It takes a lot of courage to find the path to resilience especially when you have gone through a very traumatic experience. Madeleine Black, an international speaker, author, and psychotherapist, shares her healing story when she chose to forgive the men who gang-raped her at the young age of thirteen. For Madeleine, it wasn’t an overnight process. It was an emotional roller-coaster ride because the memories kept lingering on. Madeleine shares how forgiveness and speaking about it are truly essential in these kinds of situation as they are the beginning of healing, surviving, hope, and transformation.
Listen to the podcast here:
Broken and Unbroken – Madeleine Black’s Story of Resilience
It’s Not What Happens To Us But What We Do With What Happens To Us That Matters
My guest is Madeleine Black from Glasgow, Scotland. I’m honored to have her. She’s an international speaker. She’s involved in many things, but more so than anything else is her story. Her story has brought me to tears, brought me the joy and her resilience is remarkable. Without any further ado, here’s Madeleine.
Thank you so much for having me on your show. It’s lovely to be here.
I’m honored. Can you tell us your story?
My story starts in the late 1970s when I was thirteen years old and I was gang-raped by two American teenagers.
What has intrigued me in reading your story is how you got through it, how you developed your resilience.
I have to say my resilience didn’t come in overnight. It’s been a process and it’s taken me years, actually decades to get to where I’m at. I don’t want people who are struggling thinking, “I’ll never get there,” because I never assumed I would get to where I’m at. There was something always inside me, once I decided to heal that always drove me to clean up my trauma. I was driven to do many different types of talking therapies, body therapies, and alternative therapies. It was when my eldest daughter Anna turned thirteen that things changed for me because then all my memories from that night came back in the forms of flashbacks, nightmares, and pictures. At first, I thought I was going a bit crazy.
I thought if it was so bad, surely I would remember it. Now, I understand that because it was so bad, that’s why my mind thought it was safer to shut it out. I was the worst kind of client. I went back to therapy and I said, “I want you to take these memories away. I don’t want to look at them anymore.” I realized after he laughed that actually, my way in was going to be my way out. I had to find a place to accept all that was done to me to acknowledge I can’t change it more and to learn to be okay. After all, they didn’t kill me. I had survived. It wasn’t happening anymore and I don’t think I am my body. I don’t think I am the events that happened to me, even though they have shaped my life.
Very near to the end of these three years of my final days of therapy, he turned to me one day and says, “Maybe these two guys weren’t born rapists.” I was like, “I can’t tell you how angry I was with these men. How dare he say that to me.” I fantasize for years about somebody kidnapping the two of them, taking them to an empty flat, beating them up, tying them up, raping and torturing them for four or five hours on end like they had done it to me. He planted a seed in my mind, which started to grow arms and legs. I found myself wanting to understand. What had conditioned these two young men to make them behave so violently towards a human being? What had they seen, heard or experienced so they could behave that way?
I do believe that we are all born a blank sheet. I don’t believe we come in a rapist, a murderer or a terrorist. We are conditioned by life and somehow, I don’t know where I call myself an accidental forgiver. I found compassion in my heart towards these two young men. I thought I have done a good job of refusing to be identified by what had happened to me that they have to live with what they did to another human being. I can’t imagine that would be easy. I’m not saying I could ever forgive the act of rape, but I could forgive them for being human and their predicament.
It’s interesting because I think I have thought about some research that I had read about when people have things happen to them and forgiveness is a complicated thing. You’re not forgiving them. You’re really forgiving yourself for thinking.
If you think of the word it is for giving and it’s for giving me a better chance, it’s for giving me the chance to let go. I didn’t need them in front of me to say, “We are sorry for what we did.” I didn’t need for me to say to them, “I forgive you.” It was a decision I made internally, in my heart and my mind. I thought, when I’m angry, hating life and them, they had no idea. My anger is only hurting me, poisoning myself, my husband, my kids which I struggled to have for years. They have no idea if I’m holding onto all of that resentment. It is only harming me. I thought, yes, I have to work the trauma out of my system. You can’t get to this place overnight, but I could go many ways. I could hold onto the anger and it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die or I could choose to let it all go. Realizing that it’s only going to harm me if I don’t let it go. It transformed my pain into peace.
