From Innocent Joy to Tragedy
I was 13 years old, and the popular kid invited me for a sleepover. I was over the moon happy! She was everything that I was not, and I wanted nothing more than to be near her.
Her mother was away from home. We lied about our whereabouts to our parents and went to buy some vodka.
Then, we proceeded to go to a bar where we drank more than we could or should. I was a skinny little 13-year-old. I had never drunk before. Up until this event, I was a good, regular girl. This was the night that everything changed.
My name is Madeleine Black. This is my Kintsugi Story.
I was drunk—completely drunk. We were kicked out of the bar. Two men helped us. They put us in a cab so we could go home, but they came with us to help get me upstairs. They had to carry me like a sack of potatoes. I was not aware or able to be helpful.
They instantly separated us. My friend was in one room, and I was in another. The two men proceeded to tie me to the radiator. I was bound by my hands and ankles. They proceeded to rape me, repeatedly.
It is so interesting what the mind does in a moment of total despair. I started thinking about the neighbors: what were they eating, the smells of food I could smell from an earlier barbecue. As the rape continued and got more violent, I noticed the border of the wallpaper. There were bows, and I started counting the bows. There were 44 of them. I counted so many times, this number stayed with me throughout my life.
The violence escalated. A knife was at my throat. At that point, there was a split, and I was out of my body. I was sitting over the bureau, and I was seeing everything that was happening. How could someone become so evil and commit these acts against a child?
It was almost five hours later they were done. I was, too. I was left naked on the bed. When I woke up, my friend was beside me. She was dressed; I was not. She was untouched, unharmed; I was not.
I had been stabbed, burnt between my thighs and breasts. There was blood, there was semen, and there was excrement. I bathed myself and scraped my body until it bled, but I could not make myself feel clean again.
My friend told me that we had to clean and fix the house so her mother would not know what happened that night. We were to never speak of this day ever again to anyone. We had to listen to what the men told us. They had promised to come back and kill me if we ever spoke about it.
And so it was. We remained silent, and the next phase of my life began. The part where I did not want to be present, but even killing myself was not successful. Even after trying to end my life and waking up in a hospital, even after they pumped my stomach, I could only think about what a loser I had become.
I spent a month in a juvenile psychiatric hospital, and after that I was back to my awful behavior. I drank. I did drugs. I was promiscuous, because I did not believe I could say no. I did not love myself, nor did I believe that anyone ever could. You see, I thought I was dirty and broken forever.
My parents tried everything. One day when I was 16 years old, I decided I had to tell them what had happened on that fateful night. Since the words could not leave my mouth, it was time to put it all in writing. I wrote my parents a note and left it on my pillow in the hopes they would find it. I left for school.
When I returned home, they asked me if it was all true. I said yes. They called my friend to verify the story, but she lied. She said I was making up these stories, and the two young men did nothing but help us back into the apartment and then left us. I felt violated again. I was raped again all over. This was yet another betrayal.
Either the same had happened to her or nothing at all. Regardless, she would have gotten into trouble which she wanted to escape. I have tried to understand her actions and since I could not, I also made the decision to let it go.
My father wanted to go to the police. My mom stood very silent. She didn’t say a word. I found out after my father passed away that my mother had been raped when she was only eight years old. She was raped by her next-door neighbor. Her mother used to send her to play with the daughter, and every time my grandma sent my mother there, she would be raped. When I was telling my story, my mother was getting triggered. She never told my father what had happened to her (they had five kids together), and she could not tell her story.
Love changes the Future
Days turned into months. I had an opportunity to travel to Israel on a birthright trip. It was there I met a young man from Scotland. He was blonde and handsome and sweet and loving. He made me feel safe for the first time in my life. We started a relationship. I realized that I was lovable, and I could also love back.
We continued our relationship beyond the trip. One day he proposed. It was important for me to tell him right away about the rape (minus some details), but I wanted him to know that I had decided I was not going to be a mother. At that time he did not mind, and so I agreed to marry him and a whole new chapter of my life began. I was functioning.
With time, Steven wanted kids. The thought scared me, but we had a wonderful life. We were blessed with three beautiful daughters. Things were progressing until my eldest turned 13. It was that day the memories came back: flashbacks, panic attacks, anxiety attacks. I was a wreck.
I couldn’t let my daughters go anywhere unsupervised. I confess that when my daughter went on the school bus, she didn’t know that I was in my car riding behind the bus, ensuring that she was safe. I wanted them to do things the normal way like everyone else.
Forgiving the Unforgivable
My therapist asked me something, and I was just about to strangle him. He asked if I thought that these young men were born rapists. I needed to visualize the fact that they were born normal, good, and then something awful happened in their lives. All I wanted and did was visualize them being taken against their will for five hours and repeatedly raped and tortured. I couldn’t do that if I had empathy for them. A friend of mine, who worked at a hospital, told me that she had helped deliver thousands of babies throughout her career and not one of them was evil.
I found room in my heart to feel sorry for them, and slowly I felt less angry. I discovered I could have empathy, to forgive. I forgave them but not their actions. I began to understand that not letting go was not allowing me to live. These emotions were not affecting them in any way, and I deserved a life: a life of fulfillment and joy, of peace and quiet and excitement. This life would not have constant fear and constant anger. I deserved to gift that to myself.
Today, I realized that what happened to me does not define my future, and that with that experience I have something of value to give others.
Our Stories are Precious
My story is my most precious possession. With it I can inspire, teach, empower and bring an awareness that otherwise may not be heard. If I speak my truth, if I share my path—I can help. I can share my worth and my value with the world.
I am not the rape, but with my story I can touch the hearts of many and through that reach my own inner joy. My words are now my Kintsugi gold. As I mend my life, I see the uniqueness of my being and what my tragedy can do for others.
I am indeed Kintsugi.
If you have been assaulted reach out for help:
The National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline | RAINN: 800.656.HOPE (4673), you'll to be routed to a local sexual assault service provider in your area.
If you feel suicidal:
Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
To learn more about Madeleine Black you can go to:
Listen to Madeline's TedX talk at: Here
Buy Madeline's book, "Unbroken" from Amazon: Here
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