Jeannie Mai has revealed she was sexually abused by a male family member starting at the age of nine, recalling how the trauma led to an eight-year estrangement with her mother.
The 40-year-old co-host of The Real and her mom Olivia TuTram Mai bravely spoke about the abuse and how it affected their relationship in an emotional video for Jeannie’s YouTube series ‘Hello Hunnay.’
‘We’ve talked before that we had a major falling out when I was about 16 until I was 24. I’ve never actually talked about that incident with my mom since then, Jeannie explained in the episode. ‘We’re talking for the first time about how that affected us.’
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Trauma: Jeannie Mai (right) revealed that she was sexually abused by a family member as a child. She opened up about the abuse in an emotional video for YouTube series ‘Hello Hunnay’
Heartache: The 40-year-old television personality opened up about how the abuse led to an eight-year estrangement with her mother Olivia TuTram Mai (left)
The talk show host said that after her second brother was born, her mom had to get a second job that required her to be away from home more.
‘We needed to find a babysitter, so we called upon a family member,’ Jeannie recalled. ‘This family member came over every single day and stayed with me after school and became a really cool, iconic person in my life. This person was about 16, 17 and I was nine.’
Disturbing: Jeannie (pictured as a child) said a family member who babysat her started sexually abusing her when she was nine
Though she didn’t name her abuser, she said she looked up to him and they became ‘very close’ until their relationship took a disturbing turn.
‘I just remember one day this person sitting very close to me, we were playing video games, and he started to touch my thigh,’ she said, explaining that she rationalized the touching by reminding herself that he was a family member.
‘I was also just stunned because I had never been intimately touched like that so I couldn’t tell if it was wrong, I just knew I was noticing it. I was almost narrating it in my head.’
Jeannie said that ‘every day the touching continued a little bit more’ until he progressed to taking off her clothes.
‘I remember him pulling me into that shower and it was the first time I have a seen a grown man and what he looked like — still nine-years-old — I remember him telling me to touch him in certain ways.’
Painful: Jeannie cried as she recalled how the unnamed family member abused her every day for years. When she first tried confiding in her mom, Olivia ‘didn’t get it’
Betrayal: When the abuse became ‘more aggressive,’ Jeannie told her mom exactly what was going on, but she didn’t believe her
‘This happened every day for a few weeks, and then it turned into months and I remember one year going by,’ she added. ‘I didn’t say anything because I was afraid.’
Jeannie’s parents were struggling with money at the time, and she knew they needed a babysitter. She said her abuser convinced her that her parents would be angry with her if she told them what was going on.
When she was about 13 or 14 years old, she tried to confide in her mom and pleaded with her to get another babysitter without disclosing the abuse.
‘I remember you were confused,’ Jeannie told her mom. ‘She didn’t get it.;
‘I didn’t realize what you were trying to say,’ Olivia recalled.
When the abuse became ‘more aggressive’ a year or two later, she told her mom what was going on, but she didn’t believe her.
Running away: Jeannie (pictured at the Daytime Emmy Awards earlier this month) said she left home at the age of 16 and didn’t reconnect with her mother until she was 24
Realization: After a nearly nine-year rift, Jeannie was able to get her mom to understand the abuse she endured at the hands of their family member
Olivia said she struggled with the allegations because she had known the family member since he was one year old. What Jeannie was saying didn’t align with the person she thought she knew.
‘I began to get angry because now I’m telling my mom that he’s taking off my clothes and you said, “I don’t believe you,”‘ she tearfully recalled.
Looking back, Olivia said she should have confronted him, but instead, she ignored what Jeannie was trying to tell her.
‘When I don’t believe it, I just let it go,’ she said. ‘I don’t see anything bad about him.’
Jeannie was heartbroken that her mom didn’t believe her, and she ended up running away from home at the age of 16 and moving to San Francisco.
After a nearly nine-year rift, Jeannie reconnected with her mom and was able to get her to understand the abuse she endured at the hands of their family member.
On her side: The mom said she later confronted her daughter’s abuser and he begged her not to turn him into the authorities. Jeannie said she never knew that her mom went to see him
Role models: Jeannie and Olivia spent nearly a decade repairing their relationship and are now closer than ever. They wanted to share their story to encourage others to do the same
‘I really listened to her every single detail,’ Olivia said. ‘I was really shocked. It was a real thing.’
The mom said she confronted her daughter’s abuser and he begged her not to turn him into the authorities. Jeannie said she never knew that her mom went to see him.
‘I wish you told me that you went to his house. You never told me that before’ Jeannie said through her tears. ‘That part is all I needed to know that you supported me and you defended me.
‘That right there is all I needed to know. That you believed me and that you listened and that you would go and try and do something about it. I just needed your support,’ she explained.
‘I feel like you just set something free inside of me because you believed me.’
Jeannie and Olivia spent nearly a decade repairing their relationship and are now closer than ever. They wanted to share their story to encourage others to do the same with their own family members.
‘We hope that this can help you connect more with your mom, grow better and closer to your family and help you heal however you need to inside,’ Jeannie said.