HOW AND WHEN TO SHARE YOUR STORY?
Telling someone you have been sexually abused or raped is a very, very difficult thing to do. Whether it happened a few hours or many years ago, regardless of what age you were, sexual abuse is a serious matter and giving voice to your experience can surely help you in becoming a survivor and carrying on successfully in life. To talk about such an intimate and painful experience takes strength and courage and is especially difficult when trying to tell someone who is close to you that really cares and loves you.
Telling someone your story can greatly benefit your growth in recovery.
REASONS YOU MAY CHOOSE TO TELL
- You don’t want this to happen again.
- You have recurrent thoughts of the event and cannot concentrate.
- You’re tired of feeling sad, guilty, mad and alone.
- You find yourself acting differently at school, work or home and people keep asking you what’s wrong.
- You’re crying a lot of the time all alone.
- You find it difficult to eat or sleep.
- You need help in deciding what to do.
- You feel you have no support.
- You hope by telling someone you will feel better.
REASONS YOU MAY NOT WANT TO TELL
- You may think the sexual assault was your fault.
- You may feel embarrassed or ashamed.
- You think people will talk about you if they knew.
- You think no one will believe you.
- You are afraid of what your parents might do.
- You believe your parents and family have enough problems to deal with.
- People might think I’m GAY.
- You don’t want your boyfriend/girlfriend, husband or wife to find out.
- You’re afraid of the police and their views.
- I’m supposed to be a MAN.
- This only happens to WOMEN.
Regarding the above, please refer to the myths of male sexual abuse page to better understand the reasons you may not want to tell. Many of the above are myths and totally incorrect grounds for not wanting to share your experience.
WHO SHOULD YOU TELL?
Choosing the right person to share your story about what happened to you can really make things easier and allow you to feel a lot better about yourself and your situation.
Pick someone that you can confide in and trust, someone who you know will respect you and stand by your side during your disclosure. This needs to be someone who you believe will be able to help you, someone who is able to listen and care about what you are feeling. This person should also be able to help you tell other people you feel you should tell and share the process with you, always lending you their hand in support.
You may consider sharing with:
- A close friend.
- A relative (mother, father, brother or sister) or your grandparents).
- A teacher or someone close to you with whom you work.
- A counsellor or therapist / psychologist.
- A doctor or nurse at the hospital where you received treatment.
- A spiritual leader.
- A sexual assault crisis line or counselling service group.
WHERE SHOULD YOU SHARE YOUR STORY?
Find a place where you feel safe. This space should allow you your privacy with your confidant and shelter you from interferences such as other people overhearing your conversation, loud noise or any type of distractions. This place should allow you comfort to express any emotions you have without feeling embarrassed or over heard. This space should also allow, that after your disclosure you have a space to rest and be alone if need be, this is your time of recovery.
Keep in mind, that you must feel ready before you share your experience. You should never be forced into saying anything, take your time and relax. The time will come when you feel you are prepared to share, this way you will be better psychologically and emotionally prepared rather than rushing into a disclosure. You will know when the time is right.
WHAT SHOULD YOU TELL?
When telling your story to the person you feel most comfortable with, you do not need to share all the information of your experience with them if you do not feel it necessary. Share only the information you feel comfortable talking about.
Consider the following points that may help you in your decision on what to include:
- The important information to include is your feelings after the sexual assault, and what you are experiencing emotionally, details are not as important unless you are disclosing to the police and reporting the incident.
- You do not need to talk about everything at once in one big conversation. Keep it short and know that you can have more meetings with the person you are sharing with. Share only when you are ready. If you feel overwhelmed stop and take a breath, there is no rush.
REPORTING YOUR ABUSE
Reporting your sexual abuse or rape to the police is fully your decision. If you feel you would like to file a report and make a stand, it is your human right to freedom of speech and protection. It is also your right NOT to report your abuse. The decision is yours to make.
Inspired by an article from Association Of Alberta Sexual Assault Services