Joy Bryant is opening up about her experience with sexual misconduct and saying “me too” — for both herself, and her mother. In an emotional essay for Lenny Letter, the Parenthood star, 43, revealed that she was born after her mother, Joyce, was sexually assaulted.
“…There’s hard work that needs to be done to eradicate this ‘pandemic’ of sexual violence against women, especially those who are not famous,” Bryant wrote. “I thought about my own experiences of abuse, assault and harassment, pre-fame and post-fame. The male babysitter when I was five, the male photographer in my early twenties, the male studio executive a few years ago. Yeah, me too.”
The About Last Night actress then shared her mother’s story. “And in my acknowledgment of common cause with the countless women coming forward in Hollywood and beyond, I thought about my mother, Joyce. Yeah, her too,” Bryant penned before explaining the circumstances leading up to her birth. “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. I am the product of a 15-year-old girl and an older man she knew. 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,” she continued. “What matters is that my mother was the one who was shamed. 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 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.”
The former model explained that, because her own mother became a parent before she was ready, she was unable to raise her daughter with the care she needed. “For years, the silence between us was so loud, I had to cover my hears. I never knew who my mother was as a woman. I never heard her story from her. She never let me in. I never asked,” Bryant admitted. “I didn’t know how. Neither did she. So my experience of my mother was based on how she treated me, what I heard, and what I saw, most of which was far from nurturing and kind.”
The Skeleton Key actress then shed light on the many allegations of sexual harassment that have risen in Hollywood throughout the past month. “The recent outing of Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K., and many others have been shocking in it’s existence,” she noted. “Women have long been victimized by the evil that men do, especially men in power. Men who rule with iron fists, limp dicks, and egos as big as the sky.”
Added Bryant: “To see woman after women lift up her voice in a #MeToo clarion of solitary and acknowledgement of the pervasive abuse that we’ve experienced is liberating on the one hand and sobering on the other. It’s comforting to know that you’re not alone;. But goddamn — who hasn’t been abused, harassed, assaulted, or traumatized?”
The actress concluded her thoughts by sharing that the has made piece with the circumstances surrounding her development. “[My mother’s] story is one of stolen innocence and lost potential, a record of pain spun on a never ending loop,” she said. “Her story is sadly the story of so many. It’s taken years of therapy for me to begin to understand who I am and why I am. And because of that, I’ve come to understand who and why mother was, better than I could when she was alive. But on my birthday this year, I accepted my mother’s story as part of my own. It always was and always will be.”