Written by Shankar Puri
"It’s the crippling fear that keeps their secret locked away. To admit the abuse is to expose yourself to the world, a world that just might not believe you."

Here’s the seventh part of the story

“I love the works of Van Gogh. He had a desire for more. He never got to it though, he was very suicidal but there is such a desire for life in his work. Michelangelo had some unfinished figures in Florence, I remember seeing them and they made me cry, these figures trapped in rock that he was still chiselling away before he died.” We talk for a moment about inspiration and how, in the art world, it can be misconstrued as plagiarism when really, it is about being shaped by your own interpretation of other artists’ work.

But all that Leonie spoke about prior to our engagement over art and inspiration, still clings to my consciousness. So I bravely ask her thoughts on the recent #metoo movement. After all, who better to wade through a topic such as this than with someone who almost drowned in it.

“The person that is abused becomes shameful because they think that it is their fault. For many years, and this is something that I still have to work through, I thought that there must be something inherently wrong with me. That there is something in me that attracts this Sometimes people don’t speak out because they are ashamed of being rejected because they are already rejecting themselves. Self-hatred. So, how do I expose myself if people are going to hate me more?”

It’s a reoccurring pattern of women tussling with the idea to come forward and Leonie helps me understand why. It’s the crippling fear that keeps their secret locked away. To admit the abuse is to expose yourself to the world, a world that just might not believe you. I wonder then, how Leonie even has the strength to surround herself with men after everything.

“Not all men are evil. Men can be wonderful. If you look at a little girl, her girlishness gets established by her dad, at a young age, five to seven, treating her like a little Princess. That’s what makes her into a girl, that’s what makes her precious. Currently, there is an attack on men and the manliness of men, and I don’t think women should look at men as all evil. We all have a darkness in us from time to time. Men who abuse women were often abused themselves, so you hurt others because you were already hurt so badly”.

“I think the world needs strong men. Strong men establish families. When I look at my husband, he is a strong and gentle man, he is a wonderful man. He is kind and because he is strong, he makes me feel secure. I trust him. If I can trust him, I can be who I want to be. He helps me be who I want to be. I think that if there are strong men, strong fathers, there won’t be boys and girls who grow up with so much hatred towards others, wanting to hurt and abuse to prove something. So we need fathers. Strong male examples that stand for the right thing.”