Madeleine Black has an unusual personal story which she uses to inspire and motivate others. A 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.
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. 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.
I want to end the shame, stigma and silence surrounding sexual violence enabling others to find their voice, whatever their story is. I want people to know that it’s not what happens to us that is important but what we do with it. I will show how changing my mindset tapped into my resilience and transformed my 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. I wants to encourage others to live their life courageously too; but ultimately, I want to inspire hope and show people that we are all so much stronger than we think we are.
The sharing of my story publicly on The Forgiveness Project’s website in September 2014, opened many doors for me in ways I never imagined, and the invitations started to pour in. Many women and men got in contact and explained how reading my story gave them strength, hope, and a different perspective of what’s possible in their lives.
I have taken part in both TV and radio interviews and has been invited to share my story of being gang raped as a teenager at conferences, book events, schools etc. I recognise that I was a victim of a crime that left me silent for many years but has now found my voice and intends to use it. Not just for me, but for so many who can’t find theirs yet.
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In these unprecedented times we face many challenges. Like many of you, I am finding new and innovative ways of working remotely to continue to motivate and inspire others in finding their resilience, strength and growing though adversity.