You Can’t Brand Silence… Or Shut Up a Storyteller!

Sometimes, one person has to be the voice of many.

This line, directed to prominent journalist and domestic violence survivor Meredith, by her friend and confident Neal, in the Lifetime film, Run For Your Life, is probably my favorite.

In a quaint coffee shop, Neal urges Meredith — still beaming in the afterglow of finally ridding herself of her abusive ex — to go public with her story, to write about her experience in the hope of inspiring others.

You Can't Brand Silence...or Shut Up a Storyteller | Katherine Kotaw, domestic violence survivor and author of "Quicksand," the Globe and Mail 'Book of the Year' which inspired the lifetime movie, "Run For Your Life," starring Amy Smart.Prudently, Meredith decides to battle her demons — and celebrate her triumph — in private.

It’s the smarter, safer thing to do, she explains to Neal.

Meredith chose silence. But she gave me a voice.

Run For Your Life was inspired by my story, as told in my memoir, Quicksand: One Woman’s Escape From the Husband Who Stalked Her.

I wrote Quicksand 14 years ago — under a pseudonym — while my daughters and I remained in hiding from a sociopath who stalked us for 4 years after we left, and then hired a hit man to kill me.

Becoming and Choosing

While fighting for my life and for the lives of my daughters, I became many things.

I became the — literal — poster child for domestic violence (an image of my face, bloodied and beaten beyond recognition, is displayed in battered women shelters and DA offices under the heading: “Don’t Apply Makeup. Apply the Law. Take the Fight Out of an Abuser by Taking Him to Court.”)

I also became a case study for a failed legal system. Shortly after its publication in 2001, Quicksand became required reading for all members of the Ontario Provincial Police Department, one of North America’s largest deployed police services with more than 6,100 uniformed officers, 2,700 civilian employees and 850 Auxiliary officers.

My voice, my story, though it masqueraded under the ambiguous guise of the quotation marks that protected the identity of its rightful owner — me — became the voice of victims of domestic abuse.

15 years after my daughters and I disappeared and our new lives began, we are choosing to become the champion of survivors. We have fearlessly chosen to go public with our story in support of the world premiere of Run For Your Life and in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

When veteran film producer, Anne Carlucci, contacted me last fall to say that Mariska Hargitay (Founder & President of the Joyful Heart Foundation and star of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) and Lifetime Network were interested in the film adaptation of QuicksandRun For Your Life, it would be called — I was taken a bit off-guard.

My daughters and I had moved on to much happier chapters since the final pages of Quicksand ended 14 years ago — did we really want to see the horror of our past relived on our TV screen? Besides, when was the last time we’d had time to sit down and watch a TV movie together since starting KOTAW?

KOTAW was still in its infancy and my daughters and I were happily busy enjoying our success as entrepreneurs — did we really want to add “Lifetime movie heroines” to our newly launched brand?

 

Katherine Kotaw and her daughters hope that their domestic violence survivor story -- as told in Quicksand and its film adaptation, Run For Your Life -- inspires others to believe in the possibility of leading joyful lives after domestic violence.Ultimately, my daughters and I greenlit the production of Run For Your Life and, even more significant, we bravely chose to take full ownership of our story, rejecting the option to let the movie proceed without acknowledging our connection to it.

Silence is an abuser’s best friend, and my daughters and I no longer accept that role.

My daughters and I agreed to the making of Run For Your Life in large part due its support by Mariska Hargitay and the Joyful Heart Foundation, which vetted the film. We are proud of the fact that the NO MORE PSA Campaign, spearheaded by the Joyful Heart Foundation, partnered with Lifetime to premiere Run For Your Life in honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We are delighted that Run For Your Life closes with the celebrity-driven NO MORE PSA 60 second ‘Anthem’ directed by Hargitay with creative direction by Rachel Howald of Young & Rubicam, the firm once led by Stephen Frankfurt, the advertising legend whom I’m proud to say served as my mentor early in my career.

In choosing to go public with our story, my daughters and I passionately hope to accomplish two things: First, it is our aim to dispel the common misconception that strong, confident, successful women are immune from the horrors of domestic violence. And second, our goal is to demonstrate that there is hope beyond scary statistics and that domestic violence survivors can not only survive, but THRIVE!

