To begin, remind yourself that it is your story. Don’t allow anyone to pressure you to share your survivor story before you are ready. Know that you don't need to share your survivor story to be involved in ending sexual violence (crimes like rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse, human trafficking).
It is helpful to have pre-planned support if you decide to share your story.
When you feel inspired to speak as a survivor of sexual violence, when, where, how, inclusive of how often is your choice (think empowerment).
Many Options Available to Share Your Story
There are many options in communicating your story, in front of a public audience is just one. Additional options are via written materials, and online communication (social media).
Note, if you chose to share your story only in written form, you can do so anonymously or using an alias.
If you decide to share your survivor story via the internet, I suggest writing it out first. Be mindful that content can't be removed entirely once online. Before you hit that send button, sit with the content for a while. Ponder how you might feel differently in the future.
Ponder What You Want to Accomplish
Think about what you intend to accomplish in communicating your story. Choose how, when, and what details you feel comfortable expressing about your experience. What matters the most is not what others want from you, but what has worth and importance for you. If you aim to educate the public, it does not require sharing every detail of your experience. Consider sharing only information that can be tools for combating self-blame, helping the challenge of not being believed, or the weight of keeping the experience a secret, etc.
Communicating your story can be empowering and therapeutic (does not replace therapy).
It will be beneficial for you to be clear and consider any concerns you might have for yourself, family, significant others, even friends once you share your survivor story.
When sharing your story, you don't need to fake being strong or stoic. Tears do not make you weak or indicate that you are not thriving since your abuse.
Be Prepared for Responses to Your Story
Be prepared when you share your story, there is the possibility of experiencing disturbing, tactless responses from your audience (family, friends, social media, etc.).
It is difficult to adequately predict how others will respond, and some survivors have had negative experiences.
When speaking publicly (audience), you might be asked uncomfortable questions. Stay clear of triggers (that which provoke memories or feelings connected to trauma). You are in control of the details you want to share about your story. Only answer questions you are comfortable answering at that time.
Some individuals in your audience may be triggered by your experience, so it is best before sharing your account to communicate to individuals that might be triggered, that if they feel the need to leave the room it is ok.
A Word of Caution
If you are engaged in a criminal or other formal proceeding, related to your sexual violence experience, it would be wise to seek legal counsel about the possible effects of publicly sharing your experience. Legal consultation will help you steer clear of legal implications when sharing specific details of your experience.
Finally, keep in mind that social attitudes, while shifting and improving, still often unfairly blame survivors (female and male) and excuse offenders. Don’t allow that to silence your voice, as you transcend from surviving to thriving.
We Want to Hear Your Story
If you survived sexual violence, we invite you to share your story anonymously (if desired)
Further, by sharing your story it is not only empowering but helps to educate others to take measures to prevent and combat Sexual violence.
Share Your Story by Emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Hendricks, Founder of Cry Heard Support Inc