Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do – whatever practicalities you’re willing to share with readers. Could you share with us what inspires to work tirelessly for social justice.
My name is Madeleine Black, I’m 52 and a Londoner living in Glasgow. My main role is as a psychotherapist but recently published my memoir “Unbroken” in April and have started to share my story and speak publicly too. I first shared my story publicly of being gang raped as a 13 year old in September 2014 on The Forgiveness Project’s website and I completely underestimated what the impact would be! So many people got in contact with me within moments, at first to offer support to me but then people started to share their own story of sexual abuse and rape with me too. In the first few weeks over twenty women had got in contact with me; three of them breaking their silence for the first time. That really touched me and I saw then how powerful it is to share our stories. Marina, who is the founder of The Forgiveness Project, calls us story healers rather than story tellers and I now know exactly what she means. Sharing my story opened many doors for me, in ways I could never imagine and I’ve been invited to speak at conferences, TV/radio, schools and events. And every time I speak someone will share their story with me, which is what inspires me to carry on sharing my story to help end the shame, stigma and silence that surrounds sexual violence.
What is an accomplishment that you are proud of? Why are you proud of this particular accomplishment?
Having my three children is one of my proudest achievements as I never thought I would have children. I thought that having children would be like being raped again and my fear of childbirth was so big that I always told my husband I would never have any. He was fine with that but every now and again he would ask the question again and I can remember the exact moment when I went back on that decision. We were away in Thailand and he asked the question and I was all ready for my usual reply, but suddenly I saw that if I never had children then the two men who raped would have won and would still have power over me and I didn’t want that to happen. The moment I decided to become a mother, was when I started my journey of healing to reclaim me back again.
Can you tell us a little bit about your understanding of gender-based violence? What does that term (and what it describes) mean to you? Has it affected you and your life in any way?
My understanding of gender-based violence is violence that is inflicted by men onto women and girls and is also an expression of power inequalities between women and men. It has affected my life as I’ve been a victim of rape on 4 separate occasions all before the age of 18.
Can you also tell us a bit about your understanding of gender equality? What does this term mean to you?
My understanding of gender equality is that all individuals be treated equally regardless of their gender in terms of opportunities and rights.
Do you think gender equality exists? If not, what are a few ways that you think your life might change by the existence of gender equality?
I don’t think gender equality exists as there are so many gaps around the world for women in all areas of their lives. With regards to education, violence, employment, cultural restrictions, reproductive rights, legal rights and social living; in many countries, these areas of women’s lives are decided by men and women are often restricted in their choices.
If you answered ‘No’ to the question of whether gender equality exists, what is something you could do to contribute to a society that is more equal for all genders?
I’m doing what I can to help raise awareness of sexual violence by breaking the silence with the hope it can help to end the culture that is so prevalent in our society. I believe the more of us that speak out the better.
Ending on a lighter note, do you have a role model who has been an on-going inspiration? If so, why do you look up to this person?
I have always looked up to Maya Angelou as she spoke out about the difficult things too as a survivor and showed us that healing is possible. I have one of her quotes at the start of my book. “I can be changed by what happens to me, but I refuse to be reduced by it.”
Link to Madeleine Black’s story that she first shared:
Link to Madeleine Black’s memoir: Unbroken: One Woman’s Journey to Rebuild a Life Shattered by Violence. A True Story of Survival and Hope: