Navigating our current media social climate as a survivor is no easy task.
Differing experiences have caused survivors to analyze their own accounts and wonder whether or not to participate in the #MeToo campaign as a silence breaker. Despite the difficulties, it is vital to acknowledge each survivor’s lived experience and support the decision they make about sharing what happened to them, including the choice to not share.
If you are a survivor struggling with wanting to share your story, here are a few takeaways you can consider in making this decision.
Decide who you would like to share your story with.
Disclosure can happen on paper, in person, or through media, just to name a few formats. Would you prefer to write a poem or song? Would it be easier for you to tell people individually? Or maybe you would like to speak at a local institution about your experience. Confidentiality is also something to keep in mind to help you decide who to share with. While they should respect your wishes as a survivor, not everyone is legally bound to maintaining your privacy. Mental health professionals are bound by client-counselor privilege which means they never have to share your story unless you were to pose as a threat to yourself, others or someone is threatening you. Deciding who you would like to share your story with is not simple. Whichever audience it may be, you have the right to choose who you tell.
Prepare yourself to share.
There are many responses that can come following your disclosure. You may be asked questions that you were not necessarily equipped or wanting to answer. Not everyone is prepared to hear what you are about to tell them. You can prep your audience in advance with a warning that a tough story may be ahead. You can also prep your intended persons with how you would like them to react, such as, “Can you please not react to what I’m about to tell you?” or “Can you listen and not say anything until I give you permission to interject and/or ask questions?” It is more than okay to communicate your needs during this potentially vulnerable moment in your life.
Create a self-care plan.
Not everyone understands how best to assist a survivor when disclosing their experience. Sometimes things simply do not go according to plan and may not sit as well as intended. Other times, things go better than we ever could have expected. Either way, creating a post-disclosure self-care plan can help mitigate any overwhelming emotions. You can identify a safe person or group to contact once you have disclosed, such as a counselor. You can plan an activity to participate in after your disclosure such as a meeting with friends, alone time at home, or engaging in a favorite past time.
Everyone has their own process of healing, which can also include the choice to not disclose. This is okay! Choosing to not share does not make that person’s experience any less valid. All paths to healing should be honored and respected.
Please know that if you are unsure of how to move forward with your story, Confidential Sexual Violence Advocates are available to assist you. New Jersey provides 24-hour statewide hotline. You or someone you care about can call toll free to receive assistance: 800-601-7200 or check out njcasa.org/find-help.
Meghan McAleer is a NJCASA Social Media Ambassador and Licensed Social Worker at her county’s rape crisis center. She enjoys assisting survivors on the individual and community levels. She dedicates her time facilitating social change and fostering a community with the capacity to best assist survivors in some of their most trying days.
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