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The Word "Story"

I've said it before and I'll probably say it several more times while I'm still here on this Earth: I hate the word "story." Now you may be wondering why such a little word conjures up such intense feelings in me so let me explain.


When you think of the word "story," what do you think about? If we're all honest here we'd probably admit to thinking of a fictional piece of writing like "The 3 Little Pigs," "Hansel and Gretel," or any number of other stories along this line. While these are obviously great pieces of writing (after all they've been classics for centuries now), they're known as stories. With this I'm fine. My problem comes when you ask a domestic violence survivor to share their "story" with you.


To me it conjures up thoughts of these classic children's fables, doing grave injustice to what this person has gone through. It sounds as if we're telling them to go ahead and create a piece of fiction for us. Now I know this isn't what it means but this word is powerful. It's so tied to one meaning that it basically renders the victim powerless - even though that isn't what our intention is at all.


Is there another way of asking the survivor to share their "story?" Well if you're looking for something that'll easily fit into our everyday language, then probably not. However, in an effort to help the survivor feel powerful and not revictimized may I suggest that we start using the word "truth" instead?


You see, each of us has a version of truth as we know it. Regardless of who we are or what we've been through, this is our truth. Sure others may not agree with it but that doesn't make it any less true to us. Others may even want to argue about it (I'm sure the abuser would), but it's still your truth as you know it, and that deserves to be known.


So, the next time you're talking to a survivor, I strongly encourage you to use the word "truth" instead of story or at the very least make the hand motion for quotes as you say "story." After all, it's time to give the survivor back their power and it starts with getting to know their truth.

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