by Mhairi Morrison
My name is Mhairi Morrison and I am an actress. You can see some of my work here:
Before I begin with as to why I’m here, I want to thank you for taking the time to click on the link and read my story. More importantly, thank you for considering helping the project. Seriously every dollar matters. There really is no amount too small.
Now, to why we are doing the project. Very few people know what I’m about to tell you and I thank you for creating the space to hear my story.
At the very beginning of my career, two weeks after leaving drama school in Paris, I was introduced to an extremely successful French film director. We met at the most glamorous party I had ever been to, full of huge stars of French cinema. Wearing an H&M outfit I could barely afford, I was introduced to one of the biggest, most successful directors in France. I felt like Cinderella. When the director gave me his cell phone number, the man who had introduced us told me that “I was the envy of every actress in France”.
And I felt it. I felt special.
I met the director for lunch in a restaurant which had just been the location for the film Amelie. I thought that was it–my career was beginning. He gave me a handful of names and production companies I could call and use his name to ask for a meeting. It was like being handed the golden ticket.
After struggling to get an agent or any kind of work as an actress after drama school, it felt like a dream come true. To be able to call production companies and agents using his name as a reference opened doors. He then invited me to dinner parties at his house where everyone around the table was in their forties and successful in their glamorous careers of film composing, dancing, writing, and the like. I was 24, in awe of their world and wanted to be apart of it.
He soon began to push our friendship to an uncomfortable level. He would push himself up against me and try to kiss me. I’d push him away saying that I didn’t want to sleep with him, that I wanted to work with him. That became a repeated mantra. He wanted to shoot his next film in English. I earnestly thought that I could be in it and that I could help him with his English as he wrote it.
An actress friend of mine warned me, asking why I thought he invited me to all these parties. I ignored her, choosing to believe that he found me interesting and that he saw how talented I was. I was sure I could keep pushing him away and keep the friendship line drawn. I believed that he would get the message.
The professional relationship was wonderful.
He would talk to me about what he looked for in an actor’s audition and would hang on his every word. I felt so special, being hand picked out of the masses of scrambling actresses in Paris. I felt that I was privy to inside information that was worth its weight in gold. It even turned out that a commercial production company he had introduced me to cast me in my first commercial. I was getting somewhere!
Several months after we had first met something happened that would change our relationship, and me, forever. I woke up in his bed one morning, naked, lying next to him, naked. I don’t know how I got there. I don’t remember anything. It was certain that he drugged and sexually assaulted me.
That morning I walked back to my house in a daze, feeling dizzy as I passed the many newspaper kiosks in Paris that were displaying magazines with his face on the cover. I felt so ashamed; feeling that I had some how brought this upon myself. How could I have been so short sighted, so gullible. I felt I had let myself down, that straight out of drama school I had ruined everything. My friend had been right all along. I felt so stupid. I was in so much pain that I had to take painkillers for 3 days just to be able to stand up straight. I wanted to forget it, to blot it out of my mind completely.
As I will never know what happened during the time I was drugged I chose to shut it out of my mind, working on the premise that if I didn’t think about it, it wouldn’t affect my life. I’ve lived many years shoving the memory into the darkest parts of my mind.
However, with the stories of Harvey Weinstein being published last fall I was forced to face what had happened to me nearly 18 years ago. I started to cry at the mention of any of the assaults by Harvey or other men like him. I felt overwhelmed whenever I would be somewhere like the Women’s March. I suddenly wasn’t feeling like I could shove it down because it was coming back up whether I wanted it to or not.
This has been without a doubt the hardest and yet the most important year of my life as I struggle to come to terms with what happened and at the same time consider whether or not I should come forward publicly.
The depth of the damage done as a result of that one incident has been extremely far reaching, much more than I could ever have imagined. I’ve realized that I had never again fully trusted myself since this incident, never been able to believe that my instincts were right. It’s only been in the last couple of months working intensely with my therapist, dismantling all the behavior patterns and beliefs I have which are a result of the incident, that I have been able to fully believe that it wasn’t my fault. It’s been an eye opening, painful journey as I dismantle the paradigm that I have been living under and release the guilt and shame I have felt for what happened. A journey that I am now grateful to say I am moving through.
Unfortunately my story is common. That of a young woman at the beginning of her career falling prey to a successful older man in the business who holds the promise of success but who ultimately betrays that confidence in an unimaginable fashion.
What I am doing
A couple of months ago my dear friend and singer songwriter Sadie Jemmett wrote a song for me, about my experience called Don’t Silence Me, which she recorded on her album this summer. I was extremely humbled by her song with several of the lyrics speaking directly to my heart. The song gave me the courage to move through this and for me this is what encapsulates the essence of the #metoo movement; a woman hearing another woman and helping her to stand back up.
When Sadie asked me if I would like to do the music video for the song I wasn’t sure. I have battled with the idea of coming forward for a long time now, it felt like my duty as a human rights activist, as a human being. As someone who has fought for women’s rights throughout the world it felt like my obligation to come forward because I can, because I do have that platform where millions of women around the world do not. But I didn’t feel strong enough mentally to cope.
Earlier in the year, I met with one of the Bill Cosby survivors with a view to coming forward with my story. I wanted to know what it would entail, and whether I would be strong enough to go through with it. I had no idea the impact just looking into this stranger’s eyes would have. I didn’t know that I needed to look into the eyes of someone who knew exactly what I was going through. I didn’t know how much I didn’t know. I had frozen out so many feelings that I didn’t know what I had suppressed until that moment.
And that, in fact, it was entirely normal to have done so. I felt seen for the first time in 17 years. That moment will always be a pivotal turning point for me. The moment I was seen by someone who understood exactly what I was going through, even more than I did. I’m so grateful for this woman, this stranger to me, who looked me in the eye and held me with her understanding and compassion.
So, when Sadie asked me to join her in making this video, something in my heart told me to do it. I have since recruited some top notch producers and a director I admire to help bring this project to life. Our director, Jenn Page, is a multi-award winning director who has been leading the charge for women’s equality in Hollywood. Our production team as a whole has over 100 best film awards combined.
So I’m taking a deep breath and being brave. I want to tell my story of the #metoo movement. Of how I went from feeling isolated to empowered and stronger than ever. I have been brought back to life by the people who walked with me and lit my way. Now it’s my turn to pass that on.
Don’t Silence Me is about standing up as a survivor and taking back your voice. It’s a reminder that, although you may feel it, you are not alone. I want the video to empower, to encourage and to offer solace to anyone who has found themselves in a similar situation.
20% of the profits from the video will be donated to the Time’s Up Fund, which is working to combat sexual harassment in the work place.
“Stand up straight and realize who you are, that you tower over your circumstances” Maya Angelou