When my daughters were young and first introduced to the phrase “Shut Up” on the playground, I told them it was just about the worst thing you could say to someone. “Shut Up” took precedence in our home to any four-letter word deemed bad by the rest of society. I wanted my daughters to grow up speaking their minds and to know how powerful words can be — and  how devastating it is to be silenced. SO SPEAK UP!  What injustice, pet peeve or outrage will YOU not be silent about? Please share your thoughts below and let your voice roar!

Comments

  1. […] also made me a scrapbook filled with letter after letter from women who reached out to me after Run For Your Life premiered, thanking me for sharing my story and for giving them the strength to tell me […]

  2. […] Such thoughts ran through my mind this weekend when my daughters decided they wanted all of us – humans, canines and feline – to dress up for Halloween this year. It was Devil’s Night, and we had no plans – and no costumes – for the holiday. But we needed some silliness in our lives. The last few months have been stressful, our spirits taking an extended rollercoaster ride because of Bri’s illness and the premiere of Run For Your Life, a Lifetime movie based on my memoir, Quicksand: One Woman’s Escape From the Husband Who Stalked Her. […]

  3. […] and that it is now my mission to inspire HOPE after domestic violence and to tell the world that smart, successful women aren’t immune to spousal abuse, contrary to dangerous […]

  4. […] my mom and sister and I came out of hiding last October with the premiere of our Lifetime film, Run For Your Life — and partially because I vehemently thought it de-personalized […]

  5. TO K – A – T – H – E – R – I – N – E …………

    A Kindhearted – Admirable – Talented – Honorable – Educated – Radiant – Intelligent – Noble – Everlasting pitbull lover.

    I will not be silent about people who try to break what is not theirs. I will not be silent about people who support people who try to break what is not theirs…bodies other´s than their own and freedom other´s than their own. If they want their own privileges, then do not take away mine. I will not be a door mat that people use to wipe off their shoes on. I want to wear the shoes and play in the mud my own way and wipe mine in the grass and leave it there for the grass to grow stronger…so people and dogs can run around and have fun there and feel free.

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Awwwwwww, I LOVE this, Mariann!

      Beautiful sentiments, beautifully expressed.

      I believe you’re a poet as well as a photographer.

      Your words mean a great, great deal to me. Thank you so much!

      And, yes, we MUST meet!

      xoxox

      • I think sometimes it just floods me…and late last night was one of those times.

        I had just learned that a dad who had taken all his 5 kids between 8 and 3 and moved to an unknown location in the middle of the night when mom was not home, was forced to return the children through a danger order or go to jail until the courts could figure out custody and visitation rights. The order said the kids were to be returned to where they had resided in the past 90 days and return to normal day schedule including school which he had not taken them there since he disappeared with them. The Sheriff was able to give mom a ride to the dad´s mom to pick up the children while he had been served by the courts at work.

        He had told the kids that their mom did not want them anymore and he left the kids with his disabled mom for 8-12 hours per day which meant the two oldest pretty much had to do it all for the littler ones. He also took the car and all the clothes and is not returning it as of yet. So we have donated clothes for them and brought them over and started a go fund me page to help mom pay for legal fees as he only left her with 15 dollars in her name. She can neither go anywhere with the kids, she does not have room in the little car that is his and that he left her when he took the van for himself. Mom is still struggling to get it all back together….:(…anyway, I am glad you appreciated the words, you are so, so worth every one of them.

        • Katherine Kotaw says:

          Bless you for helping the woman and her children! I pray that the husband’s cruel behavior is weighed against him in custody hearings and that the woman finds the strength to stay out of the marriage.

  6. […] Bravery, Determination, Creativity, Kindness & Pit Bull Advocacy” for the work we do for domestic violence awareness and to spread the Pit Bull […]

  7. […] abuse I suffered due to my father’s sociopathy paralyzed me in my childhood years, so much so that I couldn’t even respond to a classmate’s […]

  8. […] also speak the hell up. We don’t shy away from controversy; be it boldly telling our stories of surviving domestic violence or proudly sharing our fierce admiration of Hillary Clinton and vehement disdain of our current […]

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