How 'black-ish' 's Jenifer Lewis Talked Her Would-Be Rapist Out of Assaulting Her

"He left and I stood in shock. Then I fell to my knees and fainted," black-ish's Jenifer Lewis writes in The Black Mother of Hollywood, excerpted in PEOPLE

Jenifer Lewis thought she was opening the door to a delivery man.

“Suddenly a guy came into my apartment with a knife,” the black-ish actress tells PEOPLE of being in her early 20s in New York City. “He tried to rape, but I talked myself out of that. It was the greatest performance of my life.”

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Lewis, 60, says she convinced her would-be assailant that she had a venereal disease that would make him sick if he attempted to have sex with her. She details the harrowing incident — along with her battle with sex addiction and bipolar disorder — in her memoir The Black Mother of Hollywood, excerpted exclusively in the current issue of PEOPLE:

“I shouldn’t be doing this!” [the attacker said.] “Especially to a sister. They locked me up for some s— I didn’t do! I just got out.”

Suddenly I saw how skinny, fragile, and vulnerable this kid was. I sat down next to him and put my arm around his shoulder.

“I’m sorry that happened to you. I will help you. Let me give you my number and you can call me.”

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Peter Zambouros

“I’m sorry. I know you are gonna tell, but I just want you to know I am sorry.”

He was not evil. He was just f—– up. He left and I stood in shock. Then I fell to my knees and fainted.

The Mother of Black Hollywood is available for pre-order now.

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