I first broke my silence about the sexual abuse when I was 10 years old right after I had a flashback during a school assembly about child sexual abuse. The abuse started at 3 years old(I think, I could have been younger) Telling is transformative. I feel like I am no longer keeping the abusers/rapists secrets. I don’t feel shame because I didn’t do anything wrong to cause it. The more I break my silence about the sexual abuse I suffered the more I feel free. I felt like no one could use these secrets against me anymore. Sometimes it does feel like I’ve said too much and I feel unsure about myself. Not everyone feels good after disclosing. It can mean reliving the events all over again and it can be painful. With practice of speaking my truth this feeling of fear that comes along with talking about it has lessened. That old fear creeps in because I was conditioned to believe my family would die if I told. I was made to protect them by enduring the abuse. I am not going to protect the abusers any longer.
There are many ways to tell your story than speaking. The event could have been so traumatic that your mind could have separated the feelings, images, and sensations, only giving you little bits at a time. You may not be able to tell what happened from beginning to end because you might not have the whole story yet or the language to express what happened. If you were abused before you had the language to express it in words you do have other options. Artwork, dance, music, and other forms of expression can help you tell your communicate with symbols and imagery. I use artwork a lot to express myself through dancing, drawing, painting and sculpture.
Telling a safe person that validates you and cares for you can begin the process of change needed to heal. The act of voicing sexual abuse is powerful and can move you through the isolation of secrecy. Telling can lead building a support network and community of strong survivors like yourself. Your decision to disclose is yours and yours alone. Do not feel pressured to disclose if you are not ready. In my experience I never really felt ready and it always feel awkward but also freeing. I felt I had to heal or die. I chose to live and stop protecting the abusers but I don’t want to hurt others with my pain. It’s a confusing experience for me. A safe person might be your family, a friend, a therapist, or support group.
If you become very triggered and distressed you might want to focus on building your self care skills/self soothing and experiment with the other methods to express yourself first. Writing down what happened in a journal or blog can help to get it out of your head and onto a page. The first person silence you break is to yourself. This can lead to you being more ready to talk about it. Be gentle with yourself and remember that you don’t have to rush. In fact the harder you push the more disruptive it can be. Go as slow as you need too. You don’t need to meet any expectations, including your own, in this expressive discovery process.
Listening to the truth of a survivor is an honor. Unfortunately, in the world we live in, be prepared for a possible negative response. If the person you tell was also abused their own defenses by get triggered. Some people may not believe you at first or react in a hostile way. They may be crass and extremely insensitive. I would like to offer my ear to any fellow survivor that wishes to disclose. I am here for you. Email me, leave a comment (ask not to publish it if you wish, it is your choice), leave feedback, DM me on twitter. You can be completely anonymous. I am not going to ridicule you or tell other people what you tell me. Many of my friends and family have disclosed to me and I see it as the real honor that it is. I am a vault unless you give me permission otherwise. I want to support ALL survivors: Men, women, transgender, and non-binary. All genders, all races, all of us. We all deserve to heal. I would also like to share the hashtag #SurvivorCulture on twitter. This group of brave individuals does not discriminate. If you have felt like you don’t feel a sense of belonging in the #MeToo movement or told otherwise check out: https://twitter.com/survivorculture You can also contact Rainn.org or call 800.656.HOPE (4673)
If you are an ally/supporter of survivors and someone discloses to you, please listen. Believe the survivor. Talking about our pain and experience of abuse is so difficult. Offer support and affirming language not advice. The listening part is healing. Please do so with an open mind and not a judgmental one. Don’t go into fix it mode. Offer resources that can help them. More information for talking to survivors of sexual assault can be found here: https://www.rainn.org/articles/tips-talking-survivors-sexual-assault
If you are in crisis please visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ for chat support or call 800.273.TALK (8255)