Taraji P. Henson Details Her Escape From An Abusive Relationship

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Taraji P. Henson has a lot in common with her fiercely dressed character Cookie on Empire. They're scene-stealing girl bosses who are both, at their core, survivors. In her new memoir, Around the Way Girl, Henson opens up about the extent of her self-preservation and the personal growth she experienced following an abusive relationship.

Henson details her experience with her then-partner and high school sweetheart, William "Mark" Johnson. Henson and Johnson had been in puppy love in their youth, and continued their romance into college. The two had a son together in 1994, Marcell, now 22.
In her book, Henson writes that there were happy times, but also extremely dark ones. The darkest involved violent interactions with Mark, a dynamic Henson was all too familiar with having grown in a home plagued by abuse between her mother and father. Henson points to one incident that was the last straw in her relationship. “The next thing I knew, Mark’s balled-up fist was coming straight for my face," Henson writes. "I pulled my hand from my mouth and looked at the blood on my trembling finger. I said, ‘You know what? I don’t have to do this — and I don’t have to hate you for it.’"

Henson found strength in seeing her own father come clean about his past mistakes, and hoped the same would happen with Johnson. Unfortunately, her ex was murdered in 2003. Up until then, Henson had allowed Johnson to stay involved in their son's life. “If [my father] had hidden what he’d done and tried to pretend he was perfect, maybe we wouldn’t have had the conversations we’d had, I wouldn’t have had the strength to walk away.”

She continues, “With that separation, my forever man, my first love, was no more.”

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.

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