20/20 Interview with Tori Amos about Rape and Being a Rape Survivor
Tori Amos on being a rape victim and rape survivor. In this interview, Amos discusses the psychological repercussions of rape, why she's talking about the rape, and healing from rape.
(This is an unedited, uncorrected transcript.)
Chasing Away the Demons
CONNIE CHUNG Tori Amos is a pop singer who has sold millions of albums. Among her fans are many young women attracted to her message of strength and confidence. But one of her songs in particular has had a profound effect on her listeners. It's about a horrible trauma that she suffered. As Elizabeth Vargas tells us, it ignited a healing process in women who have gone through the same terrifying experience.
SHANNON, COLLEGE STUDENT I still have no idea how he managed to do it, how he managed to hold pin my wrists down and cover my mouth.
KELLIE GREENE (PH) I kept yelling at him to take my money, "I have money. It's on the counter.
SHANNON He was very condescending and, "You asked for it. You're lucky.
KELLIE GREENE And he kept pushing me to the ground and kept hitting me and hitting me.
SHANNON He said, "Don't scream, or I'll kill you.
KELLIE GREENE And finally, he said, "I'm not here for your money. And that's when I got quiet.
SHANNON I thought that being dead would be better than what I was feeling.
KELLIE GREENE And I knew what he was there for. He was there to rape me.
ELIZABETH VARGAS, ABCNEWS (VO) These women are linked not only because they survived rape, but because they are able to talk about it. It has been a long journey for both. One suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, the other was on the brink of suicide. And their paths to healing both intersect with music, the music of Tori Amos. At 35, Tori Amos is a popular rock singer. Her last three albums have all gone platinum. She sings about the familiar and the forbidden.
TORI AMOS I'm very interested in chasing a shadow and chasing the dark side. This is what I do.
ELIZABETH VARGAS (VO) It is her chilling lyrics in the song Me And A Gun that document that dark side, describing an event that happened to her in her early 20s.
TORI AMOS (singing) Me and a gun and a man on my back.
ELIZABETH VARGAS (VO) Tori had just finished playing a nightclub and offered a fan a ride home. He ended up kidnapping and raping her. After years of struggle, she found her only way to deal with the rape was to write a song about it.
TORI AMOS It's a song about brutality and invasion on the deepest level. (singing) You pushed flat on your stomach ...
ELIZABETH VARGAS (on camera) Every time you sing that song, do you go back to that place that night?
TORI AMOS To heal the wound, you have to go into the dark night of the soul.
ELIZABETH VARGAS But Tori Amos soon learned that healing can be difficult. So many rape victims suffer severe psychological repercussions. They become distracted, depressed, feel like they're going crazy. It can be so overwhelming that many rape victims don't deal with the rape at all. They tuck it away. And for those women, doctors says it takes a trigger to bring the rape back to the surface. It can be an emotional event a song, a book or a movie. Only then can the women reach out, start talking about the rape and finally deal with the trauma. It was this movie, Thelma and Louise, that was Tori Amos's trigger seven years after her rape.
SUSAN SARANDON, ACTRESS (CLIP FROM THELMA AND LOUISE) In the future, when a woman is crying like that, she isn't having any fun.
TORI AMOS People had to move away from me in the theater, just because I was, you know, sobbing. I was like a little wellspring sitting there.
ELIZABETH VARGAS (VO) Tori Amos says hours after seeing the movie, she wrote the song Me And A Gun. What Tori never anticipated was that her own breakthrough would trigger the breakthroughs of so many others.
TORI AMOS We were getting hundreds of letters every week.
ELIZABETH VARGAS (on camera) What did the letters say?
TORI AMOS They're all different, but the thread is that there are so many people out there that have had some kind of sexual violation.
ELIZABETH VARGAS (VO) Tori began to discover that in the crowds waiting outside the concert halls were survivors of rape. People waiting as long as eight hours for a chance to whisper their story or pass her a letter. Tori never misses an opportunity to listen or share. Shannon, a 19-year-old college student, credits Tori Amos with helping her deal with her rape.
SHANNON I won't say that she saved my life, because I don't think she'd like that. But she definitely helped me to find the strength to save myself.
ELIZABETH VARGAS (VO) Five years ago, Shannon was raped after a high school party. One of the guests held her down and attacked her.