It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Unbroken by Madeleine Black, available in paperback and for kindle. I’ve read a number of reviews of this book, and I hope Madeleine will forgive me that I chose not to read it for the tour – we all read, I think, to fit our current circumstances and state of mind, and I felt it might not be the right book for me just at the moment. But read some of those reviews – this is a memoir that would undoubtedly be difficult to read at an emotional level, but an extremely important one, with an uplifting and empowering message.
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 it wrought, as men continued to take advantage of her fragility in the worst possible way.
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 takes a real desire to understand those who have done us so much harm. It is the ultimate act of courage.
In Unbroken, Madeleine tells her deeply moving and empowering story, as she discovers that life is about how a person chooses to recover from adversity. We are not defined by what knocks us down – we are defined by how we get back up.
I’m delighted to welcome Madeleine Black to Being Anne to tell us about writing her memoir…
I often get asked about the process of writing my memoir but to be honest I really feel like it wrote itself! It all started in 2010, when I was advised by Emaho, a teacher I’ve been going to for many years that it would be a good idea for me to write my story down. He suggested I should write it all down including as much detail as I could remember and then let him see it.
At first I was appalled at his idea and every time I started it my shame would rise up, consume me and bring my writing to a halt. How could I let him read all that was done to me? I was worried that it would change his perception of me as if somehow being gang raped was a reflection of me.
Over four years I stopped and started it many times and ended up putting it away. Until one night, back in my hotel room after I had been at a workshop in Basel, I started to see the words of my story flying around my mind. My hands reached for my iPad and it was as if my fingers went into automatic as the words flowed from them.
I felt sorry for my roommate, as I’m sure I was keeping her awake but I just couldn’t stop writing. It carried on all through that night; during the four days I spent there and on the flight home until I had finished writing down the all the details.
When I read it back I was shocked by the content, as I hadn’t held back with the details, but I also felt some relief too. I told Emaho that I had written it out and he asked to see it, so I hesitantly emailed it over to him.
A few days later he told me he would like to share my story at one of his workshops but I was horrified. It took so much for me to share it with him and I couldn’t imagine what all these people would do with my story once they heard it.
He explained that my story was powerful and it would help others to see what can take place on this planet to people but also how we can also walk it out if we choose to. I was still unsure but I trusted him and said ok.
So in April 2014 at one of the busiest workshops in Tuefen, Switzerland he shared my story with several hundred people. One of my conditions was that he taped it for me and to phone afterwards me to say how it went. However, as he was talking I could feel my words flying around in the air and I can’t explain how but I realised that he had let them read my words too, which he confirmed when I spoke to him.
I was mortified and told myself I could never walk back in there again. All these people had read my most intimate details and I felt so ashamed. I listened to the recording of his teaching about me over and over again over the next few weeks, an unhealthy amount of times.
I was shaking physically when I listened back to it and felt disbelief it was me he was talking about, but somehow in the listening of my story over and over again it also steadied me.
I decided to go back to the workshops and I went to Cork in Ireland, not long after he had spoken about me, but I didn’t know that he had told people to be respectful and not talk to me about it. I felt so exposed walking into that room as if I was naked and it took all of my strength not to listen to my mind that was telling me to run out.
I could still feel some shame rising up in me and people didn’t speak to me at all, they mostly looked down at their shoes! So I decided to hold my head high and walk through the crowd and in that moment I felt my shame shatter and leave me.
I met Marina Cantacuzino from The Forgiveness Project a few months later who had heard of my story and asked if she could publish it on their website. She told me I didn’t need to share my name and could be anonymous but I decided I had nothing to be ashamed about and told her to include my story along with both my name and photo. So on September 22nd 2014 I shared my story publicly for the first time.
In November of that year I discovered that one of the other “stories” Marian Partington, was going to be speaking 5 minutes away from where I lived in Glasgow. Most events took place in London, so I was excited to be able to attend and meet her too.
Meeting Marian inspired me to share my story both by speaking and writing my memoir as I saw the effect she had on the people in the room. And after that night the feeling of seeing my words flying around my head returned, keeping me awake for hours.
The following day I would sit down at my Mac and again the words just flowed from my fingers and in about eight weeks I had written 68,000 words. I worked with an editor friend to tidy it up before sending it away to agents and publishers for submission in January 2015.
I have heard it can take a long time to get published so I am so grateful that only a few months later in April John Blake Books told me they were interested in publishing my memoir Unbroken.
Madeleine, thank you – and please, everyone, do follow the other stops on the tour.
About the author
The sharing of her story 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.
She has taken part in both TV and radio interviews and has been invited to share her story at conferences, events and schools.
She recognises 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.
She is married and lives in Glasgow with her husband, three daughters, her cat, Suki, and dog, Alfie.