Rahsaan Patterson is four albums into his music career, having gotten his start on Kids Incorporated back in the day. His latest single, “Don’t Touch Me,” aims to educate the public about sexual abuse, which he personally endured, and raise funds to support for its victims. Partnering with RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), Patterson hopes to use his experiences as a black, openly gay man in the entertainment industry to break the silence surrounding molestation in the black community. He spoke to The Root about his abuse, where his career is headed, and how he hopes to change the black community’s views on sexuality. Some excerpts:
TR: How does your experience going public with your story of sexual abuse compare to your experience coming out as gay?
RP: The stigma of being an openly gay black male in the music industry has its stigmas and effects, but I really am not focused on that. People will always have their opinions, and there will be people who despise it and look down, but I am who I am. But my purpose is to live the best life I can live.
As far as the sexual abuse, I’ve absolutely been supported. A lot of people have written me and sent me messages on Facebook and such and expressed their gratitude for my having the courage to speak out. It’s allowed them to confront their families and expose their truest purpose. I’m here for those who are at a place in their own lives when they’re ready to go into the issue and really focus on it.
TR: When and why did you decide to speak publicly about the abuse that happened to you?
RP: I was doing an interview for another publication and the subject of sexuality came up, and at that particular time I felt that the interviewer was pretty much probing, and in a sense trying to expose my sexual orientation. And during the course of that conversation, I revealed that I had been sexually abused as a child.
Once that statement was made, there were people who took offense to that, because they thought I was using it as an excuse for my sexuality, which was not the case at all. It wasn’t a cause-and-effect thing — I simply decided to be honest about both in one interview … I don’t think people really considered the reality that when people are abused at such a young age, it kind of sets them on a path that they didn’t get to discover on their own.
TR: You’ve said that child sexual abuse being in the news was one inspiration for your song, “Don’t Touch Me.” Was that a reference to Eddie Long’s story? The Penn State child sex abuse scandal?
RP: The more news that makes its way to the public, the more the issue is brought to the forefront. The important part is to know that people don’t just wake up and [abuse children]. When something happens to someone, particularly as a child, when there is no healing involved and no message of prevention or just a conversation to make the child feel safe, the person has to live with that. It eventually festers and messes with one’s mental and spiritual well-being. When you go to church and the bishop is potentially sleeping with boys, it’s contradictory to the word [of God].
Things keep being revealed [about sexual abuse of children], and it’s in the forefront of everyone’s mind for, like, the first month, but what are people doing after that? You tweet about it for two weeks, but then what?
Some of Patterson’s views, such as the idea that sexual abuse can send a victim on a path of sexuality that he or she would not have taken, are controversial, but essential to an open dialogue about abuse. He’s also pointed to a very important aspect of abuse: that as a community, we need to get involved and stay involved.
Read more at TheRoot.com