That’s a testimony on the power of choice. Choice is so important to our growth and how we grow. When you realize that you have that power, did you have an epiphany that brought you to the point of coming to this whole realization? What triggered it?
I guess my epiphany happened many years ago because I can remember the exact moment when it came in. When I first met Steven, my husband, I told him I’d never become a mom because I thought giving birth was going to be like being raped again. I couldn’t face that. The fears and men working on my body, all of it seemed horrific. We would take on our annual leave and go away every winter to somewhere warm and exotic. We had been in Thailand. We’ve been married a couple of years and we were walking on a beautiful beach, which is at the end of our four-week holiday and he turns to me and said, “How about starting a family?”
I was all ready for my usual response of, “Steven, you know why I can’t do that.” Something came in and then I thought, “If I never become a mom, they’ve won. I’m still giving them all my power and control over me.” I thought, “I don’t want them to do that anymore.” I came up with my plan that I call my best revenge and I was determined that I would become a mom. I was determined to find a way to clean up the trauma, refusing to be identified by what had happened to me and to live my life as best as I could. That was the start of my epiphany if you call it. For me, I call it the start of my healing journey, reversing my decision on motherhood.
I had a thought that you must have an incredible husband.
He’s not bad. He is 35 years later. He’s good.
He’s been understanding and supportive.It’s not what happens to us that is important, but what we do with what happens to us. If we choose to, we can get past anything that happens to us in life. Click To Tweet
I’ve done a lot of strange therapies in my past. I’ve been to 50 sweat lodges. I’ve taken San Pedro, which was ayahuasca. I’ve done fire walks. I’ve been to transformational breath work. He says, “Just go if it helps.” He’s never wanted to come. He says, “If it helps, you go.” He’s very supportive.
How much has your past played in your role of becoming a psychotherapist?
A lot of people assume it’s because of what happened to me and maybe subconsciously there is that in me, but my father was a Holocaust survivor. His mother, his father, four or five brothers and sisters, his youngest brother who was six years old were all murdered in Auschwitz. I was always intrigued at a young age how my dad loved life. He mucks about. He was a big child himself and his only surviving sibling, my Aunt Eva, if she heard a motorbike she thought the Gestapo was coming to get her. She had chronic schizophrenia, acrophobia, and OCD. I was always fascinated by how two people were in a similar environment and they come out so differently. That always intrigued my mind.
I got goosebumps because my family escaped Prussia early on and came to America. I have Jewish blood that runs through me but what made my skin get goosebumps all over was when you said that, how two people can go through the same experience and come out differently. In my childhood, we were moved from living in a very urban area to a very rural area. That left me feeling lonely and abandoned. I chose to come out of it by escaping from the little town that we had moved to and living life, where my brother and sister stayed there and have lived the life of a rural community. We’re so different with my brother and sister. My brother’s passed away but I’m different than them. I have always wondered why I am so different and why I chose the path that I did.
I’ve always looked at it as a journey of faith because when I was nine, I went to the top of this hill and had a conversation with God as what was going to happen to me. That’s how I learned about expectations and how to handle it alone and all that, even though at the time I didn’t know it. It propelled me into a different way of thinking, understanding the power of choice, the power of expectation and living our dream, living for the moment. I’m a former Marine and I was in Vietnam. Those experiences though, I have done the same thing that you have done. I’m not saying that anyone’s trauma is worse than any other person.
It’s not about comparison. I believe it’s not what happens to us that is important, it’s what we do with what happens that matters. If we choose to, we can get past anything that happens to us.
That is a powerful truth. If we choose to get through something, we can take it on and get through it, no problem.
My father, it wasn’t by what he said but how he lived his life. All of your family murdered in Auschwitz, you couldn’t get much more traumatic. Being an orphan, not speaking the language, coming to a different country, starting again, if he could get past all of that, surely I could get past one night. It also showed me that life was for living. My dad loved life.
