When Maude Gorman, 24, resigned her title of Miss Plymouth County shortly after the Miss Massachusetts finals on June 30, most of the media focus was on a sketch performed at the event that featured a controversial #MeToo joke.
“Miss America did away with the swimsuit competition,” a woman says in a video of the sketch obtained by Observer. “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.”
“Me too, Amy,” replies a person playing God, who then holds up a “#MeToo” sign as the crowd laughs and cheers.
While Gorman wrote on Instagram that the joke was part of why she chose to relinquish her crown, she said that an additional troubling event also impacted her decision.
Gorman wrote in her July 5 Instagram statement that she was “disheartened by the cruel nature of several of the other titleholders backstage; whom took it upon themselves to discuss that my ‘story was fake.'”
In an interview with Boston.com, Gorman gave some more context.
Prior to the June 30 competition, Gorman had talked candidly about being a survivor of sexual violence. While representing Massachusetts at the Miss World America competition in 2015, she spoke onstage about being raped by three men on a playground when she was 13 years old.
According to Gorman, the trouble at Miss Massachusetts started after she spoke about being a survivor while responding to a question from the competition judges.
“I answered a question about being an advocate against sexual violence, being a survivor, and how important it is for me to empower others to speak up,” Gorman said. “So after I had answered that, other girls spoke amongst each other and said, ‘That story’s fake.’”
Gorman said she subsequently went to talk to one of her fellow competitors about the situation.
“So I actually confronted one of the girls,” Gorman said. “I told her I was really disappointed in hearing that she had spoken about me. And then I was made to apologize to her for confronting her.”
Gorman said that she felt that she was very polite when speaking to her fellow contestant, and that Miss America officials did not make that same contestant apologize to Gorman for her remarks.
“I’m not sure exactly why I had to apologize and she didn’t, but it was just kind of backward,” Gorman said. “That whole situation… It was kind of a combination, not only the #MeToo joke, but feeling unsupported by other women in the program. It was very disappointing, especially because I had been very supportive of that particular girl.”
In an emailed statement to Boston.com, the Miss Massachusetts Organization’s executive director, Dolores “Buffy” Rabuffo, said that the organization handles situations like these internally.
“We take these allegations very seriously and are still conducting an investigation,” Rabuffo wrote. “If there is any further action which needs to occur, it will be handled appropriately.”
While Gorman said that her experience at the June 30 competition was more of an isolated situation than a pattern of negative interactions, she doesn’t regret her decision to relinquish her title.
“I think that incident happened and kind of amplified how important the #MeToo movement is,” Gorman said. “It was just kind of this moment where I felt really overwhelmed and thought, ‘You need to do something.'”
While Gorman said she wishes the Miss America Organization well, she has plenty of other activities to occupy her time beyond competing in pageants. She’s a preschool teacher in Wellesley, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, and a part of the U.S. national team for skyrunning, which Gorman described as “basically an ultramarathon up a mountain.”
Gorman also said she would continue to volunteer with advocacy groups, and passed along a personal message to survivors of sexual assault.
“I just want to say, to any survivors who are reading this: You are understood,” Gorman said. “There are people who are willing to listen to your voices. I will always be one of those people. I will stand up for what is right, and will always be a voice for those who feel unheard.”