Often, survivors of sexual assault do not speak out about their experiences, sometimes due to feelings of shame, guilt, or self-blame. Some survivors keep silent out of a sense of duty to family or fear of being ostracized for what happened to them.
You may also have learned that saying “no” did not work to protect you. As a way of regaining their power from an event that robbed them of control, some survivors find talking about their assault an essential part of the recovery process.
Some survivors want to disclose their experiences to a few close friends and/or family members to:
- End the loneliness or break the family silence
- Empower themselves and other survivors who have experienced CSA
- Educate others about sexual violence
- Help you move through the shame and secrecy that keeps you isolated
- Open doors to understanding and support
Whether you are speaking to a group of one or one hundred, it takes an enormous amount of courage to tell your story. Speaking out publicly is not right for everyone. No one should be pressured to tell their story. Survivors are strong and resilient whether they speak out or not. Speaking out can mean many things. For example, it can mean putting your story on paper for yourself in a journal entry, telling one trusted person, speaking at a national conference of advocates, or testifying on legislation at your state’s legislature, etc. The decision to talk about sexual assault can be healing, but you should never feel forced to speak before you are ready.
Tips for Sharing Your Story:
- Reflect on who would be a trusted individual to tell. This could be a friend, family member, counselor or anyone in your life who will listen and respect your privacy.
- Choose your method of communication. Some people choose to tell their story face-to-face, in a letter, an email, etc. Choose the method that feels natural.
- Make your expectations clear. If you’re wanting someone to simply listen, rather than provide advice or ask questions, ask them to do just that.
- Reflect on how it went. How did you feel after you shared your story? Did it feel empowering, scary, re-traumatizing? Taking an evaluation of this experience will help you navigate next steps.
- Many survivors who speak out – either publicly or privately – stress the importance of professional counseling. Speaking out is not a substitute for child sexual abuse counseling. For some, receiving counseling before speaking out has been helpful in their healing.
Speaking out from Within: Speaking Publicly About Sexual Assault, PA Coalition Against Rape.