Survivor stories capture our attention, for better and worse.
On the one hand, we celebrate that someone survived such a horrible ordeal. We’re happy they made it home. On the other, we feel gross. What’s wrong with us reading about such harrowing events?
Yes, there are some who read for entertainment. I think most of us read for the same reasons we watch true crime shows. I’ve written about why I watch true crime shows and those are the same reasons I read true crime and survivor stories.
The Sad Reality
I recently finished reading another survivor story and I had to take some time grapple with what I’d read. It wasn’t the vague, murky retelling I was expecting. I don’t expect people to forget. It’s just that when it comes to details sometimes the facts are vague for a reason. It’s hard for the survivor to share those details; at least I assume it would be hard to share in-depth details.
This last book, which I will not name, didn’t cover up any details. It was all spelled out and it was hard to read. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the situation wasn’t bearable. I don’t expect someone to cover up the gritty, raw details to spare the reader the discomfort of their situation. But it made me feel like a creepy voyeur, as if I invaded this person’s space.
And I wasn’t the only one. I looked at reviews and low and behold, there were some mean reviews. Everything insinuating this person is trying to make a quick buck, to this person just wants a pity party. Those are paraphrases.
Here’s My Take
While I was disturbed, and I wish some of the details had been a little washed over, the story did give some insight to the psyche of being held captive. Which I find interesting. It’s easy for us as outsiders to be armchair quarterbacks calling out what they should have done, what they could have done. In reality, it’s not so cut and dry.
Part of me wondered why someone would share such details. And here’s what I came up with, maybe they really do want to make a quick buck. But not in the sense that some of these reviewers think.
Maybe this person is trying to pay for ongoing therapy. She may want a full bells and whistles security system. After enduring that situation, I can’t imagine one would be hopping right back into a full-time job as if nothing happened. The fear of going out in public may be too much.
So, in a sense, yes, maybe the survivor really does need to make a quick buck. Maybe he or she is planning on selling the story, taking the money and buying a place away from the majority of the public. Telling the story will afford him or her the chance to pay for all the mental and physical therapy needed to get his or her life back to some semblance of normality.
The story may provide a steady home space and the luxury of paying for it without worry of medical bills.
What About the Pity Line?
As for the people who claim these survivors keep telling their story for pity, well, maybe they are right. But maybe these survivors tell it because they are still struggling. Maybe each story provides a cathartic moment. Or maybe it’s back to the money. More money and more ability to avoid society.
Not that avoidance is good either, but I would imagine the trust issues after abduction and assault would be a major issue.
In the end, I don’t think it’s up to us to decide for the survivors why they chose to write books. I think it’s up to us to learn from their stories whatever we can. And if the story makes us uncomfortable, we are lucky enough that we can close the book and walk away. Something they couldn’t do when they lived that discomfort.