JoeyPinkney.com Exclusive Interview
5 Minutes, 5 Questions With…
Jerome L. Whitehead, author of Groomed
One out of every six men in this country has been the victim of a molester in some way, shape or form. As a rule, men do not talk about being victimized. It is counter to what we as young boys have been brought up to be.
We have been brought up to be providers, protectors, husbands, fathers and to a certain degree, nurturers. Being a victim does not fall into any of those categories. Gay men in particular may believe that simply because it is natural for them to sleep with men that no emotional harm may have occurred when they fell victim to a predator.
As an African American male abuse survivor, I have come to realize the harm that has been done and that much like our heterosexual counterparts, we will carry what has happened to us well into our adult years without realizing that the trajectory of who we would have been has been altered with that first touch.
In Groomed, I chronicle my journey from the incidents of my abuse to who I am today telling the story from both the perspective of a 13 year old boy as well as an adult survivor.
Joey Pinkney: Where did you get the inspiration to write Groomed?
Jerome L. Whitehead: The inspiration came on the eve of my 51st birthday. I had conducted book reviews in the past on the topic of abuse and sexual molestation. Most of the authors that I had interviewed were women, and they spoke rather candidly about their experiences and how it changed them.
I interviewed an author of a work entitled When Jonathan Cried For Me. I read the author’s work in practically one sitting, and when I was done, it became clear that when someone becomes a victim of sexual abuse, their emotions are thrown out of whack. What was thrown out of whack for the author was anger. For years, he had a hair-trigger temper…a temper that eventually led to other problems in his life.
When I read his work, and since I was also an abuse survivor, I wondered what was thrown out of whack for me. For me, it was the need to be accepted. I realized in that moment that this was the reason, (at least in part) for why I had made some of the choices that I made throughout my life.
I realized that I needed to tell my story because I was able to connect the dots between what happened when I was a young boy and who I ultimately became as an adult.
JP: What sets Groomed apart from other books in the same genre?
JLW: I tell the story from two perspectives: a 13 year old victim and a 51 year old survivor. I did some research to find books written by African American male survivors and couldn’t find that many.
Originally, I wanted to tell my story to people of color in the LGBTQ community.
After reading the completed manuscript, I thought that my target audience encompassed more people than I originally intended. The book combines my opinion along with my actual experiences. It’s not overly preachy because that isn’t the intent.
I explain what was going on in my head when the events occurred, and I also go into depth in how those events impacted the choices that I made later in life. Some of those choices are good; some of them not so good. This book may give the answer as to why some of us may drink too much, drug too much, sex too much or anything too much.
JP: As an author, what are the keys to your success that led to Groomed getting out to the public?
JLW: I initially searched for a literary agent. With each contact that I made, I received the same response: “We appreciate your honesty, but this project isn’t what we are looking for right now.”
What I heard was that they didn’t think my story would sell. I disagreed. I thought that my story was worth being told. I thought that someone would see pieces of themselves in my experience and if they did, maybe they could take the steps to fix it. Everyone knows that you can’t address a problem if you aren’t aware of it.
I decided to go through a hybrid publisher for this project. A hybrid publisher would have the means to make my book available in all of the platforms needed to make it easy for purchase. A hybrid publisher would also handle the publicity piece. I knew that if I self-published or went through my own publishing company, I would still have to pay for the design of the cover and editing. The hybrid publisher would take care of that and they did a phenomenal job.
JP: As an author, what is your writing process? How long did it take you to start and finish Groomed?
JLW: It took me five years to write this book. I had to think of things that I hadn’t thought about in a long time. After that, I had to decide how much I wanted to tell.
A fellow author shared with me something that stuck with me throughout this process: “You can’t write a book like this without going deep.”
She was right. I had to tell everything – the good, the bad and the ugly. I couldn’t paint a picture where I was the victim completely because that would only be a half truth. But this was my truth. And I had to be as honest as possible. You can’t gloss over the ugly parts.
The writing process was tedious at best. Some of it hurt. Some of it made me angry. And when the writing was completed, I had to set it down and think if I was doing the right thing. I knew that people will come at me because of some of the things written. But I also knew that this work will also help someone else to connect the dots in their life as well – at least that’s my hope.
JP: What’s next for Jerome L. Whitehead?
JLW: I would like to have a dialogue about this issue. Right now, we are living in an age where sexual misconduct dominates our news cycle. Personally, I think molestation is more prevalent than we think.
We need to talk about this as opposed to acting like it exists in other communities or that it impacts one demographic over another. I plan to continue writing and speaking about this very topic because knowledge and awareness is power.