That is the other thing that I have found with people who have experienced trauma. When they experience trauma, they learn this lesson that life is valuable and that it is worth living. It’s another choice we make whether we can choose to let it consume us or we can consume it.
I did let it consume me for years. I numbed out. I shut down. I was like an ice block. I couldn’t feel, think or speak. Eventually, obviously over the years, I’ve hit the defrost button and I slowly have emerged back from the numbness. You have to shut it down and to protect yourself. It would be too much for it all to come out in one go. You have to find a way to defrost.
Can we talk about your teenage years? What was it like?
Because I couldn’t find my voice, I couldn’t physically say what had happened. I was terrified because I was threatened that if I did speak about it, they would come to find me and kill me and I believed them. I couldn’t say what had happened. It took me three years, where I actually wrote a note. In the meantime, what we don’t speak about leaks out of us. I developed an eating disorder and anorexia. I had depression. I used drugs and alcohol to numb out further. I had fears, phobias, I became suicidal. I attempted suicide and ended up in a psychiatric ward for children for about two or three months. It affected me in so many ways. It was a dark time in my life. With all those things, the worst thing was my attitude to myself. I thought I was dirty, contaminated and worthless. I didn’t understand the point to me. What was the purpose of my life? It would be better off for me and everyone else if I wasn’t here. It left me with no confidence, with no self-belief and no self-worth at all.
How did you gain it back?
Slowly and I’ve been very fortunate that I met Steven. He was the first man that I felt safe with, which is a strange word to use but it’s true. I felt safe with him. I could trust him. I was in Israel for a year and I met this Glaswegian, and I was amazed he still wanted to see me when we came back to the UK. I would drive the poor man mad, “Why do you want to be with me? How could you possibly love someone like me? What do you see in me?” He was consistent. He said, “I just love you.” Over time with his love, I saw many things. That I was lovable, that I was able to give love back and I could start to love myself. Love is always going to win. Love will always win over hate. Learning to like myself, to begin with and then loving myself and realizing it was never my fault. I never invited it in. I didn’t do anything wrong. All the guilt I felt for years, it was never my shame. The shame belonged to them. I held onto inappropriate shame for years and years and that’s what kept me silent.
Unconditional love. I knew Steven had something special to offer you. In my mind, I was thinking, “How did she get through this? What broke her out of it and all that?” I could imagine you thinking, “Who’s ever going to love me?” To open yourself up to the love that Steven has for you, it’s a testament to both of you. It’s powerful to the word unconditional love. He loves you unconditionally for who you are and that is so freeing. When you know that you’re unconditionally loved without any conditions on it, it’s a powerful transformation. It goes on inside of you.
It also started the ripples to start to love myself and I should be able to give love back. I had built a barrier around myself. Brick by brick, the barrier has come down. The wall that I built to protect myself and my defense mechanism. It kept me from people and it kept me from the world. It kept people from coming in. Eventually, the wall had to come down.
It’s beautiful that it did it and you’re doing so many things. Can you tell us what you’re doing? I know you’re involved in a ton of stuff and I want you to tell us about your book.
I published my story and my memoir, which is called Unbroken. It was in September 2014 that I shared my story with an organization called The Forgiveness Project. Marina, who is the Founder, refers to us as story healers rather than storytellers. She believes in the power of sharing our stories and sharing our narratives. I agree. It’s not what it can do for me, it is what it could do for other people. Sharing my story opened so many doors and I was invited to speak, to do radio, TV interviews, podcasts, newspapers, and magazines. The more I went to speak at an event, the more I would be asked to speak elsewhere. I am a psychotherapist, but I’ve decided to finish up doing therapy with people and focus on speaking more and to share my message of finding your voice. Healing your past, living your now, being present, to live courageously and all the messages of hope. I want to go out and speak and share my story.
You’re involved in a program called RESTORE that works with the prison system.
I’ve only been to one program. It’s run by The Forgiveness Project. It’s been running for a couple of years and they go into prisons. They work with men and female prisoners. It’s about a three-and-a-half-day course and they prepared me a little bit before I went in but nothing could have prepared for how profoundly moved and touched I was by the work that’s done in these projects. It was incredible. RESTORE is working with about fifteen prisoners. I saw the women’s project and it’s about how do you restore yourself? What’s your anchor? It’s about forgiveness. It’s a personal development course over three and a half days.
