10/06/2009 at 09:00 AM EDT
There's nothing funny about Tyler Perry's latest work: a revealing account of the horrific abuse he suffered as a child.
"I always thought I would die before I grew up," the comedian writes in an uncharacteristically somber letter to fans on his Web site
After watching a screening of the lauded movie Precious
, which he executive produced with Oprah Winfrey
, about a 16-year-old girl who is physically and emotionally abused, the New Orleans native, 40, best known for his comic Madea character
, reveals a flood of memories came back, and that "a large part of my childhood had just played out before my eyes."
Beginning with his mother's failed attempt to leave his abusive father, Perry recounts a horrific list of beatings and hardships he suffered.
"My father came home, mad at the world," he writes. "He was drunk, as he was most of the time. He got the vacuum cleaner extension cord and trapped me in a room and beat me until the skin was coming off my back."
Perry goes on to relate accounts of being seduced by a friend's mother at age 10, to being molested by another friend's father, to finding out that his own father was molesting a friend. And he tells of how his grandmother made a bizarre attempt to rid him of his allergies.
"She said she was going to kill these germs on me once and for all," he says. "She gave me a bath in ammonia."
But seeing Precious
, he said, helped him realize once again that he had survived it all.
"It hit me so hard, I sat there in tears realizing that somehow, by the grace of God, I made it through," writes Perry, who signed on as an executive producer on the film. "My tears were tears of joy, being thankful that I made it."
And the most important lesson of all? Learning to forgive, he says.
"I know that there are a lot of people out there with stories far worse than mine but you, too, can make it. To those of you who have, welcome to life. I celebrate you," he said. "We're all PRECIOUS in His sight."