Several of my interviewees spoke explicitly of a third phase beyond victim or survivor, and others eschewed these two first labels as no longer indicative of who they were. Jenson called this "voice." Whatever this mysterious third stage is called, I felt compelled to build up to this as a climax for the film. Indeed, the film itself is my voice, though I speak very little in it.
In this phase a person’s identity no longer revolves around the abuse or recovery. Now the empathy a man has learned toward himself extends freely to all of his interactions, and he has developed what counselor Scott Abraham calls “a sense of authentic self…one of the primary jobs of recovery, one of the primary joys of recovery.”
The stage of voice varies even more widely than survival. Many write poetry, song or prose. Others dance, sculpt or paint. Still others demonstrate, advocate and organize. No matter what the medium, the stories struck me as so elegantly similar at their core: The shock leading to shame. The shame leading to secrecy. The secrecy leading down paths too tortuous to name and life choices too convoluted to understand. The confusion drawing the survivor's mind to the task of self-knowledge and the journey of healing.
True to Abraham’s notion of joy, the “Voice” section in Stories of Silence introduces a crescendo of sound and color to the editing, which has built up gradually from a black-on-white silence in the first phase. One early audience member, a survivor and choreographer, cornered me after a screening and asked eagerly for the name of the final music, since he found it such a perfect match for his own experience. Somehow, this simple query showed me that Stories of Silence had become what I had always wanted it to be: bold, positive, joyful.
Tell the Story: