Madonna Tells Howard Stern Her Rape Was "Too Humiliating" to Report
While a guest on The Howard Stern Show on Wednesday, Madonna talked to the radio show host about being raped when she first moved to New York City in 1977 at the age of 19. She has shared the story before—in a 2013 interview with Harper's Bazaar, the singer recalled, "New York wasn't everything I thought it would be. It did not welcome me with open arms. The first year, I was held up at gunpoint. Raped on the roof of a building I was dragged up to with a knife in my back..."
During the interview, Stern asked Madonna about the assault, leading to the following exchange:
Madonna: It's true I was raped. I mean, I guess people know that now. The first year I lived in New York was crazy.
Stern: And it wasn't a date rape kind of thing, it was the kind of thing where it was some just guy of the street and attacked you?
Madonna: No, my stupid friendliness just chatting with somebody, and asking them. I needed money because I was going to a class, a dance class, and the door was locked, and I needed money for the telephone, the payphone, and he gave it to me. And then he's like, "Let me walk you to the phone." He was a very friendly guy. Then talking on the phone, and the phone was ringing. I'm not sure why I'm telling this story. And then he's like, "Well, I just live across the street, you can make a phone call from my house." And I was like, "Oh, that's really nice of you." That's—Hi, I'm from Michigan. I trusted everybody. Anyway, the rest is not worth talking about.
The interview continued:
Stern: You never asked for help through that whole experience? You never went to the cops, you never did any of that, right? And I think most women are actually in that predicament, honestly. Because I know many women who have had a similar experience. It seems like it's an epidemic.
Madonna: Well I was told that if I wanted to press charges, that, you know, a physical examination, I would have to go before the court, they are going to ask you all these personal questions. You've already been violated, so then, do you want to talk about it? Do you want to make it public? No, it's just not worth it. It's too humiliating.
It might be disappointing to hear a woman as publicly bold and confident as Madonna talk about how she couldn't bring herself to report a crime committed against her, and to blame her own "friendliness" on a man assaulting her. That being said, it should never be one victim's responsibility to represent all victims, even when that person is a celebrity. And so this interview becomes a reminder that many, many women are silent about sexual assault for fear of public judgement and shame. This is highly unfortunate, but not at all surprising when you consider how rarely rape victims receive justice. According to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), only 32 percent of rapes get reported to the police, and of those, just seven percent lead to an arrest. Most startling: Just two rapists will actually spend one day in prison, and the other 98 percent will walk.
Listen to the full segment here: