For many years after that night, my memories of what happened after he held the blade to my throat and threatened my life were fragmented… difficult to piece together. It was too extreme, too violent for me to understand.
Violently gang-raped when she was thirteen years old, and raped three more times before the age of eighteen, Madeleine has experienced more trauma in her life than most ever will.
Living in a state of shock and self-loathing, it took her years of struggle to confront the buried memories of that first attack and begin to undo the damage.
Yet, after growing up with a burden no teenager should ever have to shoulder, she found the heart to carry out the best revenge plan of all: leading a fulfilling and happy life. But the road to piecing her life back together was long and painful. For Madeleine, forgiveness was the key. True forgiveness takes genuine effort. It is the ultimate act of courage.
In Unbroken, Madeleine tells her moving and empowering story, as she discovers that our lives are not defined by what knocks us down – they are defined by how we get back up.
I would like to express my thanks to Madeline Black for taking the time to write a guest post about her hugely powerful book Unbroken and the story behind it. Her strength in speaking out not only as an act of self healing and to help other victims, makes me very proud to be part of this blog tour.
My thanks also to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part.
If anybody told me a few years ago that one day I would be sharing my story, giving TV and radio interviews and writing a book I would never have believed it. But on 22nd September 2014, I decided to share my story publicly and it was posted on the website of The Forgiveness Project and I completely underestimated what the impact would be.
I wrongly assumed that people would feel about me the way I did after being raped; disgusted, contaminated and worthless. My self-esteem was so low that I thought that being raped was a reflection of me somehow.
So pressing the share button on my Facebook post that day was one of the bravest things I have done, as not many of my friends or family knew about my rape or that it had been so violent and near fatal.
Within moments I received so many responses from people I knew in the form of comments, texts, phone calls, emails, gifts and visits. Mostly telling me how shocked they were as they no idea about my past. Someone of my friend’s also disclosed their stories of rape and abuse to me too feeling I would now understand their secret. And then I started to receive messages from women and men that I didn’t know who thanked me for sharing my story as it had happened to them too. In the first two weeks of sharing my story 25 people had privately messaged me, three sharing their story for the very first time.
I started to understand that sharing my story wasn’t about me any more but what it could do for others and I it encouraged me to carry on to give a voice to people who couldn’t find theirs yet. The founder of The Forgiveness Project, Marina Cantacuzino, often refers to us as “Story Healers” rather than “Story Tellers” and now I completely knew what she meant by that.
Sharing my story that day has opened doors for me in ways that I never imagined and I have been invited to share my story at events, conferences, schools, radio and TV. One of the most amazing things that I have taken part in was to be interviewed for BBC Radio 4 by Sir Trevor McDonald on the One to One show talking about redemption. It was delightful to meet him but what took place after the programme was aired was more evidence of the power of sharing our stories.
I was contacted by a friend who told me that her mother had been listening in and she went on to tell her daughter that she felt exactly the same whilst I described my feelings of the guilt that I had brought it on myself and the shame of what would people think if they found out.
My friend asked her mother what she was trying to tell her and she went on to disclose that she had also been raped as teenager and that morning was the first time she had told anyone about it. She broke 64 years of silence and it made me wonder how many other people are out there living with a secret cloaked in shame that they never dare to reveal and could potentially take to their grave. My friend’s mother sharing her story of rape had a profound effect of me and every time I speak now I think of her.
It took me many years to find my voice but I won’t be silent any more and I will continue to speak out to help end the shame, stigma and silence surrounding sexual violence. We have seen recently with the recent #MeToo phenomena that when one person speaks up it encourages others to find their voice too and I will speak now for all those that cannot find their voice yet.
Unbroken can be purchased via Amazon
Madeline Black has used her voice to speak out for the victims of sexual violence. A victim of sexual violence herself, she has shared her story in print and TV/Radio to help those who listen to her story.
Married and working as a psychotherapist, she lives in Glasgow with her husband, three daughters, her cat Suki and dog, Alfie.