Last night at a terrific presentation of Threepenny Opera by Everyman Rep at the Rockport Opera House, one line jumped out at me: "She spoke badly, but free."
I remember the first time I spoke publicly about my experience with domestic abuse. It was this past Valentine's Day at the launch of the Finding Our Voices project at my hometown library in Camden.
I was very, very nervous. Maybe I spoke too fast, because I tend to do that. I read from a piece of paper when I wanted to speak extemporaneously. I remembered later things I wished I had said. But I was free to tell my story and I spoke my story freely. I spoke badly (so I thought), but free.
Finding Our Voices' first ever Survivor Speaks panel was on October 10 at the Holocaust and Human Rights Center in conjunction with the exhibit there running until December 13.
In the one other domestic abuse panel discussion I have seen, I think there were four professionals from the domestic abuse field and two survivors. The survivor presentations were polished.
When I was putting together the October 10 panel discussion I wanted only survivors on it because it is survivor voices that are the crux of this project. Three of the five panelists had never before spoken publicly about about the domestic abuse in their lives. Regina Rooney of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence moderated.
When the panel discussion ended, I invited all the Finding Our Voices survivor/participants in the audience to join us on stage for questions from the audience. Betsy leaned over to pat the shoulder of one of the panelists who had broken up every time they talked about their personal situation and in the gentlest and most loving way imaginable told that person: "The quiver in your voice lessens the more you talk about it."
The next morning one of the panel members told me in an email they were embarrassed they could not keep their emotions in check. Another said they didn't do as well as they wanted to because they were so nervous. To their minds they "spoke badly". But they spoke free, and I cannot imagine words delivered or received in a more powerful way.