An Open Letter to the Media:
My name is Carrie Bailee and I am a repeat survivor of violence and exploitation. I have suffered trauma many are fortunate enough to find unimaginable. And yet, far too many have had their own painful back stories similar to my own and can very much relate. I grew up witnessing extreme male violence as a child when my father would physically abuse and mentally torture my mother. Her powerlessness became mine. Her inability to speak caused me the loss of my own voice. The first time my father lay his hands on me, I learned at four years old, my body was not my own. I was taught that to be a girl in this world, was a vulnerability handicap, punishable by a force meant to rob me of all dignity and strip away my self worth. My rights as a human being were non existent. When I was only nine years old, my father started selling me to other men. The incomprehensible pain and suffering I endured as a child became permissible because the men responsible for inflicting such upon me, dehumanised and exploited for their own unfathomable pleasure. Yet somehow, I managed to will the courage and rise above my beginnings to find my voice.
The media has taken from me, exactly what my father robbed me of as a child. The media has continued to inflict upon me the same emotional suffering my father repeatedly caused. And like my father and every man who paid to rape and dehumanise me when I was a little girl, the media continue to do the exact same thing to both myself and to others brave enough to come forward with their story of SURVIVAL only to be victimised and exploited again and again.
You need to know that what you have done and continue to do robs me of my dignity, my power and my worth as a human being. Time and again for the benefit and enjoyment of others and your monetary gain, you have diminished and dismissed the power of my message of hope and resilience because you are more interested in sensationalising the breaking of a human being and have no interest in benefitting humanity by focusing on my rising. I am curious though, before running these stories, are you aware of the impact your grotesque, voyeuristic approach used to retell my story will have on me as a human being? Or do you know, and just not care?
When you ran that Good Weekend cover story four days before my book was set to release, and wrote an ignorant piece with voyeuristic, sensationalised skepticism, I was so humiliated I didn’t even care my first book was coming out. I was so devastated by the incorrect way in which I was portrayed, that what should have been one of the proudest achievements of my life, mattered very little to me. You robbed me of my pride and joy.
The mind boggles when I try to find a plausible excuse how any company could have “mistakingly” placed my book in the “Erotic Stories” category. And when I brought it to the attention of the CEO, I eventually received the hollow, emotionless apology and business as usual approach. Heaven forbid they sat down and allowed themselves a moment to imagine how traumatising a discovery that must have been for me. My pain and suffering as a child, bravely recounted to help others lose their shame, placed in the erotica section for others to get off on. Your “mistake” caused me such shame. I felt dirty and disgusting and didn’t know what to do. You made me feel powerless.
I wonder, before you placed my four year old face on the cover of your national women’s magazine and called me a sex slave, did you consider the impact? Did it cross your mind, how demeaning, degrading and excruciatingly painful that would have been for me and my girls? My fifteen year old daughter, who isn’t one to show much emotion, felt so helpless and upset, she masked her pain and tears with anger and resentment. Did you consider how grotesque and minimising that click bait title was to what I endured as a child? My torturous childhood summed up in your raunchy ‘sex slave’ description for the enjoyment of others. Yes media, we learned very quickly, how little regard you have for valuing and upholding the dignity of a human life. I refused your $600 payment and requested that sum as well as a considerable donation be made to the Young Women’s Project – who help young girls who have suffered abuse and are still at risk of exploitation. You agreed and asked who the cheque be made out to. We received your one hundred dollar donation. Not only did you victimise and exploit my pain, but to add insult to injury, you also managed to make us feel worthless and completely irrelevant. What an insult that was.
I wonder what would happen if you wrote with a sense of agency and integrity? Instead of focusing on the irrelevant details of my abuse and the suffering of others – instead of detailing the breaking of the victim, you provide in depth analysis on the rising of the individual. It seems to me, our mantra has become the more sensationalised and voyeuristic the story, the better. But my question is this; better for whom? How does focusing on and being fascinated by what has broken an individual help us become whole? How does spending 90% of an article’s focus on documenting the detail I suffered as a child, promote growth and ignite healing in the adult reader? Why do we show such interest in the detail of another’s suffering and have little to no regard for learning about what the key aspects were that lifted that individual up out of the darkness and what motivating, tangible factors continue to see her rise?
The victim story has been done to death and so my sole purpose in releasing my book into the world was to transform this space and contribute a body of work that would enrich the lives of those reached. Not through evoking pity or horror, but by inspiring courage and innovative thinking. Words are such a powerful weapon and the intention behind the message is equally so. We measure success on impact, reach and monetary gain but don’t seem to place much value on sustainable growth and the transformative potential for healing and wholeness. Instead of creating and seeking sensationalised garbage the market ‘wants’, why don’t we get deliberate in our intentions to add soul nourishing value by supplying quality messages the market needs?
And so I humbly reach out to the people who make up this society. If we are the market demand, let’s higher our expectations, get deliberate in our goal setting and demand better of both ourselves and the media. Let’s be mindful and observe more closely that which we are drawn to and ask ourselves why? Do we want an exploited, sensationalised victim story to entertain us, or do we want content to educate and enrich our own lives and propel us out of darkness by offering to give us the points of light and inspiration we are all desperately searching for?
So I will ask you again, do we add to the perpetual ugliness that breeds misery and fuels the victim mentality, keeping us in a state of suffering or do we take our power back? What if the movement toward collective rising begins with our refusal to buy into the sensationalised, gender based objectification and voyeuristic hype? Maybe when we stop our complacency and actively seek out, contribute to and demand more enriching, enlightened experiences, we will naturally move away from this toxic culture of inequality and toward a movement of solution based and innovative thinking that raises human consciousness. A movement so inspiring and undeniable that it ignites an uprising bigger than any one individual and so powerful and authentically contagious, that it becomes the soul’s calling. And maybe then, we will find our way back.