Jeannie Mai Says She Was Sexually Abused By a Family Member at Age 9: 'It Went on for 4 Years'
Jeannie Mai is sharing her own sexual abuse story as celebrities rally around Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s accusers, sharing why she didn’t immediately report what happened to her as a child.
During a vulnerable discussion on Monday’s The Real, the 39-year-old co-host revealed that she was sexually assaulted by a family member for four years, beginning when she was just 9 years old.
“As a person who was sexually assaulted at a young age by somebody very close to me, I remember the trifecta that I would continuously process which is: fear, anger shame, fear, anger shame. Fear: What’s going to happen to our family if I say something and out this person? Anger: Why did you just sit there? Why did you let this go on for four years? What’s wrong with you?” Mai explained.
Mai shared that she was 9 when the abuse began “and it went on until I was about 13.”
She admitted that she “didn’t tell anybody because this was somebody I really cared about. And there’s a little bit of a Stockholm Syndrome in there too because if somebody who’s a stranger did it to me, oh I know what to do. I know how to wile out, I got that down.”
“But when it’s somebody you trust, somebody you know that you actually are supposed to love or believe in, you just freeze,” Mai said.
She added, “It went on for four years, and then two years later I found the strength to say something. But if it took me two years or it took me 20 years, it does not invalidate what happened to me.”
Although Mai didn’t specify who her abuser was, she confirmed to co-host Adrienne Bailon that “it was a family member.”
Mai encouraged people who have friends who are victims of sexual abuse to “ask questions more on how you feel and encourage them constantly that: this is your voice, this is your place to say something. … I would tell to that girl, ‘I’m on the other side now where I am stronger because I learned how to flex that muscle, I learned how to use my voice.’ … It takes you there to a place where now you are not a survivor — you’re triumphant because you have a voice. So use it.”
Nearly two years ago, Bailon used her voice to discuss the sexual harassment she’s experienced while working in the music industry.
The singer and actress said on The Real that she was too young at the time to put a stop to the unwanted touches she experienced within the music industry, but would have done things differently if she were older.
“I even experienced an executive that would kiss me on the lips,” said Bailon, 34. “It consistently happened to the point where I was like, ‘This ain’t cool, man. Now he knows I’m not going to say anything.’ Which is not okay.”
It’s that fear, Bailon said, that causes women to experience the harassment in silence.
“Fear has a big part to do with it,” she explained. “And two, these men are usually—”
“Famous,” Jeannie Mai cut in, to which Bailon agreed.
Kavanaugh has been accused of sexual misconduct by two women. Christine Blasey Ford, his former high school classmate, claimed that Kavanaugh pinned her down on a bed, groped her and tried to remove her clothes at a high school party in the early 1980s. She’s set to testify about the allegations — which Kavanaugh has denied — in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.
Then, on Sunday, Deborah Ramirez, a former Yale classmate, told The New Yorkerthat he exposed his penis, put it in her face, “caused her to touch it without her consent as she pushed him away” and laughed about it during a dorm-room party in Yale’s Lawrance Hall while they were freshmen in the 1983-84 school year.
“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen,” Kavanaugh said in a statement to The New Yorker. “The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations.”
The Real airs weekdays (check local listings).
If you or someone you care about is affected by sexual violence, contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).