By Lambeth Hochwald
April 10, 2019
It’s been an incredible week for Don Lemon, anchor of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon. Not only did he get engaged to his boyfriend, Tim Malone, just two days ago but last night he received a Voice of Courage Award from Safe Horizon, the nation’s largest nonprofit victim services agency, for sharing his personal story of childhood sexual abuse and for empowering others to reclaim their lives after violence and abuse. Read on as Parade.com asked Lemon to share more of his story and to address the importance of helping others who may be facing trauma or abuse.
I can tell that this topic matters so much to you.
I’m a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and I never believed in a million years that I’d be in a position to speak with authority from this CNN platform and to get an award to be this voice of courage—I feel like I’m living in a dream. I always thought it would be something I would hide and take with me and that all of the trauma that happened to me would be something I would have to live with.
Your memoir, Transparent, which detailed your childhood sex abuse, came out in 2011. Since then have more and more people shared their stories with you?
The book had an impact but I talked about it for the first time by accident in the course of a normal conversation. As I talked about it, the people I was interviewing gasped. I wondered why they were gasping and what was the big deal. I didn’t even realize it but I had just admitted to the world that I was a victim of childhood sex abuse. I thought it would be something negative and that people would frown upon it, but the amount of support and people who called or emailed and said they had similar stories was astounding to me.
Is that a message you want to impart to others—to speak out?
There is a very thin line between victim and survivor. Once you cross over that line, it’s really a mindset. You become empowered and you empower others without even realizing it. I think people should be emboldened and confident in this day and age that we’re living in where women are stepping forward, talking about #MeToo and about being victims of harassment. I hope that men can come out and tell their stories of surviving childhood sex abuse. People don’t really talk about it. That’s one reason I love Safe Horizon. They make an effort to help young men and boys of color who are more prone to become victims of sexual abuse and don’t always get the resources they need. I’m grateful they’re doing this.