***Trigger Warning: This post includes a graphic description of rape and sexual violence. Please proceed carefully, and above all, practice self-care.***
The very first post I saw this morning when I opened Facebook said, simply, Oh Matt Lauer….
Immediately, I Googled. Was he dead? I wondered. What happened? It was a quick search to discover the headlines. He wasn’t dead. He was fired, for sexual misconduct.
Et tu, Brute?
Next, I opened my email. There, I found something more expected: the story of a rape, which I had agreed to post here. Marie-france MacDonald is a friend and client who, a few weeks ago, shared with me that it was finally time to share her story, and asked me for my advice on how to get it out there. I offered her this platform because every morning, when I wake up, my purpose is to elevate women’s voices. If I have a platform, I’ll share it. Today, I’m sharing it with Marie-france, at her request and with her permission.
If you Google Stanley Lewis, it’s possible that you’ll be led to a plumbing and heating company in Brooklyn, NY. That’s not the Stanley Lewis we’re talking about here. Here, we’re talking about Stanley Lewis, the famous Canadian sculptor, whose work is displayed in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Quebec, and the National Gallery of Canada. We’re talking about the Stanley Lewis who was, according to my friend Marie-france, a sexual predator and a serial rapist who preyed on women no one would ever have reason to believe.
Today, I step aside and give this platform to my friend Marie, so that you may read her story.
**Final trigger warning: the following contains depictions of sexual violence and rape.***
Trapped In Stone
By Marie-france MacDonald
I was raped over 46 years ago in Montreal by the world renowned sculptor Stanley Lewis, best known for his collaboration with Irving Stone on his book, “The Agony and the Ecstacy” about the life of Michelangelo and no, I did not go to the police.
I couldn’t. I was an illegal resident, but even if I could I’m not sure I would have. Not back then. Nine years earlier, at the tender age of 12, a pedophile tried to rape me ½ block from the safety of my home. The police grilled me mercilessly. Was I telling the truth? Did I realize the seriousness of my accusation? Was I dressed provocatively? This they asked a goofy kid dressed in seersucker. Did I smile at him? Talk to him, or in in any way encourage his advances? Did I? Did I? They also asked me what the guy looked like and then said, “We probably won’t find him. He’s long gone by now.” As they were leaving, they told me not to tell anyone what had happened. My mother agreed that was best.
So what could I expect from the Montreal police if I told them I was raped by a celebrated citizen — especially when I was naked at the time of my rape?
Were you dressed provocatively?
I was naked.
Then you were asking for it.
But I was his model.
Then why were you at his apartment instead of his studio?
Well that’s the address he gave me at the party last night.
You were with him at a party last night?
In the world of ifs — if I had another single job lined up, babysitting, tutoring, scrubbing toilets, anything — I would have said “No,” when Susan asked me to be a substitute life-drawing model for her at McGill University. If I didn’t have a baby depending on me…if I wasn’t totally broke…if only…
Instead I said yes and for a period of months, several times a week, I artfully dropped my robe, took a stance and held perfectly still for as long as I possibly could in a roomful of fully clothed art students and their teacher.
“You did great.” Susan said when she returned from her hiatus. “The Art director said you were very professional. You should do private work for Artists. They’re always looking for new models and the pay is very good.” Then she handed me some sort of artists’ classified ads. At that time Stanley Lewis was just a name that happened to be the first name on the list.
On the phone I confessed I was nervous, especially since my only experience had been in a classroom setting. He laughed, picking up on my underlying fears, and said, “You don’t have to worry about me. Don’t you recognize my name?”
I didn’t. He told me about his collaboration with Irving Stone and how very well known and respected he was in the art world. As a matter of fact, would I like to attend the opening of his art exhibit at the museum that very night? I could meet him face to face, see his work, and get a better take on the situation.
The opening was spectacular. Hors d’oerves and classical music and lots of glittering, beautiful people drinking Champagne and laughing musically. Stanley himself, looked a little like my friend’s Italian Grandfather who tended to the garden. You know — safe.
He gave me a guided tour of his sculptures, pausing to greet people, and introducing me as his new muse. “She’s considering modeling for me,” he told them. “Oh yes, yes, you should,” they told me.
I agreed to meet him the next morning at the address he provided. He was, after all, obviously all he said he was, plus some. The only question I had was why he even needed a model. Unlike Michelangelo, Stanley’s sculptures were semi abstract and unrecognizable as people. I didn’t bother to ask, chalking it up to my ignorance of the artistic process.
I was confused when the address turned out to be his private apartment rather than an art studio. “I didn’t want any distractions,” he said. He pointed to a spot in front of the bay window. “You’ll stand there. It’s the best light.”
The bathroom where I changed into my robe was remarkably clean and comfortable. So far, so good. He was auditioning me, he said as he put me through a series of particularly difficult poses He wanted every angle, he said as he walked around me or squatted down, all the time sketching furiously. Then he directed me to the couch where he had me recline, lift my rib cage, arch my back, close my eyes.
Then he threw himself on me with his full weight and pinned me down.
He laughed while I fought him, “That’s the way I like it,” he said. He tore the tampon from my vagina and drove his penis in while I cried “no.” He came almost immediately but he was not done. He lifted his chest from mine so he could look directly into my eyes. “Did you like it?” he taunted.
In a sudden burst of rage, I was able to kick free of him and the couch, I cursed at him, shrieked like a wild woman, grabbed his sketchbook, tore it up then ran to the bathroom to vomit. He was elated. “Finally some emotion!” he lauded.
I threw on my clothes and stormed past him while he tried to push a wad of money at me. “You’re beautiful when you’re angry.”
The bus ride back to my apartment was excruciating. For 45 minutes I had to act like any other bored person on the bus, keep to myself, keep from howling my agony while every minute detail of my rape played in my mind like a weird kaleidoscope film — some bits in slow motion, others high speed and to the distorted soundtrack of taunting laughter.
I barely made it off the bus before I started weeping and shaking uncontrollably.
“My God, what’s the matter?” my husband exclaimed when he let me in the apartment. “Are you okay?”
Why do people ask that when you so clearly are not?
The next day I woke up on a quantum plane where I had never called, met or been raped by Stanley Lewis and was therefore my usual chipper self. I happily went through my day and the next and the next for over a year. One of those days brought my legal status and another a fully legal full time job supervising the running of a community art studio. One night after work, a group of us headed to Sam’s for a smoked meat sandwich.
As we were walking along I heard a woman a few steps in front of me say, “Never trust an artist.” Another woman’s voice quickly added, “Especially a sculptor.” I suddenly snapped out of my state of hypnoses. I said out loud, “Stanley Lewis.”
That’s when the three of us realized we had all been raped by the same man.
We talked long into the night, at times being ever so powerful angry young women and other times breaking down with grief. In the end we thought maybe we could go forward, not to the police but to one of the newspapers — but they told us that because of the seriousness of the charges, we would need a lot more than three of us before they would investigate. We managed to find a couple more but they adamantly refused to publicly expose their rapes. They had already endured enough. In time, both of my co-workers were convinced by them to stay silent, and I simply didn’t have the strength to try to carry on alone.
It is only now, because of the #MeToo campaign, that it seems possible to be heard. Stanley Lewis was a serial rapist at least in the 1970’s, but probably for decades. It seems he was never arrested or in any way adversely affected by his predatory and criminal behavior.
His sculptures are on display at the Montreal Museum and many other sites throughout the world. A piece of me — and countless others — are trapped in that stone, silently screaming, “No!”
All the women at his hands forever trapped in stone.