Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man who allegedly fooled Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o into thinking he was a woman for over a year, says he was molested as a child by a family friend, and the experience changed him profoundly.
In a recent interview with Dr. Phil, Tuiasosopo claimed that at the age of 12, he became the victim of sexual molestation by a person close to his father, who was a church pastor. There was more than one incident, he says, and they usually happened when he was accompanied by the person on trips away from his parents. His father says he was heartbroken to hear what his son went through, and while he never witnessed any wrongdoing, remembers specific times Tuiasosopo claims the incidents happened.
“When he told me the location, the time, I could go back and vividly remember those trips, the times that these guys came over,” he said. “That part, right there, was kind of gut wrenching for me.”
Tuiasosopo claims the molestation had a lot to do with why Tuiasosopo created the false identity of Lennay Kekua and subsequently began an online/phone relationship with Te’o, who claims he had no idea he was speaking to a man. Tuiasosopo eventually decided to kill off his character, leading Te’o to believe his long-distance girlfriend lost a battle to leukemia.
“I felt that I couldn’t do things, accomplish things, pursue things, live out as Ronaiah,” Tuiasosopo said. “And I felt the need to create this. It has everything to do with what I went through as a child.”
When news broke recently that Lennay Kekua wasn’t real, rumors and speculation began to fly that Te’o was in on the hoax just to gain popularity in his quest for the Heisman, but he still contends he had no part in the deception and believed the entire time that he was speaking to a real woman he’d never met.