Buffalo (NY) News
January 5, 1999

Added January 12, 1999

Tori was part of an article that appeared in the January 5, 1999 edition of the Buffalo (NY) News. The article had the title, "Song of Survival: How 'Me and a Gun' Has Led Rape Victims To Seek The Help They Need." Thanks to Shannon and Kathy Andolina for telling me about this.

Song of Survival
how 'Me and a Gun' has led rape victims to seek the help they need by Nicole Peradotto

The first time Shannon Lambert heard "Me and a Gun," she pressed the 'repeat" button on her CD player and listened to it for hours.

Kellie Greene skips over that track on the Tori Amos CD "Little Earthquakes." She has come to terms with her own rape, but hearing someone else's account fo sexual assault hurts too much.

Buffalo counselor Allison Paull Clement recognized the powerful effect Amos' music has on rape survivors - particularly "Me and a Gun" - when the pianist-singer performed here two years ago. A day after the concert, she got a call from a woman requesting an appointment. The woman had been raped years ago; hearing the 3 1/2 minute song unearthed memories of the attack.

"She was absolutely flooded with emotion, and the song opened up a number of doors," Ms. Paull Clement said. "It was the catalyst for her to recognize, 'I need to deal with this.'"

Allison Paull Clement, Shannon Lambert, and Kellie Greene discuss their experiences with Amos' music during an upcoming segment of the ABC news-magazine "20/20". Producers have not determined the date but anticipate it will run later this month or in February. The story will include an interview with Amos and footage from her recent concert in New York City.

When Amos sings "Me and a Gun" in concert, it's not uncommon for fans to weep. She composed the a cappella track eight years ago, after seeing the movie "Thelma and Louise." The bare-bones song is based on her own experience being raped by an aquaintance after a performance in 1985.

With its themes of alienation, self-discovery and sexuality, Amos' music has aften been criticized as being cryptic. The stark "Me and a Gun", however, leaves little to interpretation:

it was me and a gun
and a man on my back
and i sang "holy holy" as he buttoned down his pants
me and a gun and a man on my back
but i haven't seen Barbados so i must get out of this

After "Me and a Gun" appreared on a 1991 EP, Amos received a torrent of letters from fans sharing their own stories and thanking her for her candor. Sensing that many of the young women needed more than a song, Amos co-founded RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Victims of rape can call RAINN's toll-free number, 800-656-HOPE, and can be connected to the nearest rape counseling center within 20 seconds.

"There's a lot of stigma with being identified as a survivor, and Tori coming forward has helped to eliminate that," said RAINN's executive director, Debbie Andrews, from her office in Washington, DC. "She has helped tremendously in drawing attention to the issue, and also in terms of making women feel more comfortable about coming forward themselves."

"She's a role model in that she can speak out," says Ms. Paull Clement, the Buffalo counselor. "For a person in the public eye to say she's a survivor, she has to be a role model."

That's how Kellie Greene feels. In 1994, after a night of cocktail waitressing, Ms. Greene was savagely beaten with her tea kettle and raped by a stranger who broke into her Orlando, Fla., apartment. After the attack, she gained 50 pounds and dyed her blonde hair brown, figuring she'd be less attractive to potential attackers that way.

Every day challenged her. A trip to the grocery store seemed like an unsurmountable task. Driving through town took her on an emotional roller coaster as she tormented herself over which were the safest routes.

Friends told her to get over it. "You go through this struggle and the slightest little thing - these 'little earthquakes' - will tear you to pieces," Ms. Greene said, referring to the title track of Amos' 1991 CD.

After signing on as one of RAINN's featured speakers, Ms. Greene discovered Amos' music. Last summer, she volunteered to sit at RAINN's information table during six dates of Amos' tour.

"It's amazing. Her fans run up and say, "Oh, it's Tori's table," and they give you money because they believe in what she's doing. They're donating 20,30,50 dollars, and they're just kids."

Remember when the only businesses at rock concerts were T-shirts and drugs? Now, non-profits are all the rage. Pins are sold to support breast cancer research, and condoms are handed out to encourage safe sex. You can volunteer to stop oppression in Tibet, cruelty to animals, and domestic violence - all before you get to your seat.

Part of the proceeds at last year's HORDE festival went to such charities as Planned Parenthood and LIFEbeat, a music industry AIDS resource program. Similarly, $1 from every ticket sold at Lilith Fair went to various causes, including RAINN.

Typically, RAINN receives 5,000 calls a month. After the Lifetime cable TV channel aired an Amos concert to benefit RAINN, 17,000 calls poured into the agency,

"If these musicians really take a stand on a position, their fans are encouraged to do the same," said Sandra Mobley-Terry, executive director of CORSA, the Citizens Committee on Rape, Sexual Assualt and Sexual Abuse. "It has to be put in people's faces because we need to talk about this."

Shannon Lambert couldn't agree more. That's why, last summer, she wrote about being raped in high school on a "Tori Amos inspired" Web page she created (http://wwwdot.net/barbados).

Ms. Lambert knows that some look at Amos' mostly young, mostly female followers as silly for their gushy adoration. Anyone who refers to a singer as a "goddess," as the so-called Toriphiles will do, is bound to wind up on the receiving end of a joke or two.

To the University of Minnesota sophomore, though, Amos is more like a savior. "I would still be hiding in the back of my head and spiraling down if it weren't for Tori. If it weren't for her speaking out, I would have never found my own voice.

"I had no clue what was making me depressed and making me want to die, and that song ('Me and a Gun') put it all together. It's amazing that a three-minute track on a scratched CD can do that to you."

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