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Interview with Montaha Hidefi, author of Groping for Truth - My Uphill Struggle for Respect


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In December of 2018, I published a #metoo inspired memoir that re-caps the staggering story of sexual harassment and violence that the author, Montaha Hidefi, had endured throughout her life. The abuse began at the hands of her mother and then followed her around the globe from Venezuela, where she was born of Syrian immigrant parents, to Syria, where she lived as a teenager, then in adulthood in The United Arab Emirates, The Netherlands and Canada. We published on December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. As spring finally arrives, bringing with it new beginnings and fresh starts, I thought it was timely to share the full interview the author did leading up to the launch of her book.



Why did you decide to write about your past experiences?

I was inspired by the #metoo movement and all the women that came forward and spoke in public about their experiences. My husband was paramount with the support he provided. Also, all my friends that I spoke to about writing the book were supportive and thought it was an act of bravery to step forward and talk about a past that was long buried, especially because my personality does not reflect the abuse I went through in my childhood and later.

What message do you want readers to take away from your book?

Suffering, shame and disappointments are nothing but pebbles and nails on the highway towards success. Every time we are in distress, every time the nails or pebbles might cause a flat tire, we ought to pause and then use that emotion as fuel to restart our engines and keep going forward without letting the past stop us. I used the past as a propellant to move forward.

How do you feel about the heightened awareness of sexual abuse and harassment due to the #metoo movement?

The #metoo movement is one of the most powerful consequences of using social media for a good cause. It allowed many women and men to come forward and denounce the perpetrators. As a consequence, we have seen many famous people pay for what they have done and we saw how our current society is ready to hear our stories and believe that abuse, in any form, especially against women, is no longer acceptable.

How are you dealing with the emotional impact of delving into the memory of these experiences after so many years?

It has been a roller coaster of all types of emotions. There were times when I could not continue writing or did not even want to remember the details of the events. There are stories in the book that made me cry throughout the process of writing and even during the revisions. For instance, the story where my mother almost stabbed me to death still affects me in profound ways, especially when I think that my father saved my life. He passed away during the process of revising the chapter. It was and still is very painful to go through it all, but I allow myself to cry and let my tears cleanse my soul. I am not scared of the memories anymore.

What would you advise someone who has buried similar experiences to do?

It’s hard for someone who lived for a long time, hiding the shame the abuse has inflicted them with, to open up and disclose the events and emotions that they tried to bury for so long.This is because of fear of being stigmatizing by society. We fear that people will not believe us, or if they did believe us, we fear that they will say that we have brought this upon ourselves. And we also fear the ridicule of a society that would say, “If that where true, why did you wait so long to disclose this? Why didn’t you speak up and denounced the abuser then and there?” We have seen this happening recently with Dr Ford and her allegations about judge Kavanaugh. Not to mention that abusers would usually deny any wrong doing. So, there are many factors that are preventing people like me from coming forward and speaking about their stories of abuse.

However, while writing about my experiences, I found that the process of remembering the events, although it was painful, it was also therapeutic. I found consolation in relieving myself of the secret. Although I know there might be consequences as I disclosed real names of people that affected me in my life, I feel that the time is right now to speak up as more people are ready to listen and believe the abused. This wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the #metoo movement and what unfolded after it.

As a first-time author, how did you find the writing process?

This is the first time I authored a book from A to Z, however, not the first time I am published. The only difference in writing a chapter or an article and writing a complete book is the commitment required to finish the book. Because I had to write about painful stories, there were many times when I thought I would stop and forget about writing about such topics that were consuming my emotions and energy. However, the end justified the means. I followed the process I always followed in my life, every time there is a difficulty, I used it to propel me forward and reach my goal.

Are you working on a second book? If so, what is it about?

Now that I wrote about the adverse emotions in my life, my next book project is about the people that influenced my life whether in a positive or negative way.
There are so many people that come and go into our lives, each of them leaves a trace. I wonder, if this person didn’t appear in my life and said what she said or did what she did, how would my life have turned out?
I want to recognize the people that appeared in my life and, through their behaviours, allowed me to end up where I am today.



Montaha's book is published by OC Publishing and is available from several online retail outlets including Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indigo/Chapters and at select bookstores. Join Montaha on Twitter @colorfulmontaha, on Facebook or visit her website

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