NEW YORK (CBS) Tyler Perry has produced more than 20 plays, movies and TV shows throughout his career, but his personal life may be the most inspiring of his stories.
Perry opened up about his abusive childhood during an appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" Wednesday.
For years, Perry said, he suffered brutal physical abuse at the hands of his father and sexual abuse from several other adults. He recalled that his early years were "a living hell."
Tears filled his eyes as a picture of a young Perry came on the screen. "That's hard for me to look at," he told Winfrey. "I feel like I died as a child."
Perry confessed that his father brutally beat him as a child, remembering a particular time when he was whipped with a vacuum cord.
"To this day, I don't know why he did it," he said. "But I remember him cornering me in a room and hitting me with this vacuum cleaner cord. He would just not stop. There are all these welts on [me], the flesh that's coming from my bone, and I had to wait for him to go to sleep. When he fell asleep, I ran to my aunt's house, and she was mortified when she saw it."
He added that he lived in fear every day that something would set his father off. It even got so bad that one day he slit his wrists and tried to commit suicide.
"I thought, 'What is the point of living?'" he recalled. "My mother was truly my saving grace, because she would take me to church with her. I would see my mother smiling in the choir, and I wanted to know this God that made her so happy. If I had not had that faith in my life, I don't know where I would be right now."
Perry also told Winfrey that he was sexually abused at the hands of four different adults.
The first time he was molested, he told Winfrey, he was 5 or 6 years old. An adult male neighbor put his hands down Perry's pants while the two were building a birdhouse.
"I'm thinking, 'What is this?'" Tyler said. "And I felt my body betraying me, because I felt an erection at that age."
He added that he was also molested by a male nurse, a man he knew from church, and a friend's mother.
"[The man from church] used God and the Bible against me to justify a lot of the things that were going on. It was so horrible," Tyler continued. "And that was my first sexual experience, with this man performing oral sex on me as a boy."
Perry thanked Winfrey for helping to shed light on sexual abuse on her show and added that he hoped sharing his experiences will help other men find the courage to speak out and begin to heal.