For many years, Oprah has spoken openly about being molested as a young girl. Since she went public with her story, she says she's wanted to sit down with molesters to find out how and why they victimize children. In February 2010, she finally got the chance.
Oprah sat down with four admitted child molesters for a no-holds-barred conversation . During the two-hour interview, these men described in chilling detail how they lure children into their sick world. "What they've done is evil," Oprah says. "But what they say can help save your children."
To continue raising awareness, Oprah is now talking about a type of abuse that's rarely discussed—women who molest. Sometimes the perpetrator is an aunt, babysitter and, in this case, a mother.
Until he was 11 years old, Gregg Milligan and several of his siblings lived in a house of unimaginable horrors with their mother. Gregg says he never really knew his father in those years, so his mother was the center of his world. This woman was also his abuser.
As a young child, Gregg suffered from severe neglect, emotional abuse and consistent beatings. Then, when he was just 8 years old, Gregg says the sexual abuse began.
"Back then, it was fondling, touching, making me touch my mother. When, perhaps, she thought she could take it further, she did," he says. "She would make me have sex with her, moving my body against hers. And if I did not respond physically, she would beat me, choke me, hit me, throw me from the bedroom."
Gregg says he was a prisoner in his mother's bedroom until he helped her reach orgasm. "It was an awful, screeching sound she would make when she finally reached orgasm. And then, she would hit me and push me," he says. "I would go to bed at night, and I could not get the smell of her off my hands. It was the worst smell."
When Gregg was 9 or 10 years old, he says his body began to mature and respond biologically to the sexual stimulus. "It just seemed…it felt consensual," he says. "I wanted to die. I wanted to be rid of this ugly feeling of being my mother's lover."
Gregg says he felt ashamed and confused. "She would tell me that I seduced her. This was my doing. I initiated it," he says. "And I certainly believed it."
Since he didn't know any different, Gregg also believed his experiences were normal. "I thought all boys were having this type of relationship with their mothers," he says.
Unlike some child sex offenders, Gregg says his abuser never tried to seduce him or make it seem pleasurable. Instead, she beat him into submission. "It was actually awful for me," he says. "If I had to make a decision between the sexual abuse and the physical abuse, I would have chosen the physical abuse. It was much easier to deal with."
When looking back at photos of himself as a child, Gregg says he now sees a boy who was given no choice, and even if he could have stopped the abuse, he wouldn't have been able to.
"I would not have stopped it. My mother was the center of my universe," he says. "I trusted her. I loved her, and that's how I felt for her, especially at that age."
Gregg says his neighbors and teachers probably noticed signs of neglect and abuse—like visible bruises, dirty clothes, greasy hair and an emaciated face—but everyone was too afraid of his mother to speak up. Especially Gregg.
"I could have gone and told, but I was deathly afraid of my mother. This was my world, my universe. Even though the house was roach-laden and the clothes were rags and there was barely enough food, it was still shelter to me," he says. "This was still the only parent I had."
After neighbors saw how Gregg's mother treated her children, he says they told their children to stay away from them. "We were further ostracized and cut off from the outside world," he says. "Once they heard my last name, they would say: 'Oh, is your mother the whore? Is your mother the crazy woman?'"
Gregg's mother lived up to her reputation. "My mother, because of her advanced alcoholism, could not control her own bowels," he says. "She would defecate herself and urinate while walking up and down this neighborhood, screaming obscenities."
After being raped by his own mother for a year, Gregg's abuse took another shocking turn.
"My mother frequently solicited men in the neighborhood, prostituted herself at local pubs," he says. "The sexual abuse started when I was about 8 years old. That was the first time with my mother…and the men soon followed after that."
The first night this happened, Gregg says a man came to the door, but instead of following his mom back to her bedroom, the man stayed in the living room. Then, Gregg says his mother ordered him to stay with the man. He was 8 years old at the time.
"The man began to undress me and perform fellatio on me, and I struggled desperately not to allow my body to react to the stimulus," he says. "I was successful that evening. The man grew frustrated. He left the house."
That was the first time Gregg's mother prostituted her son, but it wasn't the last. "It became worse because, when I got older, sometimes I couldn't control the biological response to the stimulus," he says. "Whenever I could not control my body's natural reaction—an erection—to the stimulus, it always felt like it was my fault."
Gregg says his mother and the male perpetrators echoed this sentiment and told him, "You like it."
