Whitney Suffered After 'Painful' Alleged Sex Abuse By Cousin Dee Dee, Says Assistant

Whitey Houston, the iconic singer who enchanted an entire generation with her glorious voice, died of an ongoing drug addiction—but there was something else from her past that likely led her to her early grave.

According to the performer's longtime assistant, Mary Jones, Houston's childhood sex abuse by cousin Dee Dee Warwick was what truly tormented her throughout her adult years and caused her deadly downward spiral.

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"I was close to Whitney, she confided in me and I struggled tremendously deciding whether to share this secret or keep it to myself. I deeply love and respect Dionne, Cissy and their entire families, and my intention was never to embarrass anyone in the family, but rather to bring to light that Whitney was subjected to something painful and troubling as a child," Jones told PEOPLE after making the explosive claims in the controversial documentary Whitney.

"And it's something that happens to other innocent kids and goes unspoken too much. I decided to share the story so that people might understand that throughout her entire life Whitney carried this with her, and the weight of it was immense. Whitney was a wonderful woman, and angel, and she did not drag herself down all alone—there was a cause.," she continued.

Houston's older brother Gary also claimed he was molested by Dee Dee between the ages of seven and nine, though their mother continues to deny the claims.

Whitney Houston
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"We cannot overstate the shock and horror we feel and the difficulty we have believing that my niece Dee Dee Warwick… molested two of my three children" Cissy Houston told PEOPLE in a statement. The matriarch also said she and her family learned of the claims two days before the film's May 16 premiere in Cannes.

"Neither Whitney nor Dee Dee are here to deny, refute or affirm… How can that be fair to my daughter? To our family?"

Whitney Houston died on February 11, 2012 inside her bathtub, after taking a cocktail of drugs and alcohol. Her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown died in an eerily similar manner, three years later.

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