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Letter from Jennifer’s Mother
“The Tale” is a story I encouraged my daughter Jenny to tell for many years.
It took her until she was 45 years old to admit that her relationship with the main character was not consensual, but sexual abuse.
I suspected for many years what had happened and when I knew it was true, I was out of my mind with anger and rage. My husband and I had put our faith and trust in two coaches that were collaborators in a terrible affair with our daughter.
I wanted to come forward and throw the perpetrators in jail. I wanted to reveal how a man lauded by society for his good work in the athletic world – including training girls – had abused my daughter. How many young women had he destroyed for his own sick satisfaction?
But, Jennifer would have none of this. To survive, at 13, she had told herself, that he only did it because he loved her. She called it a ‘relationship.’ So, despite my wishes, she refused to testify against him.
As most mothers do, I had always kept my children’s school papers. One of the things I kept was a story she had written as a school assignment. It was, supposedly, a fictional account of a young girl’s experience but it was really the story of her abuse. About 10 years ago, I discovered it, and it shocked me to the core. I immediately sent Jennifer the story.
“I want to take abuse out of the proverbial, ‘family closet’ and talk openly.”
Jennifer had forgotten that she wrote this assignment and she herself was surprised by what she read and how different her memory was of the event from the words on the page. Soon after we sat down and started discussing how she could help other young women by using her artistic talents and years of experience as a successful filmmaker to send a meaningful message.
It was me — her mother — who told her she had to make this film. I hounded her to do it without wasting more time! So finally, she and I embarked on a journey for her to research the real people and fold their stories into a narrative screenplay form. Jennifer and I had many conversations, which also went into the screenplay to create the character based on me – Nettie. Now, Jennifer has woven all this into a brilliant fiction film that gets at the core of how and why sexual abuse occurs – even under the noses of loved ones – in a story and way that has never been seen before.
As Jennifer and I were making this film, some people heard about it and came up to me privately – people who called themselves my ‘friends’ – and said how can you let your daughter tell this story publicly and put shame on you and your family? Frankly, this made me so sad. It is time to stop hiding this issue as it used to be when I grew up. So many families have stories of sexual abuse and trauma in their histories going back generations. THE TALE is a rare opportunity to use the power of film combined with the insight of a true account, to reach millions and millions of viewers to understand how insidious and complex this issue is finally.
I am proud of my daughter for doing this. And though everyone who knows me, knows I am a very private person, I am standing up with her behind this film and want to do so publicly. I want to take abuse out of the proverbial, ‘family closet’ and talk openly. Because honestly can enough ever be said? If this movie helps others come forward and a new understanding arise to prevent child sexual abuse happening, it is worth everything to me.