Trauma and Memory in The Tale, Part Two

This week, Dan continues his conversation with Cathy Loerzel, Executive Vice President, about The Tale, Jennifer Fox’s powerful, devastating film that is available to stream on HBO or Amazon. Cathy and Dan discuss more of the dynamics that make this such an important work of art, and they reflect on categories for further discussion and exploration—like the surprising and disturbing presence of arousal even in the midst of abuse.

Cathy: “It sounds weird to say, but this film is arousing. And no one wants to be aroused by a story about sexual abuse, which is why no one wants to talk about it. […] But the degree that you’re familiar with your own arousal is the degree to which you’ll be able to stay with someone else’s abuse stories and trauma stories.”

There is an alluring nature to the tenderness and affection directed toward Jennifer by her abusers in their work of grooming. Cathy and Dan discuss how, if we cannot acknowledge our body’s response to that allure—if we cannot name our desire for connection and intimacy—then surviving our stories of abuse will necessitate silencing our bodies and cursing our desire.

Dan: “The depth of the complicity is only understood with regard to this refraction of horror that any abused person has to grapple with, and that is: my body betrayed me.”

I don’t know if I’ve ever had any kind of work of art confirm and come alongside as such a friend of our own labor.

Much of Dan’s theory and our framework at The Allender Center explores the connection between arousal and disgust—an unsettling sense of arousal is often on the flip side of abuse. As we walk with others through their stories of harm, we find that much of our work resides in those places where we are more comfortable with our disgust than with our arousal—that’s where the war of shame lies.

Cathy: “It’s very shame inducing to start stepping into this, but I think you have to in order to bring any sort of honor and healing into these parts of our hearts.”

Dan: “And no victim is ever meant to be the sole guardian of their own story, which is why the shame that comes with complicity, arousal, fear, judgement, contempt—it silences and isolates. No one is meant to be alone in this memory.”

We are deeply grateful to HBO for helping bring this film to the world, and we’re especially grateful to Jennifer Fox for her courage, insight, and artistry. May Jennifer’s bravery in telling her story light a path for many, many others to engage their own stories and wrestle with the realities of abuse in creative and innovative ways.

Cathy: “She wouldn’t be able to create this film if she hadn’t done that work, if she hadn’t gone back and allowed her own heart and mind to tell the truth in a different sort of way. I commend her for the work she’s done and for how brave she is in bringing it to the public. Our hope in talking about this is that this would be another vehicle for us to continue to speak truth, and to find freedom. It’s not just about telling the truth. It’s because the truth will set you free.”

Dan: “We need art. We need beauty. And this is a beautiful film. […] We need art to tell the truth. Because the truth itself, in its own fragmentation, needs images, scenes, scenarios. It needs music, it needs poetry, it needs painting, it needs film. That’s part of the engagement with the truth.”

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