“Tell another story; Stop being addicted to your story.”
So why do some survivors want to tell their stories and tell them often?
As a survivor I am honored to share my thoughts on the subject.
It is important to start off by making a distinction between victim and survivor. Any given dictionary may define a victim as, “One who suffers through no fault of his/her own; who is made to suffer by a person(s) of force beyond his/her control.” This definition emotionally portrays hopelessness and helplessness.
On the other hand one of the simplest ways to define a survivor is to say a survivor is an individual who was (past tense) sexually abused, who lived to tell about their experience and the desire to do so.
One of the hardest things for us as survivors to do is break our silence. It is slaps in our faces to be judged or put down by others who have not walked in our shoes and sometimes even from those who have.
When we share our stories we are not talking about returning to a place of powerlessness, rather telling our stories from a place of powerlessness. (We have been empowered to tell).
When you tell us, “Not to get caught up in our stories, stop retelling our stories”, it reveals and reflects the lack of understanding of the many effects sexual abuse has on individuals. It can profound and enduring long after the abuse has occurred.
As a survivor we process this message as saying, what was done to us was so horrible and disgusting, it is best to keep it ourselves.
Most often the motivation for telling our survivor stories is not to invoke pity or sympathy rather to connect with others and promote the reality that healing is possible.
We share our stories to declare there is life after sexual abuse. We want those that hear our stories to know they are not alone.
We share our stories for the purpose of education and the correction of misinformation.
We tell our story because we have gained enough power to overcome our fears to tell the story. We tell our stories to help others to know there is the possibility of healing and to declare the past is not their future.
We tell our stories to celebrate the truth of who we are and where we have been.
Personally, as a male survivor of sexual child abuse, I know that male survivors have added weight in sharing their survival. The reason being is due to our society’s snub or reluctance to accept that males can be sexually victimized. This myth has resulted in some male survivors feeling they need to “tough it out” in silence.
Sharing my story has never held me back, or kept me from accomplishing my goals. It has manifested energy, growth, and empowerment.
Speaking of Empowerment, there are so many parts of my story I have yet to tell. To be honest, there is no guarantee I will ever tell, for it is empowerment to tell or not to tell.
Getting through abuse is not a microwave experience. (Misguided belief, shame, pain, and sadness.)
Transformation is a process. When you tell us we are “lost in our stories”, you are telling us abuse is “no biggie”. You are telling us that we should not tell our stories of shame and pain.
Not a day goes by that I do not carry my story with me. (Spoken or un-spoken); my story is not carrying me, I am carrying my story.
We are not getting stuck in our stores. We tell our stores because we have outlived the abusive experience(s), guilt, shame, self-blame, and for some of us we have outlived our perpetrators.
When survivors are told to “stop telling our stories”, we are being told to stop telling our victories.
I would not be the person I am without my story. I am not condoning the abuse, for I am celebrating survivor ship.
Whenever, and as often as we tell our story, we are sharing something that was once a secret. Now it is in the open. What was meant for malice is now turned to good.
“Tell another story; Stop being addictive to your story.” For 9, 490 days (twenty six years) I was not able to share my story. During the course of these years, I was living in shame, feeling it was my fault.
I will continue to share my story, and share it often because I am always empowered and more fulfilled when I hear, “that was me; it happened to me too, that is what I have been feeling.”
Because I tell my story does not mean I am living in the past. It means I have moved beyond the past. I am living as a survivor that is living a thriving fulfilled life.
Robert Hendricks, Founder of Cry Heard Support Inc.