Rapper/actor Common has gone public with his own experience of child molestation in his new memoir in a bid to help other victims learn to heal from their own situations.
Common reveals he was around nine or 10 years old when was inappropriately touched by a friend’s relative in Let Love Have the Last Word, in which he recalls taking a family road trip to visit an aunt in Cleveland, Ohio, where he and his abuser, who he calls “Brandon,” had to share a bed.
“At some point I felt Brandon’s hand on me,” he writes. “I pushed him away. I don’t remember saying a whole lot besides, ‘No, no, no.’
“He kept saying ‘It’s OK, It’s OK,’ as he pulled down my shorts and molested me. After he stopped he kept asking me to perform it on him. I kept repeating ‘No’ and pushing him away. I felt a deep and sudden shame for what happened.”
Common “buried” the incident for decades, and it was only while working on a scene for 2018 film The Tale with co-star Laura Dern that he realised what had actually happened to him as a kid.
“One day, while talking through the script with Laura, old memories surprisingly flashed in my mind,” the 47 year old shares. “I caught my breath and just kept looping the memories over and over, like rewinding an old VHS tape… I said ‘Laura, I think I was abused.'”
Common decided to seek therapy to help him come to terms with the painful past, and he almost didn’t include the story in his new book, until he recognised his ability to aid others in similar situations, especially those in black communities.
“It was something that I didn’t know if I wanted to talk about, but I really believe that in telling my story, other people will be OK with talking about their situation…,” he explains on U.S. breakfast show Good Morning America.
“I’m a black man and we don’t talk about those issues in ways that we could,” Common continues, “so I felt I wanted to create a space for people who have experienced that to be able to share that as part of their healing.”
He immediately discovered his efforts had worked: “No sooner had I told that story, one of my good friends came out and told me it had happened to him,” Common says.
The star hasn’t seen Brandon in over two decades, but he’s since learned to forgive him.
“It’s still a process for me…,” he adds, “but I have to look at my life and know (the molestation was) somebody else’s pain that they kinda distributed to me and I don’t want to carry that.”
Let Love Have the Last Word was released on Tuesday.