Tag Archives: Billie Holiday

Famous Survivors of Rape: Part 1

15 Aug

Knowing that you’re not the only person in the world to live through sexual assault can be the greatest relief if you’re a victim. Being able to meet and talk to survivors who are willing to share their stories with you is an amazing privilege. It can also help to have recognizable faces to look up to, public figures who prove through achievement that there is life after rape.

I’ve written about two Hollywood stars in the past, Fantasia Barrino and Gabrielle Union. Here are 5 other famous rape survivors you may (or may not!) already know about:

Ashley Judd

Ashley Judd  The 43-year-old actress (famous for her roles in American films like Kiss the Girls, Double Jeopardy, Where the Heart is, and A Time to Kill, as well as being the daughter of country music singer Naomi Judd and younger half-sister of Wynonna Judd) revealed that she was raped many times as a child in her autobiography All That Is Bitter & Sweet. After her parents divorced when she was 7 and her mother moved the family to Kentucky, Ashley remembers that she was cornered by a old man who offered her a quarter to play the pinball machine, and instead pulled her into a dark and empty store. When she tried to tell trusted adults about what happened to her, however, no one believed her story.

Billie Holiday (April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959)

Billie Holiday One of the best African-American jazz singers in American history began life with a difficult childhood, raised by her half-sister and other caretakers in place of her traveling mother until she was 11, already a school drop-out. On December 24, 1926 while the young Holiday was alone, a neighbor named Wilbur Rich broke into her family home and raped Billie before he was caught by Billie’s mother. He was jailed for his crime, but Billie had to live as a temporary ward of the state in protective custody, and then in a brothel with her mother after the age of 12, before she was able to climb her way out to stardom. 

Connie Francis

Connie Francis The 72-year-old songstress is known for her pop hits “Where The Boys Are”, “Who’s Sorry Now”, “Stupid Cupid” and many more recorded in her youth. After a live performance in New York in the latter half of her career, Connie was raped upon returning to the Jericho Turnpike Howard Johnson’s Lodge where she had been staying. Her attacker was never found, but Connie sued the hotel for neglecting to provide accurate security for patrons, and won an astonishing $3 million judgment. She took 7 years off from her career, and resumed singing in 1989.

Fiona Apple

Fiona AppleShe’s 33 and won a Grammy Award for her ’90s hit single “Criminal” at the age of 21, as well as an MTV Video Music Award for the single “Sleep to Dream” coming off her critically-acclaimed debut album Tidal. Fiona was raped by a stranger on her way home from school when she was 12, and today says about being a role model:

That’s the only reason I ever brought the whole rape thing up. It’s a terrible thing, but it happens to so many people. I mean, 80 percent of the people I’ve told have said right back to me, “That happened to me too.” It’s so common, and so ridiculous that it’s a hard thing to talk about. It angers me so much because something like that happens to you and you carry it around for the rest of your life. No matter how much therapy you go through, no matter how much healing you go through, it’s part of you. I just feel that it’s such a tragedy that so many people have to bear the extra burden of having to keep it secret from everyone else. As if it’s too icky a subject to burden other people with and everyone’s going to think you’re a victim forever. Then you’ve labeled yourself a victim, and you’ve been taken advantage of, and you’re ruined, and you’re soiled, and you’re not pure, you know.

If I’m in a position where people are looking up to me in any way, then it’s absolutely my responsibility to be open and honest about this, because if I’m not, what does that say to people? It doesn’t change a person — well, it does change a person but it doesn’t take anything away from you. It can only strengthen you. It has made me so angry in the past. Like I wanted to say it to somebody. I really wanted somebody to connect with, somebody to understand me, somebody to comfort me. But I felt like I couldn’t say anything about because it was taboo to talk about.

Fran Drescher

Fran DrescherFran is a 53-year-old actress and comedienne, probably best recognized as the title character in the ’90s American sitcom The Nanny. In 1985 while Fran was still married to her then-husband, writer and producer Peter Marc Jacobson, the couple returned home from an outing to find 2 armed robbers in their Los Angeles apartment. Fran and a girlfriend were raped at gunpoint, and her husband was forced to watch the ordeal. The rapist ended up being sentenced to 2 life sentences in prison.

The series continues tomorrow, with a televangelist and former Miss America to add to the inspiration list. Come back and take a look!