033: Marital Rape is Real – Shanon Lee


In this episode:

In this episode of The Fearless Females Podcast your host Tegan Mathews interviews Shanon Lee who shares:

  • Her experience of marital rape and assault
  • How she went from being a survivor to being an activist
  • Her drive and ambition to use her art to help others
  • Where she takes her inspiration from
  • How to thrive after experiencing domestic violence/sexual assault

Tegan’s Take Aways from talking with Shanon Lee:

  1. Be a better role model for your children, friends and family by choosing not to live in fear
  2. Even if you are a risk taker it’s still scary to put yourself out there but you choose not to let your fears win
  3. What could you do if you put your mind to it and didn’t let anyone else stop you?
  4. Fear can be a positive thing like in Shanon’s case where her fear of not accomplishing all she was put here to do, is what continues to drive her forward
  5. It’s important to start your day with something positive and a ritual to get you grounded and get your mind straight. Shanon’s is read, write a mantra, say your mantra to yourself in the mirror and then write two pages of a positive statement about your future starting with “I am”.

About Shanon Lee

Shanon Lee is an American Writer, Journalist, Activist, Filmmaker and Media Personality with features on HuffPost Live, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple and an upcoming docuseries for the REELZ Channel. Her work appears on digital publications including The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, ELLE, Marie Claire and Redbook. Shanon is a Women’s Media Center SheSource Expert and an official member of the Speakers Bureau for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). She is the writer, producer and director of MARITAL RAPE IS REAL, a short film that raises awareness for survivors of sexual assault.

Contact Shanon Lee



A Gift for Listeners From Shanon Lee & Facing Fears

A link through to the 10 Powerful Life Lessons from the book The Alchemist which is all about achieving your dreams. It’s written by Thai Nguyen AND as a bonus you can also download a poster of those 10 Life Lessons.

Click here to read article

Your contact details will not be shared with anyone else. You may receive occasional emails from Tegan Mathews and Facing Fears. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Show Notes: Episode 033: Marital Rape is Real – Shanon Lee

Shanon Lee’s Fearless Story

Really it all started when I was twenty-one. I was in college but I was also married at the time. I experienced, while I was on vacation, my husband raped me. Then about two weeks later, he physically assaulted me.

This was while I was in the process, I had just served him, divorce papers. It was in response to that. So, as you can imagine, that was really traumatic. It set off a huge change in my life where I had to work out my next step, how to regroup, how to go on, rebound and how to live by myself. I was also a military dependent at the time too.

So really, that’s the basis for a lot of the things that I advocate for. I work with organisations that help other survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Where there any signs prior to the event, that was going to happen?

It was a young relationship and so I can definitely say that it was a volatile relationship in terms of how we interacted when we had any type of disagreements, but it had never been that physically violent. So, I can’t say that there were any specific signs that he would go on to rape me but it wasn’t the healthiest relationship.

How did you turn that experience around?

Initially when it happened, and for years afterwards I can honestly say that I went into survivor mode which happens often if you’ve been through any type of a crisis. So I really just focussed on the basics like making sure I could look after myself financially.

I ended up going back to school. I moved across the country. At the time I was living in California and I am originally from Virginia so I moved back to be with my family and be near my support system.

It wasn’t until a decade, at least, later until I really started to talk about it publicly. I had shared it with close friends and family but it didn’t occur to me that I could do anything positive with my story, share it with others, and be able to help them, until some time later.

What were the steps you took to turn this experience into a positive?

I would say that I focused on taking care of me. So initially and through all of this time I was just really trying to evolve into a better version of myself, the type of person I wanted to be, and focus on a lot of my personal goals.

I really started talking about what happened to me publicly when my former husband contacted me. I had a website up at the time. I was working in music and he contacted me through the website. It wasn’t a positive interaction, he ended up harassing me for a little bit online.

I really started thinking about the fact that this person had no remorse, but also thinking about the things that happen after the fact for survivors and everything that we have to go through. There were also some things going on in the media at the time.

