lisa fierer

Open Letter to Oprah Winfrey and HARPO Productions, October 2015

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Dear Oprah,

When I was 8 years old, I would come home after school each day, make myself a vanilla milkshake and like every other kid in that era, plop in front of the television.

What I was really drawn in by were talk shows. I was captivated by the opportunity to hear about people’s lives and their personal struggles, brought out into the open. Unfortunately, when my father got home from work, storming into the house, everything changed. When he begin to beat my mom and brother, as he did all too often, I would simply sit closer and closer to the TV, trying to block it all out while waiting for the police and or paramedics. I had only been twelve for three days when my father brutally took my mother’s life.

When your show came on in 1986, a whole new era of breaking silences began. On your show real people talked about real issues and real emotions. Well-chosen professionals gave their perspectives and advice and I always walked away from your show, like millions of others, feeling less alone.

That’s why I was so disappointed when I picked up the October 2015 issue of Oprah Magazine and discovered not a single mention of Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

I expected to find it there because I know that you have been deeply committed to raising awareness of these issues and did an incredible interview in 2007 and 2011 calling attention to the boy who was forced to film his mother being abused.

The October 2015 O Magazine highlighted Breast Cancer Awareness, as well it should. Breast Cancer is at epidemic proportions, a dire topic worthy of focus. I remember carrying your magazine with me to accompany my sister on her chemo treatments and reading it in the waiting room. Women all over the country know that you are an advocate for that struggle.

The problem with Domestic Violence is the silence that shrouds it. I know it’s not a topic that most people want to snuggle up with, but there are wonderful stories in the news cycle just this week, such as Dee Gordon from the Miami Marlins and William Gay from the Pittsburgh Steelers; both men who are bravely using their platforms as professional athletes to tell others about the loss of their mothers to domestic violence.

My role as a writer, a teacher and as someone who knows firsthand the true cost of what’s really at risk; is to call attention to these cultural silences and name the places where we as a community can speak but don’t.

Thank you for the work you do in calling attention to the strength, dignity and grace of women’s lives. I invite you to join me in extending that bright light of awareness to the ongoing issue of domestic violence and all the ways in which we might begin to change the culture that creates and sustains it.

In gratitude and hope,

Lisa Fierer

Boulder, CO