Going Public

Going Public

A Survivor’s Journey from Grief to Action

By Julie Macfarlane


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  • Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence, 2021 (Short-listed)
  • Huguenot Society of Canada Award, 2022 (Winner)

It took Julie Macfarlane a lifetime to say the words out loud – the words that finally broke the calm and traveled farther than she could have imagined. In this clear-eyed account, she confronts her own silence and deeply rooted trauma to chart a remarkable course from sexual abuse victim to agent of change.

Going Public merges the worlds of personal and professional, activism and scholarship. Drawing upon decades of legal training, Macfarlane decodes the well-worn methods used by church, school, and state to silence survivors, from first reporting to cross-examination to non-disclosure agreements. At the same time, she lays bare the isolation and exhaustion of going public in her own life, as she takes her abuser to court, challenges her colleagues, and weathers a defamation lawsuit.

The result is far more than a memoir. It’s a courageous and essential blueprint on how to go toe-to-toe with the powers behind institutional abuse and protectionism. At long last, Macfarlane’s experiences bring her to the most important realization of her life: that only she can stand in her own shoes, and only she can stand up and speak about what happened to her.


Julie Macfarlane’s Going Public is an incredibly personal and political story that
is equally empowering in the disheartening face of “sexual violence as a part of
our collective, societal conscience.” Macfarlane writes so clearly and engagingly
both as a legal scholar and from her own experience as a litigant to challenge the
misogyny pervasive in society. She destroys the myths of sexual violence and
victims that are embedded in culture and institutions revealing how they further
hurt victims and protect perpetrators. Macfarlane simultaneously provides
a survivor’s view of trauma and its effects, the difficult decision to go public
and what is needed legally to challenge powerful institutions–in her case, the
Anglican Church and the University of Windsor. This book has made a major
contribution towards accountability, and most importantly, to changing the
“entrenched culture of disbelief and denial” and institutional status quo. Indeed,
it is a “blue print for activism on sexual violence” and how we shift “to a society
that is committed to the respect and safety of girls and women.” Going Public
is an extremely important and greatly needed resource during this transition.

– Huguenot Society of Canada Award (2021-22) Recognizes Going Public: A Survivors Journey from Grief to Action by Dr. Julie Macfarlane

“Professor Julie Macfarlane provides a fascinating and invaluable insight into civil litigation involving sexual abuse claims and modern rape trials. Her openness and courage in disclosing her own experience of sexual abuse and her fight to improve institutional responses demonstrate a moral courage of awe-inspiring dimensions.”

– Jennifer Temkin, Professor of Law at City, University of London

“This memoir, manifesto, an honest cri de coeur all wrapped in one of what sexual violence and abuse does to women must be read by all who seek justice, truth, reforms of a distorted legal system, and accountability for institutional cover-ups. Going Public is a page-turner of truth, bravery, persistence and morality by a leader of reform in the justice system. How she sought, and eventually gained, some small modicum of justice as she moved from legal professional to activist litigant is an extraordinary story.”

– Carrie Menkel Meadow, Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine and Georgetown University Law Center (Emerita)

Going Public is truly unique. It is embodied sexual violence scholarship that brings ‘the personal is political’ and ‘the political is personal’ to life. Macfarlane’s critical reflections on her own victimization, survival, resistance, advocacy, and activism are central to her insight and legal analysis. The result is simultaneously painful, inspiring, challenging, demoralizing, empowering, and practical, with recommendations for changes to civil and criminal law and institutional approaches for dealing with sexual violence. A must read.”

– Charlene Y. Senn, professor and Canada Research Chair in Sexual Violence (CIHR) Department of Psychology / Women’s and Gender Studies at University of Windsor

“Julie Macfarlane dedicated her career to improving access to justice in Canada. After breaking her silence, Macfarlane’s personal search for justice will inspire readers. Going Public is more than a #MeToo memoir; it is a call to action to fundamentally change institutional responses to sexual violence.”

– Mandi Gray, activist and subject of the documentary Slut or Nut: Diary of a Rape Trial

“Few victims are brave enough to lay matters out in a comprehensive way especially to strangers no matter how genuine and interested those people are. I salute Dr. Macfarlane’s understanding that a book written not from an academic perspective, but a personal one, will be incredibly illuminating and help other victims understand that they are not alone.”

– Wayne Barkauskas, Q.C., Family law lawyer, mediator and parenting coordinator based in Calgary, Alberta

“This book resonated with me both personally and professionally. We have many examples of institutions failing survivors, but only now are we starting to formally document the stories of complainants who have experienced institutional betrayal after reporting and the acute affects it has on their lives. It is time that we speak frankly about these issues in all their complexities out in the open instead of behind closed doors. Dr. Macfarlane is helping us do just that.”

– Connor Spencer, National Chair of Students for Consent Culture Canada (2018-2020)


Chapter 1 Private Grief
Chapter 2 Public Denial
Chapter 3 Fighting Back
Chapter 4 Going Public
Chapter 5 From Law Professor to Litigant
Chapter 6 Holding My Institution to Account
Chapter 7 On the Stand