There was a young woman, a teenager that had been drugged and raped at a party. A lot of the images of the attack were posted online and she decided to take her power back. She didn’t want to be portrayed as a victim so she did a media tour where she did different interviews.

This was a teenager so certainly, I’m an adult and if I can find a way to share my story, I know that it will help some one. Even if it’s one person, it will be worth it to me. So that’s really how it came about that I started. Going back to something that was natural to me which was to express myself through art.

So I started writing and I had an essay published and then everything kind of spiralled from there.

What fears did you have to face during that period of time?

I really considered him to be a dangerous person. There were certainly times when the feelings would come back and I would worry about him finding out where I lived. There was a period of intimidation after I pressed charges for the assault. I didn’t press charges for the rape but he was arrested for attacking me physically after I served him divorce papers.

Right after that happened there were some things that occurred like he would leave his car in my cul-de-sac after I had moved to a different location just to be a silent reminder that, “I can find you”. I was vulnerable and living alone at the time.

Certainly I had some fears that he might find me at some point but I always had a hope that he would go on to become a better person. But I knew he had not changed if he hadn’t found a way to contact me. My parents still lived in the same home for many, many years, with the same phone number as when we were married.

So I always told myself that if he had any level of decency he would at least contact me through my parents, send some sort of a message that he was remorseful and that he was sorry. That really never happened.

But yeah, I think it’s always in the back of your mind as a survivor that you have experienced someone harming you and if it was a case where you weren’t able to successfully prosecute them, again, I never pressed charges for rape, you always feel like you’re vulnerable to a certain extent.

How do you protect yourself and deal with that?

Well I don’t want to live in fear. So it’s a constant battle, sometimes it’s easier than others. Obviously I’m a very public person now so it’s about balance. But I challenge myself to not live in fear. I know that’s not what I want for myself and I model that for my children, I’m a mother as well (of four children).

Memorable Moments

There have been many. I certainly love it. The first time I had an essay published about sexual assault I experienced such an outpouring from other women who had gone through, unfortunately, the same situation. Some of them were still in marriages or intimate relationships where they were actively being abused.

While it was really, really sad, it emphasised for me, a need for me to be vocal because I’m at a place in my healing where I can do that and others may not be able to do so. But recently I was also invited to film a segment for the Reelz Channel show called, “Scandal Made Me Famous”.

They have an episode where they re-visit the Lorena Bobbitt case and it is, certainly in America, one of the most highlighted case of domestic violence. While I was doing the taping, I really understood that I have come full circle, that I have come from being someone who was victimised to someone who is able to advocate for others and to someone who is seen as an authority on the topic. That was a really special moment for me.

What are you passionate about today?

I’m passionate about so many things. I have a large family and I really enjoy that interaction and being in a long term, healthy relationship. I have been in this relationship for over five years and I don’t have a lot of the same issues I used to have. I’ve learned so much about relationships in myself and done so much work.

I didn’t specifically go to counselling but I went through a mental health graduate program. So I was still able to do the work and really and deconstruct what was going on for me personally and make a lot of positive changes.

Now I’m an art activist. I’m really passionate about both writing and making films. I have a short film out right now called, “Marital Rape is Real”. That’s a project that is being considered for the 2017 season at PBS and so I’m hoping that will work out. I’m very positive about that.

It’s also been submitted to various different film festivals and I’m able to partner with different non-profit organisations and kind of lend the film out to be screened when they have events. That’s something that’s really special to me.

I’m also working on a documentary called, “Art as a voice” which features five different art activists that are also survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, or both. So, it’s been really important for me to not just put my story out there but to highlight the stories of others who have been through similar experiences. Where they can share their perspective as well.

I’ve recently been invited to attend a writers seminar at the Pointer Institute which is a journalism school here, in St Petersburg, Florida. So I’m going to be mentored and I’m going to be learning how to write opp eds (?) and really focus on journalism.

This is something that’s new for me in terms of writing and so I’m really excited about the direction my writing career is taking as well.

