Updated: Feb 20, 2019
by Madeleine Black
22nd September 2014; it’s a date I’m likely never to forget. It’s the day that my story was shared publicly for the first time; ending 35 years of my silence.
So many doors have opened for me since I shared my story of surviving a brutal rape as a teenager, in ways I could never have imagined.
There have been newspaper and magazine articles; been interviewed for radio and TV and I’ve written a book.
And it was just a few months before my book Unbroken was published that I truly understood the impact that can take place when we share our stories, that we are story healers and not story tellers.
My publishers advised me to not do any more publicity and media events in the run up to the publication, to keep everything for when the book is out, which made perfect sense to me.
However, I was contacted by BBC Radio Four for their “One to One” series and they wanted me to be interviewed for a programme about Redemption. I remembered what my publishers had told me about holding back, but when I heard who was going to be my interviewer I decided to completely ignore their advice!
It was none other than the legend that is Sir Trevor McDonald!
They flew me to London, I went along to the BBC studios and met Sir Trevor. He is as lovely and as kind and as professional as you can imagine he is. The interview was great, it went really well, the whole experience was amazing.
But to me what was more amazing was what took place after the programme was aired.
My friend Sandra got in contact with me to tell me that her Mother had been listening that morning to the radio. When she went to visit her that evening, she was very animated in a way she hadn’t seen before and was very keen to speak to her.
Excitedly she turned to her and said, “I heard this woman talk on the radio this morning of her story and I connected to all that she was saying. That’s how it was in those days, you couldn’t tell anyone, no-one, you just got on with it”
“Mum, what are you talking about?” asked Sandra, and she replied with a big smile on her face saying “Madeleine felt the same as me, that it was her fault and that she had led herself into the situation. I’ve always felt so guilty too, but I know now it wasn’t my fault. He was to blame!”
“Mum, what are you trying to say to me?”
She turned to her and said, “Sandra, I was raped too just like Madeleine was when she was thirteen years old”This was the first time she had ever told anyone and in the sharing of her secret, my friend’s 81-year-old mother, ended 64 years of her silence.
My friend has told me that something has changed between them, that a bridge has been crossed. And she is now starting to share other things with her too. She feels something has shifted within her, she’s lighter and more energised.
My friend was deeply moved by this conversation, the first of its kind where she saw her mum light up with joy and connection to another woman who understood.
My friend also told me that she’s convinced that if her mother hadn’t heard me that morning on the radio, that she would have taken her ‘shameful’ secret to the grave with her.
And it made me think of all the other men and women out there who have also experienced rape or sexual abuse, that haven’t found their voice yet due to their guilt, shame and concerns that they will be judged.
Every time I’m now asked to speak at an event and share my story, I think of herShe has shown me the power that comes when we share our storiesShe is my motivation andShe is the reason that I speak out!