Gutsy Goddess—Madeleine

"We are not defined by by what knocks us down—we are defined by how we get back up." Madeleine Black

Recovery after Gang Rape

If anybody asked me what would be the single thing that has helped me most in my recovery and healing after being gang raped at aged 13, I would have to say it has been finding my voice.

I silenced myself for so many years mainly due to the immense feelings of guilt and shame that I felt. My opinion of myself was so low; I hated myself and had terrible self-esteem.

I thought that I was contaminated, dirty and worthless for so many years and was so worried if anybody found out that they would think the same. Somehow, I believed that what was done to me was a reflection of me and I was to blame for being raped.

Finding My Voice

So I bottled it all up for years inside, but I quickly discovered that what we don’t talk about leaks out of you and it affected me in so many ways over the years in the shape of fears, phobias and any way I could numb out.

However, when my eldest daughter became 13, I started to have a lot of flashbacks, nightmares and memories return. At first I thought I was going mad and I had made them up, because I had worked for many years at Women’s Aid and Rape Crisis and had heard so many women’s stories.

I thought to myself that if it had been so bad I would have remembered it. I understand now because I work as a psychotherapist, that when we experience a trauma, the mind’s job is to numb it out and it only reveals it back to you when you’re ready to face it, which can take many years.


Going Back to Therapy

So I decided that in order to get some peace with all the images running through my mind, I would go back to therapy to try and get rid of them. I quickly discovered that getting rid of them wasn’t an option; in fact stepping into those painful & shameful memories was my way out.

Giving my story oxygen to my therapist was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done as it brought up so much shame in me but paradoxically it also taught me to stand grounded in my shame, which diminished it. For years I couldn’t even say the word “rape” and here I was diving into my worse nightmare.

But I found over time, the more I worked it the less energy all the pictures and memories had and by the end of the three years, there was no sting left in them at all. I had successfully neutralized it.

Award Winning Podcast, Brave Book, Ted Talk, and more

Madeleine Black with Sir Trevor McDonald, Journalist.

I have come a long way since those days and have now written a book and speak publicly and share my story to help break down the shame, stigma and silence that surrounds sexual violence. I’m not suggesting that everybody goes out and speaks in a public forum. But share your story with someone you trust to break down your own silence and guilt. Running away from the truth, trapped me. Facing up to everything with no more denial saved me. Ultimately the way in; was my way out.

Rising Above Trauma

What challenges have you overcome and what words of wisdom might you share? Please join the conversation. You never know who you might inspire or where it might lead.

To learn more about Madeleine please click here.

To order Madeleine’s book Unbroken please click here.

Listen to Madeleine’s Podcast Unbroken: Healing Through Storytelling. On AudibleApple Podcasts or Spotify. 

Listen to Madeleine’s Ted Talk.

To read about other Gutsy Goddesses click here.


  1. I’m so glad you found your voice, Madeleine, to help you overcome this tragic event. You deserve to be whole again, to live a life without pain, hurt, shame or guilt.

    • admin_laughingatthesky October 21, 2017 at 7:57 pm

      Linda, you and Madeleine are such women of courage. And yes, we all deserve to be whole; Madeleine provides such heartfelt encouragement. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  2. Madeleine, your voice has helped many women heal and find their own voice. Knowledge is power. Thank you for sharing your pain and making women realize it is not their fault and have the power to heal.

    • admin_laughingatthesky October 21, 2017 at 8:03 pm

      Linda, thank you for commenting. I am so hopeful that through finding our voices, telling our stories we can change patterns and builder a safer and better world.

  3. Great work. Thanks for your courage ❣️

  4. Madeleine, what an incredible story. You’re right: running from the truth will only trap you more. I’m glad you persevered through those three years of therapy. The result is well worth it!

    • admin_laughingatthesky October 25, 2017 at 8:35 am

      Lynda, thanks for commenting. Like many I felt like I was silenced for many years. It takes such strength to find one’s voice but it is worth it. I’m glad you stopped by.

  5. “The truth will set you free” is not cliché (nor is it easy). Brava!

    • admin_laughingatthesky November 20, 2017 at 7:50 am

      So true Susan. When I was young a common belief was that if you didn’t talk about horrible things they would go away. Now I know that when pain and truth are buried they fester. Madeline’s insight on sharing our stories is not only extremely relevant but it is a path towards healing, wholeness, compassion and connection. Thanks for your thoughts.

  6. Madeleine, you brave, boundless, unbroken and glorious sister, I applaud you and your voice and your courage in moving through your healing and all that it both asked of you and has offered to you. As a survivor myself, and a woman dedicated to using my voice (my company’s name is One Woman’s Voice!) to break the silence in which so many survivors suffer, I am heartbroken by your horrific experience and heartened by the choices you made to move through it to be in the world as you now are, effecting change and fostering community among survivors and those dedicated to supporting them. Although our stories are different, our paths through healing to public activism are somewhat similar, and your courageous reclaiming of yourself and all that your life is offering to you is beyond inspiring and motivating. Thank you.

    And Heidi, once again, thank you for your amazing commitment to bringing to light the many women you have featured whose own lights are shining on a path for all of us as we move forward together. All peace and much love to you both.

    • Dora, thank you so much for your comments, your contributions to this blog, and your steadfast efforts towards a better world. You and Madeleine do have similar paths to activism and both offer up such amazing inspiration. I do hope we will all meet in person one of these days for a true Gutsy Goddess Gathering. Madeleine, I look forward to introducing you to some of our US activists, especially Dora, and I encourage you to check out her writing and story elsewhere on this page.

  7. Thanks for you goodness and amazing courage.

  8. It’s very important for women to have a voice and psychological support. Rape is the worst kind of crime that can be committed because the scars haunt her for the rest of life.

    • AV, Welcome to our community. Speaking as a survivor it is very true that scars can haunt a person for their full life. I would also like to add that I’ve met many courageous survivors, men and women, including Madeleine, who wear their scars in ways that encourage many others to share their stories, transcend their fear, and rise above. We can be so much more than victims. It is so true that it is important to know you can use your voice, for others to believe you and question the perpetrator, not the survivor. I also agree that psychological support is vital. It was critical to my own healing. Thank you so much for your comment.

  9. Madeline is truly a woman of strength and resilience. She truly deserves the Strength award.

  10. For those who have read about Madeleine and the important work she does to encourage women to speak their truth and to reduce sexual assault, I’m pleased to say that she has just received No1 Magazine’s Amazing Women Award as a Woman of Strength. Her video at the bottom of this link is really worth a watch. CONGRATS Madeleine.

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