We use artworks. They draw pictures. They draw their lifeline. We use words. They write poetry. They write a diary every night and it’s also about the power of sharing our stories. They have a storyteller, who will share her story. Once they’ve all drawn their lifeline, they will share their story amongst their peers. It’s incredible what comes up and how much they grew. One woman said to me, this course has changed her life and I think three and a half days and her life has been changed. It’s powerful stuff. I’m booked to go back and hopefully see the men’s program and to go and do another course of RESTORE.Fears aren’t real. They are mostly imagination. Click To Tweet
Are these prisoners about to be released?
They’re recruited by prison officers and they’re recruited as people that they know are very open and willing to do personal development. We had some people that have done the course before and were desperate to come back and carry on. There was one woman who was a lifer so she wasn’t going anywhere. They’re all in very different stages of their sentences but there’s no discrimination. It’s open to anyone that’s willing to do the course.
I’ve done some prison work and we did some research. Part of our research, we went in and we had a questionnaire. On the questionnaire it asked the question, were you told as a child that you were going to go to prison? We found that 89.8% of the people that we surveyed, which was men, women, young adults, lifers, all of them had heard as a child, you’re going to end up in prison.
What was amazing to me was how many of the women said to me coming to prison that saved their lives. They were in such a really negative situation before, abusive, being pimped out by a boyfriend or drug addiction. They were determined while they’re in prison to educate yourselves, clean up the acts, go out and do something different. I was like, “That’s so sad.” Coming to prison has saved them because it woke them up to what’s going on.
I keep having these thoughts. What happened to the two boys who had raped you, do you know?
No, I don’t. I never spoke about it because they threatened me and I believed them. When I was sixteen, I wrote a little note because my parents were losing patience with me. I was very rebellious. I was going out when they said don’t go out. One morning I snuck back at 6:00 in the morning and my mom was shouting at me, “Don’t you know what could happen?” Inside my head, I was shouting the words, “It’s already happened,” but I still couldn’t speak it. I left a note on my pillow briefly explaining what had happened. When I came home my dad said, “Is this true?” When they called the other girl involved, she said, “No, it didn’t happen.” I said, “They were nice boys. They were sons of diplomats. They wouldn’t have done that. They took us home.” My mom was quiet and it took me many years before I understood her quietness but I misunderstood her quietness as she didn’t believe me. My dad was desperate to go to the police and I just said, “No.” I was too scared and my mom also supported me in not getting to police.
I found out many years later that my mother had been raped when she was eight years old by a neighbor. When this had happened, he was also discovered to be raping his daughters that he was sent to prison. He was charged, found guilty and my mom, my grandparents moved away and they never spoke about it again. When I am revealing my story, my mom’s getting triggered by her trauma. My dad didn’t know. They had five of us. Even when he passed, he still didn’t know. She’s remarried and I have a stepfather and he knows but she couldn’t find her voice. I’ve never known what’s happened to these two because I never charged them.
How do you feel about that?
I’m okay about it because I couldn’t do it at the time and it was right for me. People said, “Don’t you want to find them now and charge them?” I have no inclination at all to meet with them and see them. I’ve had some nasty people, not many, somebody left a review on Amazon saying that because she didn’t report it, they’re now out raping off people and it’s her fault. It’s absolutely never my fault. If you don’t report your car getting stolen and your neighbor’s car was stolen, that’s not your fault. Why when it’s an intimate crime like rape, we put all the emphasis on the victim? We don’t look at the rapist or the abuser, we turn on the victim. It’s my fault if they’ve got out and raped again. No, it’s not. 100% of all rapes are caused by rapists.
It’s because it’s easy to point the finger to the victim and that’s sad.
It’s bad and it’s very damaging because it keeps people quiet and our silence just protects the perpetrators.
