Actress and comedian Mo'Nique has been outspoken about being molested by her older brother Gerald. In fact, Mo'Nique told Oprah that she drew from the pain her brother inflicted on her to portray Mary Jones, the vicious mother in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, the role that earned her an Oscar®. "I knew very well who that monster was. I knew Mary Jones," Mo'Nique told Oprah. "So when [the director] would say, 'Action,' that's the monster that I became."
For decades, Gerald has denied the claims his sister has made against him and refused all interview requests. He says he hasn't spoke to Mo'Nique in years. But now, Gerald is ready to talk.
"I'm here today to first acknowledge what I've been in denial for for 37 years, and that is I did assault and inappropriately touch my sister in manners that were uncomfortable for her," Gerald says. "And for that, I apologize and I'm humbly sorry that those actions had taken place."
Before agreeing to do the interview, Oprah says she spoke to Mo'Nique. While she didn't want to be involved, Oprah says Mo'Nique gave her blessing in hopes that her brother's account might save another family.
Rather than being angry that Mo'Nique has publicly described him as a monster, Gerald says he is happy for her. "I'm proud that she was able to finally get to a place that she could relinquish her pain," he says.
Gerald says the abuse began when Mo'Nique was about 7 years old. Though he acknowledges now that it was wrong, he says he never knew the true depth of the pain he caused his sister. "I accepted it as being the norm," he says. "I started using cocaine, heroine, alcohol at the age of 11. I used these drugs to hide my own pain. Fear at that age kept me from acknowledging my own abuse."
Eventually, however, Gerald says he went from victim to perpetrator. "The drugs weren't an excuse. They just allowed me and afforded me the opportunity to do the things that were in the back of my mind as a kid that I always wanted to do," he says. "Most of the time, the abuse that I did with my sister took place while she was asleep [or] the appearance that she was asleep."
In an interview with Barbara Walters, Mo'Nique said the only apology she ever received from Gerald was when he said, "If you think I did something wrong, then I'm sorry." Gerald says he said those words because he couldn't admit that he had done anything he shouldn't have. "I just couldn't believe that I did it to my own sister. That was hard for me," he says. "I can only hope by coming forth today, since I couldn't reach out to her, that ... somewhere along the line with the apology and the truth of it finally coming out after 37 years, that hopefully somewhere, somehow ... we can come back together as brother and sister and say: 'You know what? This happened. I'm sorry that it happened. I'm sorry that it happened to you, and that I was the perpetrator, the one that did it to you. However, I understand your pain. I, too, was there. Now lets share this together and move on. Let's help someone else.'"
Gerald says the fact that he was fuel for Mo'Nique's performance in Precious makes him feel like "a piece of crap." He says he has an especially hard time watching the last scene in the movie, in which Mary explains that the reason she hates her daughter is that Precious' father chose her over Mary. "That scene was Mo'Nique going to my mother saying, 'My brother did this to me,' and my mother asking me, did I do this, and I said no. I saw her pain and my pain right then and there."
Years after molesting Mo'Nique, Gerald was convicted of molesting somebody else and was sentenced to 12 years in prison. Though not everyone who has been molested later molests children themselves, Gerald says the abuse in his childhood is the reason he abused in his past. "I hid my own molestation and pain and guilt and shame because I thought it was my fault that these things happened to me," he says. "So I internalized that and I hid behind the drugs and alcohol and then that spiraling thing in my mind, as a child, I wanted to express my sexuality, so I took it out on my sister."
Many of the relationships in his life also suffered due to his abuse, Gerald says. "I lost myself, and I didn't know how to get myself back. So I became angry. I have some relationships that I assumed were great in in the beginning but didn't last because of my hidden past," he says. "Even with my mom and my dad, even to this day, the relationship I had with them, I lost at some point."
After the abuse took place, Gerald says he and Mo'Nique had what appeared to be a normal brother and sister relationship until she had her twin sons. "I went to the hospital to see my nephews Jonathan and David. ... I picked up my nephew and held him, and I couldn't hold him for so long because they were in the incubator, and I gave my nephew back to the nurse," Gerald says. Later that same day, after he'd left, Gerald says Mo'Nique called him. "She said: 'You know what? I don't want you to be around my boys.'" Gerald says that was the last time he saw his sister.
Gerald says he hopes that by speaking out and apologizing to Mo'Nique, his family can begin to heal. "Now that this is out, Mo'Nique, I'm here. Now that you see me, and I'm apologizing to you, now let's bring our family back together, because your whole thing is about love. Your whole thing is about reaching out and assisting and helping someone," Gerald says. "Well, let's show the world that, yes, we can have a problem as a family. Yes, this is an incident that went on within my own family. Yes, I might be someone famous, but put my fame aside for a minute. I am still a human being."
When Mo'Nique first told her mother, Mrs. Imes, about the abuse, Mrs. Imes says she sent Gerald away to live with his grandmother. He returned two weeks later, and it appeared to the family that everything was back to normal. "It was just like we were mad yesterday but today we're not," Mrs. Imes says.
Mo'Nique and Gerald's father, Mr. Imes, says it was hard for him to accept at first that this had taken place in his own family. "You think of behaviors like this, and you accord them to other people, other families," he says. "When it comes on your doorstep, when it comes into your household, for myself, there was a total state of confusion. Do I immediately turn to the professionals, the counselor, the doctor, the psychiatrist?"
Mrs. Imes says she was hurt when the family secret became public. "This is something I felt should have been discussed first privately within the family," she says. But Mrs. Imes also says she's glad the role of Mary Jones may have in some way helped Mo'Nique deal with her pain. "I only hope with doing this, this can cleanse her heart. This can make her feel better about herself. Okay, it took until she was 42 to do this. I don't care how long it took. I'm just happy it happened."
Mr. and Mrs. Imes say they haven't spoken to Mo'Nique in two and a half years, but they're still extremely proud of their daughter's accomplishments. "I watched in glee. I was happy for her; I was excited for her. I think I was jumping and hollering more than the audience that was there," Alice says. "For the Golden Globe®, for the NAACP®, for the Oscar. I've always been very, very proud."
Gerald says that since the abuse and getting out of prison, he has moved forward. "It's not about what you did yesterday. It's not about what you did 10 minutes ago. It's not about what you did a week ago. It's about what have, what you are, right here, right now," he says. "I hope that I can reach someone and help them not spiral into the areas in which I went. ... Get some help. Do it. Do it and do it now before you take yourself down a road that you may regret by not saying what's been bothering you."