Urban Tellers®, May 14, 2016
Donna Zerner on the Portland Story Theater stage at Alberta Abbey for live storytelling
Hosted by Lynne Duddy and Lawrence Howard
Statement from Donna Zerner on performing this piece:
It took me ten years to feel safe enough to speak publicly about my experience with Marc Gafni. I’m still pretty sure he’ll try to attack and discredit me in any way he can, but at this point the urge to tell the truth is far more compelling than continuing to silence myself out of fear of his retribution.
I’m not on Facebook (last holdout on the planet!), but I’ve been following public FB comments about the story, and am gratified that it seems to be striking a chord for many.
It felt both terrifying and liberating to tell my story. Of course, in 15 minutes I was only able to reveal the tiniest fraction of my experiences, so it was frustrating what was left out... I could have easily spoken for hours and still barely scratched the surface.
My intention was always that the story be healing for myself and for anyone who’s been affected by a similar dynamic. It definitely has been healing for me so far, though the process of creating it was extremely challenging, a constant surrender to the Feminine. With previous stories I’ve told, I pretty much typed them out at my computer and memorized them, but this one refused to be created that way; it would only come through my emotions and my body (requiring an often excruciating reliving of experiences). I never wrote a word, and I didn’t memorize it either. I also had no idea how it would end until the final words stumbled out of my mouth that night. The process was all about surrender; it ultimately felt like a shamanic initiation.
I used a pseudonym for MG because the intention of the story wasn’t to expose or blame him, but to explore my culpability, to own my own journey. If I had named him it would have changed the tone and felt too much like an attack job. Of course there were clues sprinkled throughout as to his real identity (i.e., when I said “O.M.G.,” what I was really saying was: “Oh, MG”!).
The video doesn’t capture how heavy and intense the energy got in the room— by about two-thirds through it felt like the entire audience was holding their breath with concern and outrage, which is why I felt compelled at one point to puncture the heaviness (too intense for a bunch of Portlanders out for a Saturday night's entertainment!).
My hope at this point is that the story encourages more women (and men) in similar situations to recognize their own worth, honor their intuition, and speak their authentic truth from the heart.
Please know that I hold with me a multitude of other MG-affected women (over a span of 36 years, up to the present day), most of whom are not ready to speak up but whose suffering at MG's hands was often quite profound, and continues to this day. And of course, the damage he has caused and continues to create expands to areas far beyond his exploitation of women.
I pray for truth and healing for all affected, including for MG.