I don’t know about you, but I woke up with an emotional hangover yesterday morning. If you can relate, you were probably also following The Firecracker Foundation‘s #WhyItold online storytelling event on Monday (or you were doing something else emotionally overwhelming. I don’t know your life). Throughout the day, Madam Firecracker herself, Tashmica Torok, led sexual assault survivors through the process of telling their stories of the abuse, the aftermath and their survival. On Facebook. On Twitter. In front of their friends, family and the world.
It was a heartrending and beautiful thing. Women I’d never heard of and women I know well, but never would have guessed had experienced sexual assault (how, after all, would one even go about guessing at such a thing?) stepped forward to share. In their retelling, the roles played by silence in their grief and speaking up in their recovery were clear. This is why we tell stories. To heal. To regain strength and control. To exist, truthfully and without shame.
We also tell stories to serve others. Some of us cannot exist without telling our stories; no one can exist without hearing those of others. Stories make us feel validated and reassured about our own experiences. We weren’t wrong to feel violated when that happened. That thing that happened was a big deal. We don’t deserve to carry around guilt or shame either.
This doesn’t only extend to the kinds of harrowing stories that were a part of the #WhyItold event. Sharing our joys, our disappointments and general life experiences feed into the general consciousness that keeps humanity human. It’s a fact. Real, live research has shown that reading literary fiction makes people more empathetic. Of course it does. The more of the human experience we learn about from others, the more we understand and can relate.
Particularly in cases of assault and abuse, the narrative that exists when the truth has not been told — and sometimes not even realized by the victim at the time — is that nothing happened at all. That is a terrible psychological prison in which to be held. Both telling the truth, and having ones own truth be validated when hearing someone else’s story, can be the key.
Storytellers, whether we do it professionally or otherwise, we do it for the same reason: to survive. And to help others do the same.
Thank you, Tashmica, and all of the #WhyItold participants, for helping us live our lives a little better than we were capable of doing Monday morning. We will not let the lesson go to waste.
Want to give more survivors the opportunity to heal? Oh good, because you can. Support The Firecracker Foundation’s Soulfire 2015: The Firecracker Calendar Project. For a minimum donation of $20, you can get the 2015 Firecracker Foundation Calendar and admission to the Soulfire 2015 gallery event on November 12, 2014 at Eagle Eye Golf Club. Do it.