Jeannie Mai Opens Up About Being Sexually Abused by a Male Family Member at Age 9
By Jennifer Drysdale
Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images
Jeannie Mai is getting candid about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child.
The Real co-host opens up about being molested by a family member at age 9 in a new episode of her KIN Network webseries, Hello Hunnay. The years of alleged abuse, by who she says was a 16-year-old cousin who babysat her after school, led to a nearly 10-year falling out with her mother, Olivia, who initially didn't believe her.
"I just remember one day this person sitting very close to me, we were playing video games, and he started to touch my thigh," Mai -- who first publicly revealed the abuse in September -- recalls in the video. She continues, explaining that in the following days, weeks and months, it got worse, with her cousin allegedly taking off her clothes, exposing himself to her and forcing her to touch him.
The TV host says that at first, she didn't know how to speak up about the situation. She then asked her mom to get a new babysitter, but Olivia thought they were just fighting like normal kids. When Mai finally found the words to explain what was happening, Olivia was "confused" and "didn't see anything bad about him." Olivia explains that because her nephew's parents were split up, she felt "love" for him and took him in as her own, choosing to believe him instead of her own daughter.
"I began to get angry because now I'm telling my mom that he's taking off my clothes, and you said, 'I don't believe you,'" Mai explains to her mom in the clip. "In that moment, I was about 15. I remember distinctly those words, 'I don't believe you. He wouldn't do that. That's your cousin. This is in your head.' I felt by myself. I even got to a point where I started to ask myself, 'Did I imagine these things?'"
When she was 16, Mai ran away and moved to San Francisco. She didn't speak to her mother for eight years, until they reconnected when she was 24. Olivia says she felt "so bad" and "guilty" when Mai rehashed the situation upon showing up at her doorstep, and later went to confront her nephew and threatened to call the police for what he did to Mai. Her daughter didn't know until they filmed Hello Hunnay.
"I want to come over to his house and punch him and I want to put him in jail," Olivia expresses. "I'm really sorry. I don't know what happened. I don't know why I loved that boy."
"I wish you told me that you went to his house. You never told me," Mai cries in the video. "That right there is all I needed to know, that you believed me and you listened and that you would go and try and do something about it. I just needed your support. I feel like you just set something free inside of me because you believed me."
See more on Mai in the video below.
If you or someone you know would like to speak with someone who is trained to help, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 or visit https://www.rainn.org/