The Parenthood star, 43, penned an emotional essay for Lenny Letter, revealing that she was born after her mother, Joyce, was sexually assaulted.
“On October 18, 1974, Joyce gave birth to me, not in love but in shame, after hiding her pregnancy from my grandmother for six months,” she wrote. “I am the product of a fifteen-year-old girl and an older man she knew.”
Bryant continued, “It doesn’t matter how or why or when. It happened, and with both my mother and my father dead, I’ll never know the specifics. What matters is that no one protected her before or after.”
“What matters is that my mother was the one who was shamed,” she said. “What matters is that my father ruined her life just as it was blossoming. What matters is she was trapped in a trauma she could never escape, a trauma that prevented her from being the mother I needed her to be. What matters is that she didn’t matter. And because she didn’t matter, I didn’t matter to her.”
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The actress said her mother wasn’t able to provide her with the protection and care that she needed growing up, writing that it was because Joyce became a parent before she was ready.
Said Bryant, “It didn’t help that neither one of us had the tools to actually have the unspoken conversation that was the subtext of our entire relationship: ‘Mommy, why can’t you love me?’ ‘Because I can’t love myself, baby. I don’t know how.’ “
Bryant knows her mother was not alone.
“Hers is a story of what happens when Black Girl Magic becomes Black Girl Tragic and the casualties it leaves in its wake,” she said. “Her story is one of stolen innocence and lost potential, a record of pain spun on a never-ending loop. Her story is sadly the story of so many.”
“I thought about my own experiences of abuse, assault, and harassment, pre-fame and post-fame,” she wrote. “The male babysitter when I was five, the male photographer in my early twenties, the male studio executive a few years ago.”
She concluded, “Yeah, me too.”