I never told anyone this, but…
For some, these words are how they begin to share their sexual abuse story for the first time. The words may be difficult to utter but knowing four keys to sharing may help.
The decision to share your story for the first time begins with just that – a decision. And who makes the decision? You. You decide. You decide when, how, who and why to tell your story. As I recall my decision to tell my story, four key questions played an important part in the sharing of my experience.
Key #1 – When should I tell my story?
Telling your story is about deciding that at some point in time you will tell someone about your sexual abuse. The exact point in time is up to you. For some folks, triggers drive the point in time. Another person’s story, a news event, the death of an abuser, or simply being tired of feeling the impact of what the abuse did to you can activate the need to share. Timing, while important, is not the key here. The key is to understand that telling your story is the first step in actively beginning your healing. When you are ready to begin healing you will unveil your story.
Key #2 – How should I tell my story?
Generally, how to tell your story falls into two broad categories. You can share publicly or privately.
Campaigns like #MeToo and #Timesup, the photography in Project Unbreakable, and opportunities to write your story in places like the Uplift newsletter of the Morris Center for Healing from Child Abuse, inspire people to unveil their story to a wider audience. This is publicly telling your story.
However, some people find comfort in telling a family member, a close friend, or a licensed counselor. This is privately telling your story.
Some desire and need to share privately only; others share privately first and publicly later.
The key here is to open your heart and let the story pour out. Worries about judgment or accuracy have no place here. This is your story and you are free to tell it.
Key #3 – Who should I tell my story to?
Who to tell is the hardest decision you will make. Who involves trust. If you choose to share privately, who do you trust to keep the story private? If you make a public revelation, your trust is with the entity you use.
The key here is to consider your own expectations in sharing. What reaction do you want those listening to your story to have? And are you okay if that reaction doesn’t occur? If you’re sharing with a parent, do you want them to believe you? If you’re sharing with a licensed professional, do you want them to confirm it was not your fault? If you’re sharing publicly, is the goal to be heard? How will you react if your expectations are not met?
Key # 4 – Why should I tell my story?
Many personal reasons exist for why you should tell your story, but the key for every sexual abuse survivor is about healing. I told about my sexual abuse as a child because I wanted to feel better about myself and about my life. I wanted to heal.
Telling your story for the first time is a brave and courageous act but never feel forced to share. Remember, you decide. You decide how, when, who and why.
When you decide to share, use these four key questions as part of your sharing process and remember – sharing your story is the first step in the healing process.