As you may have guessed, I talk a lot about sexual abuse. You may think that makes me a loud mouth, and in some ways, it does. There are certain situations in which I do not hesitate to speak out, but there are other situations in which I must be quiet, even if I wish I could speak.
Each survivor I encounter has a story. It is wholly and completely theirs. Sometimes, it touches my story. But I must be careful about saying what I know. It is not my place to tell the story of another. There are illustrations I use and parts of stories I convey, but I either try to make it general enough that anyone would be hard pressed to identify the exact person, or I ask the person’s permission and try to let the person read what I have written before I publish it. If it is not ok, I won’t use what I’ve written.
Jennifer and I have tried hard to create a save place where people can tell their stories. The story wall allows people to be anonymous if they choose. (We’d love to have more submissions if you are so inclined and in a good place to do that.) The problem with us for the story wall is that people put their stories on it and then are vulnerable. We don’t know if they have adequate support to heal. We also don’t know if their abuser will find their story and cause them more harm, and vicariously cause us problems for letting the survivor’s story be posted. Sad that the abuser can cause the victim and other people trouble for speaking out. That’s another story entirely.
It is often the case that I go somewhere and I know something about someone, but I can’t say what I know. Usually, they know I know, but most other people don’t. It is not my story to share and even though I want everyone to tell their story and heal, they have to tell it in their own way and when they are ready. It is their healing journey; not mine.
This is an issue in my family. My father is a pedophile and his crimes did not affect just me. I know of others, but they do not necessarily know about each other. They are on their own path of healing and even though I have found it helps me to talk about my experience, that is not true for everyone else.
There are situations in which survivors are not in a safe enough emotional space that they can talk about it openly. Sometimes, they are just plain unsafe. Their abusers are violent, dangerous people. I would never encourage anyone to speak if they are unsafe doing so. I would probably encourage them to find a way to speak in which they are safe and empowered, but the reality is they must proceed with caution. I have to speak cautiously in situations like that. And sometimes that is really, really hard.
I want to support people in the best way I can and I am fond of the saying, “Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes.” The reality is that that isn’t always healing. Then I have to step back and listen to the survivor and help them find their own path to healing. And the survivor’s own way, is by far the best. It is tailored to them and what they need.
It is a more meaningful experience for me to be a part of their healing because in their own way, they are claiming what they need. It isn’t about me in that situation. It’s about them and validating what they need. It is always an honor for me to hear people’s stories and I have to also remember to honor them where they are on their path and encourage them on to hope and healing in the way that is best for them. It really, truly, isn’t all about me. It’s about each survivor finding their own way to heal.