Madeliene Black is another of life’s survivors, but I will leave it to her to share her story.
After many years of keeping quiet, Madeleine Black decided in September 2014, to share her story on The Forgiveness Project’s website and she completely underestimated what the response would be.
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. The founder of The Forgiveness Project, Marina, often refers to the various people on her website as “story healers” rather than “storytellers” and now she completely understood why.
In March 2015, Jessica Kingsley Publishers released a book called The Forgiveness Project: Stories for a Vengeful Age, by Marina Cantacuzino. It’s a collection of 40 stories from the TFP website, including hers and has forewords by Desmond Tutu and Alexander McCall Smith.
The sharing of her story also opened many doors for her in ways she never imagined and after that, the invitations started to pour in.
What it took for me to forgive
I never intended to forgive the 2 young men who gang-raped me when I was 13 years old. I wanted to hate them forever. As far as I was concerned they were evil, sadistic animals and I wanted someone to kidnap them, tie them up, beat them up, rape and torture them just like they had done to me for hours on end.
But in 2003 there was a combination of events, which I believe released memories that I had locked deep within. My eldest daughter was turning 13, I was attending workshops run by a teacher of life and was studying for a psychotherapy course. The memories of that night started to come back and haunt me again in a way that they hadn’t before and I was unable to block them out anymore.
They were very disturbing; like a porn film running in my mind and to be honest for a long time I thought I was going mad. I mean surely if it was that bad then I would have remembered it? I now know that after a trauma it’s very common for our minds to numb out and shut off disturbing memories, but they can usually resurface many years later, once it thinks you are strong enough.
So I decided that I needed some help to get rid of them. I quickly discovered that I couldn’t get rid of them but that I had to face them and learn to accept what was done to me in order to recover and heal from that night. I learnt that the way in was the way out.
It was during this therapy that my therapist suggested to me in a session that maybe they weren’t born rapists. I could not believe what I was hearing and was completely outraged by what he was saying.
But he planted a seed within my mind and that seed started to grow.
They weren’t much older than I was, perhaps 17 or 18 and I wanted to understand what went so wrong for them? How did they know how to be so violent to another human being? What had they heard; witnessed or experienced that changed them so much?
I do believe that we all come into this world the same way as an innocent baby like a blank sheet and I don’t think anyone is born a rapist, murderer or burglar but that we get conditioned by life, which shapes the path and decisions we make.
A good friend used to be a midwife and she told me that she has delivered 1000’s of babies but has never once met an evil one. That has really stayed with me.
And once I really understood that, I felt for them. In their dehumanising of me I realised that they had dehumanised themselves and were cut off to their own source of aliveness
And the more I thought about being gang-raped and the 2 young men, I couldn’t help but take them into my heart and I started to feel compassion and forgiveness towards them.
I came up with a plan which I call my “best Revenge” many years ago when I decided to become a mother and live as good as life as I can. I chose to be happy but I often wonder what must it be like to live with what you do to another human being?
Forgiveness for me initially was an act of self-love as I had so much blame and shame for what had happened to me. And then it became an act of understanding towards them. I chose to let go of all the pain, hate and resentment I felt for years, which has resulted in a much more peaceful and content way to live my life.
After all they would have no idea if I was consumed by hate, bitterness or revenge and the only person it would hurt would be me and all those in my life. My healing came when I finally faced all the details of what they did to me on that night and learnt to integrate it. I realised that I’m not my body or the things that they have done to me. The real essence of me could never be touched.
And if I am not what was done to me; are they what they did to me?
Her memoir, Unbroken, was published by John Blake Books on April 4th 2017
You can check out Madeleine’s book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XNLZ8RV
and visit her Website www.madeleineblack.co.uk
Facebook page www.facebook.com/madeleineblackunbroken
Madeleine, you are an inspiration to many of us. Thank you for sharing your story.