Sharing Your Story

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When it comes to disclosing SA or CSA, the choice is entirely yours; you have complete control over sharing your story, and you deserve to make informed decisions about who gets to hear your story, what you want to share, how you share it, and whether you share it publicly or not.

Who should I share my story with?((Me Too Movement : You Have the Right to Share or Not: Tips on Disclosing or Reporting Sexual Assault))

You deserve a trustworthy person to support you through your recovery process. Whether it’s a friend, family member, Worker, therapist, or victim-survivor advocate, the person you talk to must earn the right to hear your story.((Brené Brown: The Practice of Story Stewardship))

You can ask yourself these questions to decide if someone has earned the right to hear your story.((Very Well Mind: How to Tell Someone You Were Sexually Assaulted))

Are they easy to talk to?

When you talk to them, do you feel comfortable? Could you talk to them about anything?

Do you trust they will do what they say they will do?

Do they keep information to themselves when you or others share it? Are they honest about what they can and cannot do? If they’ve broken your trust before, did they apologize, take full accountability, and take actionable steps that repaired your trust?

Do you feel safe with them?

Do they make you feel validated when you talk to them? Do they remain calm and kind, even when you share upsetting news? Do you feel better after you talk to them?

Do they treat you with respect?

Do they validate your thoughts and experiences, even when they don’t understand or agree with them? If you don’t want to participate in a conversation or activity anymore, do they allow you to end it? When something is important to you, do they treat it with importance, regardless of how small it might be to other people?

When you needed help in the past, were they there for you?

Whether it was by helping you navigate a difficult situation, doing work around your home and running errands, or speaking up for you, have they helped you in the past? Have they ever sacrificed their time, energy, social status, or money to help you? When they help you, do they make sure you know they do not expect you to “return the favor”?

Do they show you they care for you?

When you’re going through a difficult time, do they check in with you and ask how they can help? Do they celebrate your achievements, no matter how big or small they may be? Do they remember and respect your boundaries? Do they listen to you with empathy and kindness?

Do you think they’ll be supportive?

Are they likely to believe you? Have they been emotionally supportive when you’ve discussed difficult topics with them?

Do they know the perpetrator?

If they know the perpetrator, do you trust they’ll be able and willing to support you?

Your confidentiality is essential.

Remember, there’s no way to guarantee that what you say won’t be shared with others, so what you share might change depending on who you’re sharing with.

If you decide to share your story in a social media group, make sure you check the group’s privacy settings first. Many groups are public, meaning anyone can see what you say in them.

Ministers, community-based victim advocates, therapists, counselors, and medical professionals should never share your information without your written consent. The only exception to this is if you disclose that the person who sexually abused you has current access to children. In that case, they may be required to report that information to law enforcement. This is called mandatory reporting, and these laws exist to protect children.((Wings Foundation: Deciding about Disclosure: Always your choice))

Help is available if you’re uncomfortable sharing this with someone you know.

Don’t worry if you aren’t sure whether you have someone in your life who can support you through this: you can get help from volunteers and professionals who devote their time and energy to helping victim-survivors like you.

What should I share?((RAINN: Telling Loved Ones About Sexual Assault))

How much you share is entirely up to you. You get to tell as much or as little as you’re comfortable, and sharing your story doesn’t mean you have to share every detail.

While many victim-survivors find healing in sharing their story, some never disclose, and others may choose to speak about their experience years or even decades after it happened.

If you feel pressured to share information you’re uncomfortable sharing, remember:

  1. You are not responsible for the actions of others. Your only responsibility is to do what’s best for you.
  2. There are ways to take action to end sexual violence, pursue healing, and connect with other survivors that don’t involve publicly sharing about your experience.((Boston Area Rape Crisis Center: Sharing Your Story, How to Think through Your Options))
  3. Remember, if you are a victim-survivor, doing what’s right for yourself is advocating for victim-survivor wellbeing.
  4. There are many paths to healing, and you get to decide if and when sharing your story is part of yours.
  5. You do not need to justify your choice about what you disclose.