With the #MeToo Movement, people are coming out more and more about what’s happened to them. It is extremely difficult to come out. I have events that happened in my life that I think about that I can’t talk about and I haven’t talked about, it’s not easy. Even when you’re trained in, even when you know, it’s really difficult. I’m very aware of it and in tune with it. My belief is that ultimately the man up above has the final say in everything. What role has faith played in your journey? I don’t mean necessarily a religious faith.
I wouldn’t say I was religious. I’m a real mixture. My dad was former Czechoslovakia Jewish and my mom’s parents were Irish Roman Catholics. When my mom married my father, my grandma held a mass and said, “Her daughter had died and gone to hell.” I don’t like religion too much but I like the Jewish traditions. I have brought up my kids Jewish. I like all of the traditions, but I believe in the essence of a good person rather than a religious person. I believe in being a good human being. I guess my faith has been my drive to clean up the trauma. Something has always driven me and I don’t know where that’s come from. I always feel like somebody or something is at my back when I’m speaking at an event. I often don’t prepare what I’m going to say and I have faith that the words come in. They seem to come from somewhere. The words just come into me. When I was writing my book, when I made that decision again, it took six or eight weeks and the words literally downloaded in my system and I vomited them onto the page. In eight weeks, the book was written. I don’t know what it was that has always supported me and always helped me.
You’ve given me goosebumps because I want you to listen to this. My mom is German Jewish. My father is Irish Catholic. We have so much, I do not write a speech. I speak from my heart. I don’t prepare.
I think people tune into that as well.
It’s authenticity because when you speak from your heart people see it. People know it. People feel it. When you memorize something, it comes off.
My fear is I’d forget what I had to remember and panic. I’d lose my place and say, “Did I say this and did I say that?” I think it’s easier just to go with the flow and see where it goes.
When you’re speaking in prisons, do you often look out and wonder, do you think about the rapists that are in there?When we find our voice, we stand in our truth, and then we stand in our power. Click To Tweet
I will come across men that have raped but I’ve worked with men that have raped as a psychotherapist. One of my clients that influenced me so much had been accused of rape, but he had been raped himself and the man that raped him, counter-accused him so my client was in prison. He was on the sex register, which we have in the UK, which you stay on for fifteen years until it gets reviewed. He taught me a lot. I don’t believe that men are born rapists. I would really see them as a human being.
I liked it that you said that we’re born with a clean slate. My belief is that our expectations are developed and they are so key in how we grow. How we expect is almost more important than anything else in our life because we either do it positively or negatively.
My friend who actually is my manager at the counseling center where I work, used to be a midwife. She said something to me years ago, which always stayed with me. She said that she has delivered thousands of babies and she never once met an evil one. That was it. We’re all the same.
The choices that we make about the events in our life dictates how we move through life and how we go through it.
We hold on to all that hurt and disappointment and if we do, what purpose does it serve? Could you also learn to let it go?
I often say to people, “It’s not what has happened to us that matters, it’s how we react to what has happened to us that matters the most, how we handle it and what we do with it.” Tell us about your book.
It is called Unbroken and it came out in April of 2017 and it is my story from that night. The first pages were from that night when I was thirteen in May 1979. The last chapter is called Endings and New Beginnings. It’s where I got to the end of forgiveness and starting to speak or starting to share my story. It’s my journey of surviving, healing, forgiveness, transformation and hope.
When you think about it, your healing started right after the event.
I didn’t see it then though.
What advice would you have to any survivors?
It’s never ever too late to find your voice or to get support. Find somebody out there. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a therapist. If you can’t afford therapy, there will be somebody you can share your story with because to keep that all inside is damaging you. It’s going to leak out, impact on your body and on your mind. It affects your day-to-day well-being and mental health. The power of giving your story oxygen just shifts and moves the energy that has got trapped inside you. You can’t underestimate what speaking your words, your story and your truth do to you.
It’s how you reinvent yourself. It’s how you heal, reinvent, move on and become more powerful.
When we find our voice, we stand in our truth and then we stand in our power.
When you find your voice and you link it being with people that you can have an impact on, that’s when it becomes very powerful when you see it transform other people’s lives.
