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What happens when women like Pamela Anderson and Tara Moss talk about rape.

Shame is what keeps us silent about rape.

In the past month, Pamela Anderson and Tara Moss have broken that silence.

Anderson, 46, was raped at ages 6, 12, and 15. She kept that secret for 40 years to protect her mother and her privacy.

Moss, 41, was raped at age 21. She kept her secret for 20 years, till the time was right to share it. Now is the right time for both these women because fame puts a megaphone up to their experiences of rape.

When women like Anderson and Moss speak about anything – whether it’s hair or fashion or feminism – the world listens. Their voices are louder than ours. When they talk about sexual assault like this, it has the potential to change how we as a society treat survivors. And that’s nothing short of fabulous.

Anderson told a stunned crowd at the launch of her charity, The Pamela Anderson Foundation, that she was molested by a female babysitter from the age of six and raped by a 25-year-old man when she was 12. And then, this: “My first boyfriend in grade nine decided it would be funny to gang rape me (with six of his friends). Needless to say I had a hard time trusting humans — I just wanted off this earth.”

Around the same time, Australian author Tara Moss went public with her experience. She told Susan Wyndham at Good Weekend that she was raped by ‘the cool guy’ in her class in Vancouver. “The one time I was raped was as typical as every stat you hear: someone you know and trust,” she said. 

Moss described the experience hauntingly: “Everything that you are gets removed. You’re not there anymore and everything you thought you were and thought the world was gets vacuumed out; you lose your footing.”

That’s what it’s like to be assaulted: world-changing, life-altering, soul-emptying.

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Pamela Anderson’s description of wanting “off this earth” and Tara Moss‘s talk of losing your footing in life will hit any survivor of abuse in the gut, like truth always does.

Professor Patricia Esteal at the University of Canberra says that hearing a high-profile personality speak about their own horror can give ordinary people the courage to do the same.

“It’s not easy to come forward with something like this. It might be the most difficult thing a person can do. It makes you extremely vulnerable. Pamela Anderson has come out to the world, and that’s really important,” she told Mamamia.

“But each of us survivors must do the same with our own circle of friends, on a smaller scale, if we can. Shame is the great silencer of sexual assault, and every time someone identifies themselves as a survivor, we weaken the effect of shame.”

Pamela and Tara have done enormous good, inspiring us to talk about rape.

Just like Oprah Winfrey did, when she spoke about being molested by a relative at the age of 9. Like Teri Hatcher did, when she talked about being assaulted by her uncle, aged 5. Like Ashley Judd, Anne Heche, Tori Amos, Fran Drescher, and Queen Latifah did when they went public with their private pain.

For every Pamela, Tara, and Oprah, there are millions of non-famous survivors struggling to come to terms with their own experiences of rape. On their behalf, I want to thank the women who use their fame to tell the world what it’s like to survive sexual assault.

Truly. Thank you.


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