On International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women, Madeleine Black shares her story of survival.
As a teenager, Madeleine was subjected to unspeakable sexual violence. Not only did she survive the traumatic event, she continues to thrive.
She tells her story in the hope that it helps others break down the silence and reclaim their life.
Aged 13, Madeleine was raped by two teenage boys. She was badly beaten and tortured during the attack. Afterwards, she believed the words of her attackers – that if she told anybody, they would kill her.
She told nobody and her life spiralled before she eventually took an overdose. This resulted in a spell in a children’s psychiatric ward.
Then, at the age of 17, she moved to Israel where she met her now husband, Steven.
Here, Madeleine shares how she eventually came to terms with the attack.
“When my eldest daughter became 13, I started to have a lot of flashbacks, nightmares and memories returned.
“In 2014, I decided to break 35 years of silence by sharing my story publicly. So many people got in contact with me. To start with it was people I knew, as most of my friends hadn’t known about the rape, or if they did they didn’t know that the gang rape was near fatal.
“Then strangers started to send me messages, sharing their own stories of rape and sexual abuse. They all said the same thing to me, “You are so brave” or “I’m too ashamed and not brave enough”. I wish as a society we were able to hear, listen and believe with no judgement or victim blaming. Shying away from the uncomfortable things in life help to keep them hidden and unspoken.
“It was my shame and guilt that silenced me. I thought that if people knew what had happened to me then they would change their opinion of me and wouldn’t want to know me anymore.
“My opinion of myself was so low that I thought that people would think I was worthless, contaminated and useless, just like I did for years.
“However the silence only hurt me and magnified my shame. I see now that the shame never belonged to me, it always belonged to my perpetrators, but I carried and wore my inappropriate shame for years.
“Sexual violence is such an intimate crime, it didn’t just affect my body but my mind and psyche too and the impact lasted far longer than one night.
“Giving my story oxygen to my therapist was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as it brought up so much shame in me. But paradoxically it also taught me to stand grounded in my shame, which diminished it.
“Many doors have opened for me since I shared my story. I’ve been on TV and the radio, and invited to speak at conferences, schools and events. By sharing my story it helps end the shame, stigma and silence surrounding sexual violence.
“I’m not suggesting that everybody goes out and speaks in a public forum. But share your story with someone you trust to break down your own silence and guilt to start to reclaim your life.
“Running away from the truth, trapped me. Facing up to everything with no more denial saved me. And I know that whatever they did to me, they can never touch the real essence of me and who I am.”
For more information on information on International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women, click here.
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