The TreeHouse editors were recently given the opportunity to interview Sandy Madsen, author of Purple Mums, on her work of nonfiction about rape survival. Stranger rape and the recovery from it are detailed in Purple Mums, not only by Madsen, but also by her spouse, children, and therapist.
Sandy Madsen is a public face and voice for the thousands of sexual assault victims who remain silent. She bravely uses her experience to educate the public about this crime, speaking to law enforcement personnel, social services and healing professionals, raising funds for victims of assault and the agencies that serve them, and demonstrating for other survivors that recovery can and does happen.
TreeHouse: How was the writing process for you? How long did it take you to complete the book?
Sandy Madsen: On my “10th” anniversary of the rape, I felt I had come full circle (on page 35 of the book you will understand this answer). As I do state in the book I will never have closure, but I did close a chapter. That was the day I thought about writing a book. It took nearly five years after the anniversary before I really got serious, as I had kept a journal of weekly feelings. The actual writing began 2 years prior to publishing. I always had an opening paragraph and a closing paragraph. I knew I needed quiet and no interruptions, so I went to a beach in Florida alone and wrote my chapters. I started and stopped so many times, as it was very painful to relive all those moments.
TH: What do you hope readers take away from Purple Mums?
SM: My biggest hope was/is that I can encourage survivors to report the rape (even if it happened many years prior to the reading of my book). There are thousands of survivors without any hope of healing. Therefore, this is a book of encouragement and hope.
TH: How did you go about devising the book’s structure? What made you decide on the format and to incorporate the perspectives of your family members and therapist?
SM: The structure was not hard for me once I decided to write the book. So many books have been written about the rape, recovery, trials, etc. The one thing I didn’t find was writings by the survivor, each family member, and the therapist. The rapist not only raped me that day, but my whole family. I wanted the book to explain how each family member needed help in healing. It also explains from the therapist how each one of us was affected.
TH: How has the writing and promoting of your book helped you heal through this painful experience?
SM: Writing the book was very painful, as it brought back visions and some memories that I had thought was stored away forever. Public speaking, TV, newspaper interviews kept me aware of most of my experiences and healing, but some deep thoughts were never discussed. On the other hand, writing gave me a refreshed feeling; there is so much more that can be done on the subject and it is very important to me to keep working as an advocate. I am very strong and truly have a gift for speaking publicly.
TH: In 2012, you were the winner of the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s (NSVRC) Visionary Voice Award. This award recognizes the creativity and hard work you have put into helping end sexual violence. Did their validation of your efforts in this field make it easier for you to continue making your voice heard on this issue?
SM: Absolutely. Winning the award encouraged me to continue, knowing there are still so many survivors that need to report their rapes and start the healing process.
TH: Prior to writing and promoting Purple Mums, did you have any experience in writing and/or public speaking?
SM: Public speaking has never been an issue for me. I represented a large travel corporation and I spoke publicly many, many times to the media and newspapers, and gave speeches to large groups. I started speaking on behalf of rape survivors 3 months after my experience. I felt so much stronger after that first speech and knew I had found a calling.
TH: Do you have any advice or helpful strategies that you can offer for others who are trying to write about a difficult, personal subject?
SM: All survivors have had different experiences, backgrounds, support systems, etc. They all have a story if they choose to share with others. Not everyone can write or speak publicly, but may have another avenue they can advocate.
TH: What are your plans from here? Will you continue to write?
SM: I don’t have plans right now to do another book. I am writing a few songs and hope to have them recorded in the not too distant future. I was a music major, so writing music comes easy for me and the words come from my heart. I recently joined the board of directors of the Sexual Assault Center in Nashville, TN and now my main interest will be involving my experiences and advocacy with the state legislators.
A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Purple Mums goes to the Sexual Assault Center of Nashville, TN. To purchase your copy and help this cause, please email Sandy Madsen directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.