I don’t expect everybody to stand on a stage and speak and share their story or to write a book but you need to find someone to share it to, to end the silence. The silence only hurts you and protects the perpetrators. If you can’t find anybody to share your story with, write it down and tell yourself your story. Find a way to release what’s been locked up inside of you.
That is key is being able to release and verbalize it either in written form or verbally. There has a lot of power in being able to bring it out, get it out and deal with it.
In my book, I talked about the many weird and wonderful ways that I use to clean up. You don’t have to try those different therapies as well. I did some things that people might think that’s a bit strange but that’s okay. There will be a way for everybody. For me, somebody suggested that I went to therapeutic massage. That was the first time I started entering down the alternative route. The very first time I went, I could hear this person shouting, screaming, crying, fighting and then I realized it was me. It was all coming from me; the trauma and the pain are just trapped in ourselves. We have to find a way to shift it and to move it. The therapeutic massage has this way of getting deep into what was buried inside of me and it released so much trauma. It helped to clean it up.
That must have taken a lot of strength to go to a massage.
It was because I was terrified of being touched. I was terrified of being alone in the room with someone. Everything scared me. I was terrified of my own shadow. I couldn’t go with a man to do a massage. It had to be a female. I couldn’t let a man touch my body to do anything to me. I had so many conditions of everything. To get in my car and drive to town, I had to check the car, check the boots, get in and put the buttons down. When I got to a car park, I couldn’t park on a very high level because I’d have to walk down. I couldn’t take the lift in case someone came into the lift and everything. It was exhausting living with this constant being on edge, always on duty. Always being on guard, waiting for somebody to attack me, which was crazy because it had already happened. It’s like trying to shut the stable door once the horse has already bolted.
I was thinking about PTSD. It’s what you were that you’re experiencing.
High level of anxiety and my security. I was so scared for my security.
I was thinking about between the time you were thirteen and sixteen it must have been a constant looking over your shoulder and trying to figure out what was coming next.
I think those years, I’m already more numbed out. Numbing is a feeling but I wasn’t feeling or thinking much. I was what people would think, a troubled adolescence, grunting and groaning, which fits in with being an adolescent anyway. When I was maybe married and before I had kids, I was hyper-alert all the time. Looking back, I thought it was okay. I put on a mask pretending I was fine but actually when I look back, I can see I was very paranoid. I still have so many fears and phobias. We can convince ourselves of everything. We convinced ourselves that it’s quite normal to not be able to put your rubbish bin down at the end of the garden because it’s dark. You wait until there are lights. We convince ourselves of everything, “It’s not because I’m scared, I’ll do it in the morning.” Fear was my best friend. It ran my show for years.
Fear is the thing that stops us from living more than anything else in our lives.
I was trying to protect myself, but I was protecting myself from living my life. I was shutting myself down by my fear. It got to a point in my life where I thought, I saw then that my fear wasn’t real. I saw my fear was based on what had happened to me or what could happen to me. It was my imagination because the worst had already happened and something else hadn’t happened yet. I was okay. It was my imagination. I set out to challenge my fear, which is maybe quite extreme. It’s a bit like immersion therapy. When I was doing as a psychotherapist, we had a placement, I was in a GP in a doctor surgery. I then asked only to see male clients because I was terrified of being in the room of men. I thought I have to go over this. I’ll never be a good therapist if I could only see women. It’s cutting out 60% of my clients. I would do things to put myself into situations. I went to karate. I started when I was 41 and it’s predominantly male. It’s maybe only two or three of us women and the rest 40, 50 men. That’s two, three times a week. I windsurf now. I do all these things. I’m a powerlifter. I go to the gym with men around me, grunting, dropping weights and brooding and all the rest of it. By facing my fears, my fears weren’t real. They were my imagination.
That brings to mind with me. Some people have fear because of the unknown. You didn’t have fear because of the unknown. You had fear because you knew what could happen but it had already happened. A lot of people let things stop them because they’ve never experienced it.
The acronym for FEAR can mean False Evidence Appearing Real or Face Everything And Rise. I did the first one for a long time, then I decided to do the second one.
