The Story of What Happened

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I run into people looking for a sound bite length version of what happened to me. Here it is. I was abused. That’s it.

For some, that’s not enough information. They want to know the juicy details. They want me to tell them a story. They are looking for some shocking piece of information that they can visualize immediately and succinctly. They want the cliche of the mom hitting the kid over the head with a frying pan.

I get it. I am a storyteller by trade. I have written about abuse in narrative form, directly and indirectly. There are all sorts of interesting character choices and metaphors to work with in storytelling. But storytelling is not real life.

There is a saying that the difference between story and real life is that a story has to make sense. Stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. What I want to write about here often makes no sense and often has no end.

I did not experience one major traumatic event, but thousands of events over a long period of time. It’s bad material for a succinct story. It’s complicated and unwieldy, with way too much backstory.

Some people want “the story” because they are looking to discredit the experience. They want to decide for themselves if it was abusive or not. I’ve learned it’s better not to engage with such people. I don’t need other people to validate whether it happened. People who have experienced abuse, or at least have empathy for those who have, understand that underneath the minimalism, the story is all there. I’ve learned that my desire to be understood stems directly from those people in my life who refuse to understand, no matter how much information is given to them.

We have radar, we victims of abuse. We know which friends have said something about it, directly or indirectly, in our news feeds. We know who is receptive. We know who is not. For those who are listening, the whole story will be revealed.

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