Peter Gunz, star of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop revealed a shocking truth at the end of 2017 on an episode of Marriage Boot Camp Reality Stars. In a session with Dr. Venus Nicolino (dubbed Dr. V), one of the show’s therapist hosts, Gunz opened up about his childhood sexual assault.
“An older woman, she used to do some really inappropriate things to me… put her mouth in inappropriate places,” he said. “When I got older, 14, the girlfriends I had, I was pressuring them into having sex,” he added. “So I felt like I took the abuse that I got and put it on other people. I always will regret that.”
Gunz acknowleged that he was intimidated by his abuser and frightened to admit the truth of what was going on.
“Everyone has been victimized at some point, but unless those traumas are dealt with, they become time bombs in our relationships,” Dr. V replied.
As a victim of sexual assault, Gunz felt too scared to talk about what happened to him, especially while he was still a young boy. When we can’t deal with traumatic experiences as they occur in our lives, and when we are unable to talk about the things that frighten us, we take those things and tuck them away. But we can’t keep the truth from eventually bursting at the seams to be revealed. And in order to keep a lid on our feelings about the trauma, we often find unhealthy — even abusive — ways to deal. We may turn to drugs or alcohol. Or like Gunz, we can end up potentially victimizing others. He felt he could only cope with his abuse by putting sexual pressure on girls when he was a teenager. It takes a brave man to both admit that and to express regret for his behavior.
Men are not typically the focus of sexual assault stories. As we live in a world dominated by societal views of masculinity, a man admitting that he was sexually assaulted can be a very controversial thing. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, actor Terry Crews received backlash for coming forward about being targeted with unwanted and even aggressive sexual attention. In response, questions were raised about his sexuality and jokes were made about his “inability” to fight back. His response (on Twitter) included a reference to what he called the “man code.”
“The man code is why I endured the male version of a female survivor being asked, ‘What were you wearing?’” he tweeted.
The decision Gunz and Crews made to talk about their pasts required a level of courage and vulnerability men rarely have the need — or opportunity — to take. In my own communities and circles, I too found that I was silenced when I attempted to connect with my peers regarding my own sexual assault. It’s something that doesn’t seem to be talked about among men, even within the #MeToo movement, and in communities where hypermasculinity is king. It’s time to change that.