“That sounds like a movie,” she said, leaning back in her seat, arms crossed.
I was sitting with someone I barely knew, sharing because she asked, because I’m not afraid to tell people my story. I nodded and agreed that, yes, my story is pretty big before realizing her comment wasn’t shock but rather disbelief. She elaborated to ask if maybe it wasn’t as bad as I tell it, if I was being a little more dramatic for the sake of being a speaker and a writer.*
I stopped nodding to lean in and ask her why she would say that.
“It doesn’t sound real.”
Now there’s a phrase I’ve heard throughout the years, along with —
“There’s no way that happened.”
“He would never do that.”
“Are you sure that’s how it happened?”
“That sounds like someone has an overactive imagination!”
I get it. I think victims get it on some level, too. No one wants to believe that evil exists in the person who was supposed to be good, in the mom who dotes on her son, the husband who brings his wife flowers, the uncle who always shows up to help.
As I lay in bed the other night, chewing on this idea and thinking about a current situation someone I care about is going through, these words came to me —
Truth has a lifetime guarantee.
The clock is ticking.
In other words, I was reminded that an abuser’s lies exist and are often taken as truth. But eventually, all lies break down and truth is revealed. The waiting as the clock ticks, as time passes and people give you that look, not believing he did this or she did that, can be torture. But I want to remind abusers and victims alike: truth wins.
Lies might win a small battle, but Truth wins the big war.
It’s the rare occasion that someone actually says to my face they don’t believe me, compared to how often someone else tells me what so-and-so said. It used to bother me. I felt the need to defend myself, to prove my story was true, to drag out newspapers and find police reports, all to convince them of truth. But I have learned over time that truth reveals itself. Truth is consistent.
More than that, truth grows. The more we tell our stories, our courage to reveal more grows. Maybe truth starts off as, “I was abused.” As that truth is shared and people lean in and accept what is shared, the truth grows to, “I was sexually abused and my husband raped me.” Sharing can lead to healing, and healing can lead to shining more light into the darkness, and shining that light can lead to helping another step out of the shadows to share his or her own truth.
Lies cannot live long in the darkness. Time runs out on all lies. So keep telling your truths. Keep peeling back layers of pain and memories and your burned heart. It’s a hard road, a difficult journey to know some will not believe you, but you know what happened. You own your stories, and you own the option to share them.
And listen, I believe you.
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
*Disbelief is not just damaging. It also gives the abuser more power.