How to Share Your Story((CAASE: Telling Someone You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted))

When you’re ready to share your story, it’s okay to be unsure how to begin. You get to say whatever you want, and it’s okay to struggle for words. It can help to acknowledge the difficulty of sharing to the person you’re sharing with.

Here are some opening lines that could work for you and let the other person know what you need:((CAASE: Telling Someone You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted))

  • “I am going through something that’s really hard for me, and I think it would help to have your support.”
  • “Can I share something with you that I’m really not sure how to talk about?”
  • “I want to tell you about something that’s difficult for me to talk about but I need help.” 

You deserve to be believed, heard, and seen.

If you feel like you’re not getting the support you deserve or are feeling uncomfortable, you get to leave the conversation:((CAASE: Telling Someone You’ve Been Sexually Assaulted))

  • “I’m starting to feel uncomfortable and need to pause. Could we revisit this later?”
  • “I’m feeling tense, and I want to respect that. I need to end here.” 
  • “I’m grateful that you’re listening to me, but I need to step away.”

No matter how the person you talk to responds, you may want additional support from the volunteers and professionals who devote their time and energy to helping victim-survivors like you.

 

Are you considering sharing your story publicly?((Me Too Movement: Your Voice, Your Choice: A Survivor Media Guide))

The first step in deciding whether to share your story publicly is knowing why you want to share it. Some common reasons people choose to share their stories are: raising awareness of the impact of sexual violence, connecting with other victim-survivors, or requesting accountability from an offender.((Boston Area Rape Crisis Center: Sharing Your Story, How to Think through Your Options))

Once you understand your motivation for sharing your story, you can weigh it against the possible negative consequences and decide whether publicly sharing your story is right for you.

While sharing your story publicly (on social media((If you decide to share your story in a social media group, make sure you check the group’s privacy settings first. Many groups are public, meaning anyone can see what you say in them.)), to journalists, or to advocacy or support groups) can be liberating for many people, there are a few possible outcomes you may want to consider first:

  • People from your past may find your story. The Friends or Workers who knew you might reach out and want to talk to you about what happened. Or you might hear from other victim-survivors of the person who committed abuse against you. Remember that even if you’ve shared your story publicly, you’re not obligated to discuss your story with anyone unless you decide to do so.
  • Especially in such a tight-knit community as the Friends, people may still be able to discover who you are and expose your identity, even if you share anonymously.
  • Once your story is public, anyone can talk about it. People may say hurtful things about you or try to skew your story to fit the narrative they want it to.
  • What you say will live forever. Once you share your story publicly, it will likely be preserved and passed along in many formats. You may want to wait to share your story until you’re confident you’re comfortable with it being public for all time.

If you do decide to share publicly, keep in mind that it’s not all or nothing: you can choose how, in what circumstances, and at what level of detail you feel comfortable talking about your experience. Ultimately, what matters most is not what others want from you but what has value and meaning for you.((Boston Area Rape Crisis Center: Sharing Your Story, How to Think through Your Options))

Explore More Resources

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(Me Too Movement)

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When considering whether to share your story publicly, preparation is key. For many, the act of sharing their stories can be transformative, and even healing. And yet. Speaking publicly about an issue that many people are unwilling to confront can be a harrowing and even retraumatizing experience. “Your Voice, Your Choice” is all about helping you think through the challenges you may encounter when you come forward with your story.

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(Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape)

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This pamphlet provides guidance to survivors of sexual abuse who are considering speaking publicly about their experiences.

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(Iowa Rape Victim Advocacy Program)

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You do not have to tell anyone about what happened to you. However, many survivors find comfort in confiding in others. Here are some tips and tricks for taking as much control as you can over your disclosure NOT their reactions.

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(Very Well Mind)

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This article contains some things that may help you make the decision about what you might disclose and to who you want to disclose it.

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(Wings Found)

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