In an interview today on the Dr. Phil show, Roniah Tuiasosopo said that he was sexually abused multiple times.  The abuse lasted over several years.  

Over the past two days, Dr. Phil has broadcast an interview he did with Roniah, Roniah's parents and Roniah's psychiatrist, Dr. Charles Sophy.

A popular child in high school, Roniah didn't know how to deal with the abuse.  "Dark and dirty" was how he felt.

Roniah stated that he did not have a close relationship with his father as he traveled quite a bit as a child.  But when he was a teenager, his father came back to the family and became a Pastor of their church.  Roniah said he was afraid that if he said hey mom, hey dad, this happened to me, his dad would be angry, (what father wouldn't?) and might leave again.  "I didn't know what to expect or the reaction I would get."

The abuse escalated from touching to every form of molestation or abuse you could think about.  He was raped more than once, brutally, painfully raped to the point that he physically couldn't walk, he said.  He never told anyone.

The alter ego

Growing up in a family that was well known in the football world and later, being the son of a Pastor, Roniah felt that he couldn't disclose what was happening to him.  He felt so different from other kids, and as a release, an escape he created the character of Lennay.

Roniah said "I felt that I couldn't do things, accomplish things, pursue things, live out as Roniah, I felt the need to create this, it has everything to do with what I experienced as a child, the sexual abuse.

When he was being abused, he was treated as a girl, he says, which is why he created a female character.  According to his psychiatrist, Lennay was a mask he could use to test out his belief that there was still something good inside of him.  Wearing this mask, he could find love, feel love, feel capable of being loved without having anyone see him - the dirty, disgusting him.

Having Manti love him validated him.  Manti saw good in Lennay - and therefore good in Roniah.  "A lot of the insights Manti shared about Lennay were not about her physical attraction" Roniah said, "When I looked at Lennay through Manti's eyes, I got a glimpse of who I was as far as my heart."

Disassociation is a very real mechanism that many victims of childhood sexual abuse use to cope with the abuse.  When you have buried it so deep, kids will often create a fantasy world in which to live in.  For more information on Dissociative Identity Disorder, follow me below the jump.

From our website:


Many survivors go through a process where the mind distances itself from the experience because it is too much for the psyche to process at the time. This loss of connection with thoughts, memories, feelings, actions or sense of identity, is a coping mechanism and may affect aspects of a survivor’s functioning.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision (p. 529, 2000), Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is:

The presence of two or more distinct identities or personality states (each with its own relatively enduring pattern of perceiving, relating to, and thinking about the environment and self).
At least two of these identities or personality states recurrently take control of the person's behavior.
Inability to recall important personal information that is too extensive to be explained by ordinary forgetfulness.
The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., blackouts or chaotic behavior during Alcohol Intoxication) or a general medical condition (e.g., complex partial seizures). NOTE: In children, the symptoms are not attributable to imaginary playmates or other fantasy play.

While the causes of DID are not entirely known, it is believed that the disorder stems from physical or sexual abuse in childhood. It is believed that children develop this disorder when during abusive situations they slip into dissociative states in order to remove themselves from the situation. If the abuse continues over time, it is believed that children may then begin to split into alter identities during these times of dissociation.

I have to admit this never crossed my mind when this story broke.  I assumed that it was a cover for Manti Teo - that perhaps he was gay and felt compelled to hide it - based on his upbringing, his religion, his chosen profession in the NFL.  My nephew went to Notre Dame and was gay and I know how hard it was for him.  

I can't say for certainty that Roniah Tuiasosopo is telling the complete truth.  I can say that I have personal knowledge and experience with a victim/survivor who copes using Dissociation and suffers from DID.  And when you live in a lie for so long, the truth is often blurred - it is for the person I know.  

Just wanted to share - thanks for reading.

Originally posted to TreeClimbers on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 02:29 PM PST.

Also republished by House of LIGHTS.

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