Nothing is more powerful than the written word. Remember, documentation creates history. There would be no history books if people had not taken the time to share the activities of yester years. Author Alex Haley would not have been able to write his epic series, Roots had his ancestors not retained the history of his lineage. Everyone has a story to tell; some stories are more powerful than others, while some create the saddest or the happiest memories.
According to Wikipedia, storytelling is the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, often with improvisation, theatrics and embellishment. Stories or narratives have always been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling moral values. When a story is shared with others, words are used interactively with the listeners and readers. Since as early as 1922, Reader’s Digest has been bringing stories of real people into the homes of their readers. Many of you reading this can recall the days when you and your relatives gathered around a campfire or in the palava hut, and listened to stories about your ancestors. Some of such stories remain with you today; they are memories you will not forget.
Stage fright keeps some people from sharing a story in public, while privacy attributes to the silence of others. In some cases, fear prohibits people from telling their stories. Perhaps you were instructed to not share a particular story with anyone; or you were actually sworn to secrecy. Whatever the reason is for your silence, keep in mind that the truth does not disappear. People have been sharing their stories far longer than the documentation of activities. Stories are either about other people or about the person sharing the story. You might think that your story is uninteresting or no one will want to listen to it or read it. There is always someone who will want to listen or show interest in what you have to say; especially if it impacts the lives of others. People are emotional, and your story could be the very one that provides pertinent information to a solution.
Stories play a major role in the development of children. The idea of reading stories to children before they fall asleep was to instill pleasant thoughts in the minds of the children. While they slept, the story they heard prior to falling asleep is bound to have an impact on their dreams. A certain grandmother recorded bedtime stories in her own voice for her first grandchild. Although distance prevented her from seeing the child often, her grandson grew close to her, from hearing her voice every night before he fell asleep.
Telling your story gives you power over the trauma you suffered and control over your life. It helps you dispel the fears which the trauma from an earlier age might have created. Sharing your story can be a form of therapy. One woman had never shared the experience she had with female genital mutilation (FGM) with anyone for more than two decades. However since the day she broke her silence, she has not stopped sharing her story with anyone who will listen. She now feels a sense of freedom and empowerment. Another woman found it difficult to move forward with her life after she survived a very bloody coup d’etat in her country of origin. She finally shared her story through a book with the world, and to her surprise, telling her story became the best therapy in overcoming the experience. These two women found that talking about their traumatic experiences actually helped them to embody the power over their challenges. The nightmares might not disappear from your dreams, but talking about what caused the nightmares could very well help the memories to gradually fade.
According to Dr. Martin Cohen, pervasive fear and feelings of helplessness are natural reactions to events you probably had little or no control over. He said, “Whether you have been a crime victim, involved in an accident or natural disaster, or were the victim of childhood abuse, the resulting trauma is similar.”
When little girls experience FGM, they are sworn to secrecy. It is instilled in the girls never to tell anyone what happened to them on that day, otherwise they will die. In most cases, the girls adhere to the sworn secrecy and never divulge what they experience. Many of them have lived to ripe old ages of 80 plus years, and they took that secret to their graves with them. In such instances, either fear prevents them from speaking out or the deeply rooted secret society controls their minds and actions. The fear and sworn commitment is too large a burden for a child to carry on her shoulders after the experience of such trauma. After last year’s arrests for the practice of FGM in the state of Michigan, the girls told law enforcement that their mothers told them that it was their “little secret”. They were told that they were going on a girls-only trip, and not to tell anyone about it. Adults tend to prey on the vulnerability and gullibility of the girls when coercing them into the experience of FGM. Whenever a survivor of FGM shares her story, the coercion and trickery of adults always precedes the actual body of the story. In most cases, the deception is carried out by someone close to the girl; therefore that part of her story is embedded in her memory.
Women and girls who have experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) are encouraged to seek help. One of the best ways to get assistance is by sharing your story with either a professional or with someone whom you trust, but seek out a professional. Release the fears and talk about what was done to you. Remember that you do not have to be ashamed or embarrassed because you had no control over what was done at the time. As an adult, you now have control and you can break your silence. Empower your life by speaking out. Inspire younger generations through your own story. Remember what you speak or write today could become history tomorrow.
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