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Sexual Assault & Safe Spaces:

A Panel with Midnight Woman for Bonnaroo

Sexual Assault & Safe Spaces: A Panel with Midnight Woman for Bonnaroo

BELOW IS A TRANSCRIPTION OF OUR SATURDAY PANEL FOR BONNAROO 2019

SPECIAL THANKS TO HAYLEY WILLIAMS FOR INVITING US TO BE PART OF THE SANCTUARY OF SELF-LOVE THIS YEAR.

BELOW IS A TRANSCRIPTION OF OUR SATURDAY PANEL FOR BONNAROO 2019

SPECIAL THANKS TO HAYLEY WILLIAMS FOR INVITING US TO BE PART OF THE SANCTUARY OF SELF-LOVE THIS YEAR.

BELOW IS A TRANSCRIPTION OF OUR SATURDAY PANEL FOR BONNAROO 2019

SPECIAL THANKS TO HAYLEY WILLIAMS FOR INVITING US TO BE PART OF THE SANCTUARY OF SELF-LOVE THIS YEAR.

CARIANN: Hi everyone! My name is Cariann Bradley and I run a website called Midnight Woman. It’s an online platform where people can share stories anonymously.


MADELINE: Hi guys, I’m Madeline. I do all the creative for Midnight Woman –– all the design and the way you experience the sites.


MICHELLE: And I’m Michelle, I’m the editorial director for Midnight Woman. I read and edit all of your anonymous submissions, which might not mean much right now, but Cariann will explain more about the platform.


CARIANN: Yes! So like I said, I’m Cariann and I’m the founder. I wanted to give you a little bit of background on my story and why I started Midnight Woman. So, I turn 24 this month. I’m very, very young. I’m only a couple years out of college, but I am also a couple years removed from a really traumatic experience that happened to me in a community I really trusted. When I was in this community a couple years ago, it dictated a lot of my life. It dictated my moral compass, my confidence; these people around me at the time, I truly trusted them. I was assaulted and harassed by a fellow member of this community. And, that’s awful. I’m sure many of you know people that have been assaulted or raped or harassed, especially women, but men too. But I think what was even worse, in this place I really trusted, I told people in leadership what had happened to me. And they didn’t believe me. Which, until you experience it –– I’m sure many of you have –– is something I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, you know? Being vulnerable and putting yourself out there is one thing, but then having someone be like, ‘Mmmm...I don’t really think that’s correct. Or accurate,’ about what’s happened to you...It’s just shattering. When I graduated and left this place and kind of woke up, snapped out of things, I told myself that I want to make a place where people are believed, no matter what. People are validated, people are empowered, and people’s stories mattered, because my story did not matter where I was. It was just further restatement that women’s stories are to be disregarded, and that they don’t necessarily matter.


I think we’re in a really good place right now with the #MeToo movement and things like that –– we’re all becoming a lot more aware of trauma and mental health –– but we still have a long way to go.


So, I started Midnight Woman as a place to house my own story. It’s a website where you can go and submit about something that has happened to you. It doesn’t have to be sexual assault. I have sobriety stories live on the site, I’ve received birth stories, pregnancy stories, stories of redemption, love, really anything. I think another good thing to submit to Midnight Woman is political opinions that maybe you don’t want to post on Facebook because your crazy cousin will come for you in the comments. [Laughs] All that is welcome on Midnight Woman. I’ve spent the last couple years cultivating this community where, no matter what, you can enter Midnight Woman’s website, and we believe you. About anything. We validate you and empower you, and we think that your story is important.

 

So yeah, I want Madeline to talk a little bit about the design part of our site, I think it’s pretty unconventional. The goal is for it to look extremely good. You know, I’m just this 23-year-old girl, and I probably wouldn’t get an op-ed in a magazine or be able to tell my story somewhere where the right people would be able to read it. So we wanted to create a beautiful platform for people to be able to have their own corner of the Internet that is theirs. So yeah, Madeline, do you want to bounce off that and talk about design?


MADELINE: Yeah, so before I jump into that, I want to talk about my involvement in general. I have never personally experienced sexual assault, but I have known people who’ve gone through all sorts of things they would love to share in a safe space. So that doesn’t mean that Midnight Woman isn’t relevant to me. It is relevant to anyone who knows someone or anyone who just wants to support, embrace, or respect people that do want to talk. The whole point of this website is that yes, it is anonymous, but your voice is still your voice. In social media comments and sharing, people can support you and make you feel like you haven’t put everything on the line. I know that there can be repercussions professionally, or whatever it may be, that restrict you from sharing personally in the public eye.


In terms of design, as you can imagine, these stories are text-heavy. Who wants to go to a website where you scroll endlessly only to see an onslaught of words? You need photos –– so we’ve started adding graphics and photos, especially through the magazine l’Odet. It’s very visually pleasing. You don’t want to go somewhere like Yahoo or Reddit to bare your soul. It has to look nice.


I think it’s also important that it feels safe, and there are a lot of measures in place to keep things anonymous. Yes of course sites can get hacked and people can find information other ways, but there are measures in place to make sure that doesn’t happen. It looks nice and it looks trusting, and on the back end, It goes through vetted editors like Michelle, and Cariann who has a background in writing as well. But yeah, we just want to create a community that people want to engage in that feels cool and feels like something you want to talk about, or tell your friends about.


On top of Midnight Woman, we also have the sister magazine l’Odet, which is pretty much the non-anonymous side of things. Cariann interviews more high-profile voices that you might be a fan of or might have heard of, and are willing to share their stories. And that’s a huge deal that these l’Odet features are willing to not be anonymous while bringing in their fan-base, family, or friends to talk about things, because I think that’s really important. I guess Cariann can go into a little bit more of how we put security measures in place. You know, your content at first, will only be seen by us, and only passed through two sets of hands.


CARIANN: Yeah, so, I think –– hopefully a lot of you are old enough to remember –– that early on when I was building this business plan, a platform and model that I compared to Midnight Woman was Yik Yak. It was like an anonymous Twitter that was popular when I was in high school and early college. People could send out tweets, or Yaks, or whatever and it was all anonymous. But it became extremely dangerous; people could post bomb threats or things like that. It could be pretty terrifying. The reason why –– well, I think there are a lot of reasons why Midnight Woman is different than Yik Yak –– when your submission gets submitted it comes to us, and anyone who handles the submissions is required to sign a non-disclosure agreement. We are extremely careful with the confidentiality of what you’re sharing. We also spend a lot of time editing for grammar, clarity, and identifying details that maybe you didn’t even notice. Maybe you didn’t say the name of your workplace or university outright, but you said you were in the South and then something else that might allude to where you are. That’s the kind of stuff that we look for to try and keep you as safe as possible.


The more growth we experience, the safer the platform will be as we can put more resources into expanding that. So that is very exciting. One thing that I did want to touch on is that right now we’re working with this designer in Los Angeles who’s helping us cultivate this trigger warning system. We’re creating icons and graphics for our site to warn people of the content they’re about to see. Even if it’s positive content about creativity or your LGBTQIA+ community, there’s going to be a graphic for that. We’re just going to make it as easy as possible for people and safe as possible for someone who could be triggered by a story about rape or violence.


I’m going to let Michelle talk a little bit about her involvement. She’s my editorial queen, so…


MICHELLE: We love an editorial queen! [Laughs] I wanted to touch base too on why I think Midnight Woman matters. Cariann has been my best friend for, what are we at now, like six years? She came to me with this idea of creating Midnight Woman, and I think it was a five paragraph text and I just responded with ‘yes.’ It was just so perfect. [Laughs] It was like yes, this definitely a platform that’s needed. Right now we have social media, and that gives us a voice. But our face is attached to it and our weird cousins follow us, or our parents or there, or our boss from five years ago –– so there is no anonymity. There’s a lot of stuff that you might like to dive into that you might not have the ability to do with your face attached sometimes. I’ve seen Midnight Woman work as a therapy tool for a lot of people. You have these experiences in your life –– maybe they happened a week ago, maybe ten years ago –– you need to be able to voice it. You might not know who to go to, or you’re trying to go through it, but you don’t know how to give yourself that think-space to process. With Midnight Woman, you literally just have a blank submission box where you’re able to explore what’s happened to you and share it with other people. The panel before us talked about the importance of finding that community and that sharing your story helps other people process their own. That’s what I think Midnight Woman is already doing, and that’s pretty incredible. I shared my personal story on Midnight Woman, and we got feedback from someone that said my submission was her favorite. Of course she didn’t know it was mine, but she said it was the most relatable to her, true in her life, and that it helped her work through a situation that happened to her recently. I think that’s the value of Midnight Woman. You share your story, but you have no clue how many people will read it and who it’s going to speak to. It’s both healing for you and for others when you have the courage to tell your story.


I also want to touch on something Cariann said –– this isn’t just a site for trauma. This is a site for celebration. This is a site to look at who you are, what makes you who you are, and why that matters. We really encourage y’all to go to the site, read some submissions, submit something yourself. It was very healing for me to do, and we’ve gotten feedback that these submissions are helping for other people, too. Going off of that, as part of editorial for Midnight Woman, I am  editing your submissions. Like Cariann said, we aren’t changing your story. We’re reading it for clarity, slight grammar, and to protect your identity. We want your story to be anonymous and we want you to feel confident in that anonymity. So yeah, I’m editing your submissions and it’s great. We’ve got a shitload of recent submissions to get through as well. It’s good.