I’ve heard those before and they are powerful because it’s a choice. It goes back to about making the choices that we do. What else is coming up?
I’d really like to work internationally to spread my message wider. I woke up on January 1st, with an invitation to go to South Africa to speak. I’m delighted that I’m going there because rape is a huge problem there anyway. The first talk I’m doing is at Speakers Convention, which could be interesting because I’ll be speaking in front of speakers, but it will be great. I’m speaking for a charity event and I’m doing a radio show. I’m only there for four or five days. I thought life is supporting me. That’s my faith. I asked to have an international event, on January 1st then I woke up and I had an invitation. I’m going to see where it all goes.
Have you applied to any TEDx Talks?
I did apply a few years ago up in Glasgow but I wasn’t successful. I’m going to think about applying again.
There’s a trick to getting into a TEDx Talk because they don’t want to hear your story. TEDx wants you to tell their story, how they want to tell. I’ve learned a lot about TEDx styles. They do their thing and they get some great information out there. I’m not saying it’s not but it’s very structured and all that. Any plans to come to the United States?
I would love to come. I was actually invited to go to Kentucky but it didn’t work out. Anybody that would like me to come over to the United States, I would love to come and speak wider. Hopefully, it will take place. I have an agent, which I never had before. He contacted me. He hadn’t heard me speak but he saw a video and said he’d like to represent me. We’ll see where that goes as well.
Madeleine, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Where can people get ahold of you?
It’s been a pleasure and I’ve enjoyed this time. I can’t say how proud I am that you’ve risen above it, move through it and came out on the other side because so many people don’t. If there’s any message that I want the audience to hear is, “Yes, I can. Yes, we can.” We can move through anything and we can do anything our heart’s desire. It’s been a pleasure, Madeleine. I can’t wait to see, hear you and meet you.
Thank you so much for having me.
- Madeleine Black
- The Forgiveness Project
- #MeToo Movement
- LinkedIn – Madeleine Black
- Madeleine Black Unbroken – Facebook
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About Madeleine Black
International Speaker, Patron for Say Women, Story Teller for The Forgiveness Project, Author of ‘Unbroken’ and Psychotherapist
Madeleine Black has an unusual personal story which she uses to inspire and motivate others. She chose to forgive the two men who gang-raped her at thirteen years old and she shares her story for many reasons.
She wants to end the shame, stigma, and silence surrounding sexual violence enabling others to find their voice, whatever their story is. She wants people to know that it’s not what happens to us that is important but what we do with it. She will show how changing her mindset tapped into her resilience and transformed her life, making people question their own thinking and encouraging them to see that there are always choices to make, and if we choose to, we can get past anything that happens to us in life both professionally and in our personal life. She wants to encourage others to live their life courageously too, but ultimately she wants to inspire hope and show people that we are all so much stronger than we think we are.
The sharing of her story publicly on The Forgiveness Project’s website in September 2014, opened many doors for Madeleine in ways she never imagined, and the invitations started to pour in. Many women and men got in contact and explained how reading her story gave them strength, hope, and a different perspective of what’s possible in their lives. She has taken part in both TV and radio interviews and has been invited to share her story of being gang-raped as a teenager at conferences, book events, schools etc. She recognizes that she was a victim of a crime that left her silent for many years but has now found her voice and intends to use it. Not just for her, but for so many who can’t find theirs yet.
In March 2018 she won the Amazing Strength award at the No. 1 Magazine Amazing Women Awards and in October of the same year was asked to be the Patron for Say Women, a Scottish organization which offers safe accommodation and support to young women who are survivors of sexual abuse/rape and who are homeless. She is one of 50 Thrivers taking part in research by The Global Resilience Project to develop a resilience blueprint for others. She is a storyteller for The Forgiveness Project and has recently become involved with their program RESTORE, sharing her story in prisons
As well as being an “accidental speaker” she continues to work as a psychotherapist in Glasgow. Her memoir, Unbroken, was published on April 4th, 2017.
“It’s not what happens to us that is important. But what we do with what happens to us and if we choose to, we can get past anything that happens to us in life.”
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