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Morehouse College 29th Annual Student Scholarship Event

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Before Tyler Perry ever made audiences laugh as Madea, he dealt with years of childhood abuse at the hands of the man he called “dad.”

Outside of the physical and verbal attacks at home, Perry, now 48, also survived sexual assault by other adults in the New Orleans community where he grew up.

“It wasn’t a pleasant childhood,” he tells PEOPLE’s Editor-in-Chief Jess Cagle in one of the latest episodes of The Jess Cagle Interview (streaming now on People TV).

The actor-writer-producer opens up about how he managed to forgive his father figure — and how he later learned that Emmitt Perry Sr. isn’t his biological parent.

“He had a lot of issues,” Perry reveals. “But the thing that helped me get over it and still take care of him today is, I took a moment to find out more about him and his childhood and where he came from, and his was way more horrific than mine. So it kind of formed the person that he was.”

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