I was in my late twenties. Still wore highheels. Newly to Minneapolis with my first Social Work job. I took on a volunteer-training position at one of the local hospitals that specialized in sexual addiction. Within the first week I found myself in a group where a girl of 10 years was to confront her father on his sexual abuse. He was in jail for this crime. They released him to attend this group. He sat next to me, a tall white man with dark edges that matched his dark hair and eyes. Even in my highheels he loomed over me. The hospital social worker started the process by speaking for the girl, and confronted the father. He denied it. I wasn't given any particular role but knew what I had to do. While the other professionals (at least 4 of them) continued to confront the perpetrator, and he continued to deny it, I spoke up.
I looked at the young girl and said," I need you to know something." I waited for her to look back at me. She did. The room thickened with silence. "I want you to know that I believe you."
She kept her eyes on me the rest of the time.
For me, that's all that mattered that day, that she knew she was believed.
In my work with writers, many write stories of past trauma and transgressions, some for the first time, some as the result of years of recovery and healing. Everyone of them at some time or another worries that the reader won't believe them.
"Who will believe that this much happened to one person?" someone recently asked in one of my circles.
Here is my response to each and everyone of you: First, believe and trust yourself. Do the healing work that attends to the pain and abuses (either as you write your trauma stories or/and before). Then, as you write, your job is to make your stories believable to your readers. Of course they are true. Tragically true, but true. Fathers abuse their daughters. Mothers too. Alcoholism destroys families. Children witness horrific events. Some lives are strewn with loss, abuse and trauma. Typically the perpetrators deny their transgressions. Yes, there will be those who want us to shut up.
Not sharing our stories of course makes it easier for these true stories to be denied.
Your work is to make your abuse story believable to readers. Not a small task by any measure. That's the job of all writers. That is done the same way we make all our meaningful experiences meaningful to our future readers. We write. We read. We write some more. We study others' writing. We join in safe writing circles. We write some more. All my work with writers is about helping with this daunting but worthwhile endeavor -- to take hold of your reader like that 10 year old did of me in the above story.
This makes us all brave.
You can do this. And must. Without your courage to share and confront through the written word, the world will be a less beautiful and safe place.
We need your stories.
I believe you.
Your readers will too.
"Just a minute," said a voice...
by Mary Oliver
"Just a minute," said a voice in the weeds.
So I stood still
in the day's exquisite early morning light.
and so I didn't crush with my great feet
any small or unusual thing just happening to pass by
where I was passing by
on my way to the blueberry fields,
and maybe it was the toad
and maybe it was the June beetle
and maybe it was the pink and tender worm
who does his work without limbs or eyes
and does it so well
or maybe it was the walking stick, still frail
and walking humbly by, looking for a tree,
or maybe, like Blake's wondrous meeting, it was
the elves, carrying one of their own
on a rose petal coffin away, away
into the deep grasses, After awhile
the quaintest voice said, "Thank you." And then there was silence
For the rest, I would keep you wondering.
Mount Horeb Morning Writing Circle (Next one begins SEPTEMBER, 2019)
Meets monthly on the 3rd Tuesday 10am - 1:00pm through Sept., 2019. This circle will be a
smaller circle of 6. FULL
Madison Evening Writing Circle (Next one begins SEPTEMBER, 2019)
Meets monthly on the 1st Tuesday 6-9pm. join us.
Prairie du Sac Evening Writing Circle (Next one begins September, 2019)
595 Water Street, Prairie du Sac Meets monthly on the 1st Wednesday 6 till 9pm.
I invite you to join.