MADELINE: I want to jump in –– I know I touched a little on our magazine l’Odet already. We have interviews, five so far, I believe, with some high-profile people. Check them out on the site; they’re really interesting.


CARIANN: And that’s actually how we’re connected to the Sanctuary of Self-Love here at Bonnaroo –– we interviewed Hayley Williams of Paramore and GoodDyeYoung, and she asked us here today to talk about Midnight Woman. She’s our queen, right? We love Hayley.


MADELINE: [Laughs] But yeah, so we encourage you to get on l’Odet but also to just engage in general. We are still very young as a brand, and we’re just trying to infiltrate and engage with as many audiences as we can because there are always people with opinions and voices to be heard. L’Odet is coming out with another article…


CARIANN: Two at the end of this month, actually. One will go live next week and it’s a feature on this super badass florist from Chicago, who is an amazing advocate for the LGBT+ community. And then we have one more going live at the end of the month with the season 16 model winner of Project Runway, her name is Liris Crosse. She is an African-American plus size model, but also my queen. She’s amazing.


So, we tell these people what we’re doing, and they’ve just been so willing to jump on board. Even someone like Hayley, who is so fucking busy with GDY and everything else, but she believed in what we’re doing. It’s really encouraging. The more people we talk to, the more encouraged we get –– that’s what keeps us going.


I think the main idea for l’Odet was for it to be a resource. So if you want to submit to Midnight Woman and you need a little bit of a push or encouragement, you can read stories from people like Hayley or Sharon Van Etten –– people who have their names on their stories and are out there doing it. Or maybe you’ve already submitted to Midnight Woman and you need to be filled back up again. Or maybe you just want to just read a really cool interview with someone you look up to in your community. I think that l’Odet has been the luckiest surprise of the entire brand. I love it. It’s my favorite part of the brand –– I’m flying to New York in July to interview a couple really incredible people.


MADELINE: So if you know anyone…


CARIANN: Yes! Let me know. Email me if you have someone in mind we should interview. My business cards are on the table in the back.


And before we close, I’m going to talk about our name really quick. A lot of people ask me about the name Midnight Woman. I came up with the name through a French myth that I found while doing research. I ended up down a rabbit hole on the internet, as one does, and found this French ghost story from the area of Brittany in France. It’s basically this ghost story that people would tell their kids to scare the shit out of them –– people would see ghostly, feminine figures by bodies of water at night, and the figures would be washing clothes. The myth is called the Midnight Washerwomen, and I know the name in French but I’m not going to say it and sound dumb. [Laughs] But basically, these women would be washing the clothes of men who were about to die, so it was an omen of death. [Laughs] I know, it’s really dark. But I think my idea was that we want death to silence, we want death to oppression. You know, we want to give your story a place to thrive, and we are the Midnight Women out here doing that, putting in the work so you might not have to. And Odet is a river in France, so l’Odet – the Odet – that’s where the magazine’s name came from.


MADELINE: I think that we really don’t want the name Midnight Woman to be polarizing. Like PsychHub talked about earlier, these issues affect all people, not just women. We have a few interviews with men, and it’s super courageous for anyone to tell their story, but I think it’s a lot less common for men to come forward and be vulnerable in situations like this. We want to encourage that, but also want to say that and remind people learning about us that this site isn’t just for women. Anyone can exist, share, and have a voice on Midnight Woman. We definitely aren’t anti-men.


CARIANN: We love men!


MADELINE: We love men. [Laughs]


MICHELLE: [Laughs] But we really believe in this platform. As someone who edits the stories, I’ve read a lot of really hard things. Really tough life stories that people have been brave enough to share. I think it goes back to when you’re brave enough to share part of your story, it encourages other people to take that step, too. Just reading these submissions has blown me away and challenged me in a way that I didn’t expect. I think there is something for everyone on Midnight Woman.


CARIANN: I think something that’s really important, too, is that Michelle, Madeline, and I are working hard to hold space for these stories. That’s what Midnight Woman is. Michelle will go in and edit these submissions and we don’t realize how tough it’s going to be to read the heavier content. That’s what the brand is for, to hold space for you.

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© Midnight Woman Inc. 2019

For general inquiries, please contact us at hello@midnight-woman.com

For advertising opportunities, please write to us at goldie@midnight-woman.com

Have you been to Midnight Woman? That's our sister. Submit anonymously here.

For general inquiries, please contact us at hello@midnight-woman.com

 

For advertising opportunities, please write to us at goldie@midnight-woman.com

 

Have you been to Midnight Woman? That's our sister.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences anonymously.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. l'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.

Midnight Woman is an online platform that welcomes contributors of all kinds to submit personal experiences.

We aim to redefine the way we talk about what's happened to us, no matter the subject. L'Odet exists for the named to encourage the nameless.