Gregg says his mother told him the family would go hungry and lose their home if she didn't sell his body for money. She also threatened him with violence. "Her main threat was the men would come back and cut off my genitals," he says. "And I believed her."
Gregg's sister, April, is two years younger and says she was also sexually abused by their mother. "She would come in, grab my hand, bring me into her bedroom, and to me it was going in and sleeping with my mom, spending time with my mom," she says. "Little did I know that she would make me fondle her vagina…then she would do the same to me. Then I would be so exhausted, I would fall asleep and then I was directed back to my room."
April says she thinks the abuse went on for a couple of years until her brother stepped in and saved her. "Thank God he did—my savior," April says. "He said: 'No more. You're not going to do that to my sister,' and unfortunately, he took the abuse for it."
Gregg says there was one instance, when he was 9 and his sister was 7, that he remembers stepping in for April when his mother planned on forcing her to be with a male customer. "A man came to the house. I anticipated it was either for me or my mother. At that particular time, after the money exchanged hands, my mother called April out of her room. … This had never happened before," he says. "I grabbed April, I walked her down the hallway. My mother grabbed me and slammed me up against the wall. I told April to hide, and she did. And I went out to the living room and stood there, and my mother told me to go through with it. She retired to her bedroom, and the man took advantage of me instead."
After Gregg stepped in to save April from being prostituted, he says his mother never tried to sell her again. "It was the best decision I ever made," he says. "I told my mother I wouldn't let it happen. I rarely spoke up to my mother. I told her that I wouldn't allow this, in my own childlike words, and it became so difficult for her to make the arrangements because I made sure to insert myself somehow."
Gregg says his mother tried to lure him to bed with her so that April could be with customers, but he would always say no. "That's all it took, just one word," he says. "She would beat me, grow tired, and she would never try again."
April says that even at the young of 7, she knew her brother was protecting her. "I knew something's not right. As far as touching, we're all taught certain private areas are not allowed," she says. "I knew with my mother, when that would happen sexually, I was definitely afraid of her. I would run and hide, do whatever I could to stay away from her, [and] I knew when a man arrived that this was not a good feeling."
Gregg says the abuse finally stopped when he was 11 years old and he and his siblings were removed from their mother's home. "I spent two weeks stealing money from my mother's purse, running down to a corner store and using a pay phone to call an older sister," he says. "The best I could muster, generally weeping, I would choke out the words: 'You need to come get us. Come save us.'"
After two weeks of these calls, Gregg says his oldest sister came and physically removed both them from their mother's home.
In the years between when he left his mother's home and when she died in 1996, Gregg says he always worried about what she thought of him. "My relationship with my mother was still one that I worried very much about her and loved her very much. I wondered if she was okay," he says. "Certainly I avoided her; I was still deathly afraid of her."
Gregg says he's even blocked her out of memories from those years entirely. "Recently, a picture was shown to me from my college graduation where my mother is standing next to me. I honestly don't remember my mother being there. I completely shut her off from my life. I certainly didn't communicate with her. I was still very much afraid of her, even as an adult."
In the years following his removal from his mother's home, Gregg says his own behavior was very much affected by the abuse he had suffered. "As a teenager and into my 20s, I became incredibly promiscuous. I couldn't last in a relationship very long, or I had multiple relationships going on at the same time," he says. "It wasn't until the nervous breakdown in my first year at university that I began seeking professional help, first for the promiscuity and then addressing for the first time the abuse."
Despite the setbacks, Gregg went on to graduate college, get a master's degree and marry Sarah, a woman he met at work. Initially, Gregg says he was scared to tell Sarah about his past. "[I was afraid] that she would judge me or find me to be perverted, that she would associate me with someone who's mentally or emotionally defunct and I would not have an opportunity to be in a healthy relationship if I shared that information with her," he says. "The same trust and love I had for my abuser, my mother, which was an unhealthy trust and love, I had to wait until I felt that the trust and love I had for someone else felt right and healthy and safe."
Gregg and Sarah have a 23-year-old son, also named Gregg, who knows all about his father's past. "I've been hearing pieces of it probably since I was a teenager, but I don't really remember when we first started talking about it," Gregg's son says, "It makes me sad. I do love him. He's a great father. I don't know if everyone can say this, but he's really easy to talk to. I just love him."
Raising a son has been part of his own healing process, Gregg says.
"One of my greatest fears was that I would turn out like my parents, and being able to raise my son with love and he knows no violence, it really affirmed that this might be okay," he says. "It can be done. It's a choice, and we need more people making the choice not to abuse."