What is something in your future plan that scares you?

I think even if you are a risk taker, it’s always scary to put yourself out there. There are so many things I am involved in, especially when it comes to film making where I have to be the head of the project and the face of the project. There’s always this pressure that you have to get this thing done.

So I’m so focussed on completing it, making sure it’s funded, making sure that everyone who has contributed has been paid for their talent and their efforts. Certainly, I am still fairly new to this so there it’s definitely scary to think, “This is such a huge challenge, I hope I can get it done”.

Five Fast Fun Fearless Facts about Shanon Lee

  1. Who inspires you? My older relatives, in particular my Great Grandmother Goldie who is no longer with us but she was the matriarch of our family. I come from a really large family and she was a serial entrepreneur. She did hair, would bake and sell pies, she had a laundry service she ran out of her house, she would clean other people’s homes. Not only was she smart about business and money but she was just super talented. She could make her own furniture. She lived during a time, not when it was just difficult for black women but it was difficult for women in general to be taken seriously, to do things like own land and she would, back then, buy and flip homes. Or she would purchase homes, have them renovated and then rent them. So she was able to build her dream home. Her husband was an alcoholic who was always trying to sabotage her plans but she rose above that and gave all of her children the opportunity to go to college. She was a huge example of what you can be if you put your mind to it and don’t let anything stop you.
  2. Favourite thing to do each day? I start my day with a little cuddle session. I have a toddler so when her older brothers go off to school, we just have that special time together before I start my hectic part of the day.
  3. What’s something that still scares you? I would have to say that I am driven by the fear of not accomplishing everything I was put on this earth to do. So I’m really propelled by wanting to make sure that I pursue anything that interests me, anything I might have a talent in. I don’t want to be one of these people who grows older and have regrets. I’ve been close to a number of my older relatives and so I’ve heard some of those stories of regret and I never want to be that person.
  4. Favourite technique or app or book? This is a book that I give away to anyone who is going through any type of transition or if I have a relative or a friend that is graduating I give away a copy of “The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. That book is just rich in life lessons. It’s a quick read but I love to give away that book. In terms of a technique, I would say that I have more of a ritual. I think it’s important to start your day off with something positive and some type of ritual. I get up and I read. I have a little devotional but even a motivational book will work. But I will read for a period, I will write some sort of mantra for myself for that day. I have a little notebook that has a mirror attached to it and I will say that mantra to myself and then I will do a little conditioning work. I write at least two pages of a sentence that is an affirmative statement and starts with, “I am…” If I have a goal that I want in the future, I will state it as if it has already happened. It’s something that grounds me, and I think it’s just a great way to start the day.
  5. If you could wave a magic wand and fix one thing in the world right now, what would it be and why? Well I’m based in the US right now and we’re having our presidential election and there’s so much negativity and so much division. There have been a range of incidents involving police violence and now through the presidential race there is a story coming out about one of the candidates involving sexual assault. So I think it’s a really triggering time for the country and I know there are a lot of other countries that are looking at us and wondering, “What is going on?” So, if I could wave a wand and fix that I definitely would. Just all of the division that is going on in my country right now.

Final Question for Shanon Lee

If you could turn back time what’s the one piece of advice you wish you could give your fourteen-year-old self?

I would tell my fourteen-year-old self to ignore boys and to really just focus on getting yourself to a point where you can just travel and explore the world and just focus on yourself. I had a really solid foundation growing up. My father was in the military so we did get to travel often and have a lot of experiences that others don’t always have and I know how much travel enriches your life

Where can people reach out to you? 


Facebook – My love 4 writing

A Gift for Listeners From Shanon Lee & Facing Fears

A link through to the 10 Powerful Life Lessons from the book The Alchemist which is all about achieving your dreams. It’s written by Thai Nguyen AND as a bonus you can also download a poster of those 10 Life Lessons.

Click here to read article

Your contact details will not be shared with anyone else. You may receive occasional emails from Tegan Mathews and Facing Fears. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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