Raped at 13, this beauty queen walked away from her crown after an emcee's #MeToo joke.

Miss America pageants are changing for the better, but that change has been slow to catch on in some state competitions.

On June 30, 2018, the emcee of the Miss Massachusetts pageant mocked #MeToo, blaming the loss of the swimsuit competition on the movement.

In a brief skit, a woman spoke to someone dressed as God, saying, “We may have very well seen the last ever swimsuit competition on stage. It’s very upsetting, and I’m trying to understand, God, why it happened.” And the person playing God held up a #MeToo sign and replied, "Me too, Amy."


Some in the audience cheered and laughed, but one contestant, Maude Gorman didn't find it funny.

I can’t believe I just attended my last Miss Massachusetts orientation (ever!!). The last thing I expected this year was to be competing in pageants again; yet alone with the Miss America Organization. I had previously aged out, and thought that was that. But, by some miracle, they the increased the age limit, and I knew I had to give it one last try! I’m extremely grateful to be a titleholder at a time in my life where I stand to show others just how beautiful STRONG is. I’m 30 lbs heavier than when I last competed 🎉🎉🎉, can now bench press more than I used to weigh when I last stepped foot on that stage, and I can’t wait to show myself (and everybody) that change and strength within self is one of the biggest wins of all 🙏 #missmassachusetts #missplymouthcounty #mao #strongisbeautiful #7seasroasting #rxathlete #beautyandabeast

A post shared by Maude Gorman 🇺🇸 (@maudernliving) on

“It was heartbreaking to hear,” said Gorman, who was competing in the pageant as Miss Plymouth County. “In that moment, everything collapsed right in front of me.”

She skipped the reception after the show and went home to draft her resignation from the pageant. With her experiences, this was something Gorman couldn't let stand.

At 13, Maude Gorman was attacked and raped by three men — a secret she kept for years. Gorman and a friend had walked to a playground to swing on the swings, and as they were leaving, three highly intoxicated men approached them. The girls ran in different directions, but the men chased after and caught up with Gorman. They took turns raping her before finally letting her go. Embarrassed and ashamed, she didn’t tell anyone what happened.

For three years, she kept her story a secret, spiraling in and out of depression, suicide attempts, and other mental health issues. Finally, she told her mom about the rapes, and Gorman started intensive therapy. She and her family consulted a lawyer, but too much time had passed, she didn't know who the men were, and there wasn’t enough physical evidence to prove the crime.

However, Gorman decided she wouldn't stay silent any longer.

Gorman started competing in pageants to boost her confidence and help other sexual assault survivors.

In 2015, at age 21, Gorman made headlines for winning the Miss Massachusetts World America crown and telling judges that she wanted to use her platform to help victims of sexual assault. She started working with the Center for Hope and Healing in Lowell, Massachusetts, and sharing her story at various conferences. At the Miss World pageant, she won first place in the "Beauty with a Purpose" presentation — a three-minute speech in which Gorman spoke candidly about her experience with sexual violence.

“I think society blames victims,” she told the Boston Globe. “I’m trying to remove that blame. My goal is to be that light at the end of the tunnel for those who feel stuck in the darkness.”

Competing in the Miss America Organization pageant was a dream come true for Gorman. But the #MeToo joke crossed the line.

"I refuse to stand idly by and simply 'let this go,'" says Gorman.

Today, I officially resigned from the title of Miss Plymouth County 2018. While I’m grateful for the opportunities that @missamerica creates for young women, I am also internally conflicted; as the #metoo movement was mocked on stage during the final competition of Miss Massachusetts. As both a survivor, and advocate for victims rights and sexual violence on a whole, I refuse to stand idly by and simply “let this go”. Instead, I will stand up for every individual who has ever had the courage to speak out; and for every person who felt liberated by the #metoo movement. I will not allow ANYONE to take away that empowerment and liberation, or make it anything less than what it is: AMAZING. #metoo #missplymouthcounty #nomore #rainn #surviveandthrive

A post shared by Maude Gorman 🇺🇸 (@maudernliving) on

In an Instagram post, Gorman explained why she resigned from her Miss Plymouth County title and turned in her crown. "I will stand up for every individual who has ever had the courage to speak out," she wrote, "and for every person who felt liberated by the #MeToo movement. I will not allow ANYONE to take away that empowerment and liberation, or make it anything less than what it is: AMAZING."

Joking about rape victims isn't just tone deaf. It's a part of the problem.

In a civilized society, there are simply some subjects that are too heinous to be used as comedy fodder. Until we start acknowledging the life-altering pain and anguish that sexual assault survivors have to grapple with, and start treating sexual violence with the gravitas it deserves, we won't make the changes to our culture and our laws that are needed to prevent such assaults from happening.

Jokes that make light of sexual assault are part of the "rape culture" that spawned the #MeToo movement in the first place, and it's long past time for them to end. Civilized people don't joke about the Holocaust. We don't joke about child trafficking. And we shouldn't joke about sexual assault victims. It's not funny. Period.

Three cheers to Maude Gorman for taking a stand and continuing to use her voice to support sexual assault survivors — a feat far more impactful than winning any crown.

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

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This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."