...stigmatizing enough as it is for women...and former altar boys.

    I give Coles nuff props and have the world of respect for him. If he were a marginal player it would have been easier for him to disclose his past abuse, given that he would have had less 'to lose' by the disclosure. The fact that he's a bonafide star raises the profile of the issue and gives courage to others be they adult or juvenile, in similar positions as he is/was.

    It really speaks to his character...especially given that he never had it easy in his career. Some may recall that as a senior he and Peter Warrick, then the star player on the Florida State squad got caught up in some b.s. or the other where a cashier at an athletic store hooked them up with some free/discounted stuff. Warrick, the star...got a one game suspension (despite the fact that he was the prime beneficiary) while Coles, the bit player in the fiasco, got throw under the bus by FSU...and kicked off the team. Simple irony that no one has heard a peep from Warrick since his flame out with the Bengals several seasons ago.

    Coles is a battler...and good to see him fighting a good cause.

  4. #4
    T-MAKAA
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bake n Shark View Post
    For obvious reasons...stigmatizing enough as it is for women...and former altar boys.

    I give Coles nuff props and have the world of respect for him. If he were a marginal player it would have been easier for him to disclose his past abuse, given that he would have had less 'to lose' by the disclosure. The fact that he's a bonafide star raises the profile of the issue and gives courage to others be they adult or juvenile, in similar positions as he is/was.

    It really speaks to his character...especially given that he never had it easy in his career. Some may recall that as a senior he and Peter Warrick, then the star player on the Florida State squad got caught up in some b.s. or the other where a cashier at an athletic store hooked them up with some free/discounted stuff. Warrick, the star...got a one game suspension (despite the fact that he was the prime beneficiary) while Coles, the bit player in the fiasco, got throw under the bus by FSU...and kicked off the team. Simple irony that no one has heard a peep from Warrick since his flame out with the Bengals several seasons ago.

    Coles is a battler...and good to see him fighting a good cause.

    I respect him for that when I heard it last year. I read that article this morning also. I think he gave people confidence (who heard his story) to go and seek the counseling they need now.

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