After three months of living with her story out in the public, Pam sent us this and asked us to post it. In case you’ve ever wondered if sharing your story mattered, we’d like to assure that it does.
It matters because you matter.
Does Sharing Your Story Really Matter?
I am so glad that Jackie wrote “Does Sharing Your Story Really Matter?”
It’s been three months since I shared my story. When I wrote it, I was only writing it to journal thoughts that I didn’t want to bottle up. I shared it with a friend – we share writings back and forth. I remember him saying “this needs a broader readership.” I thought, “are you kidding me?” My second thought, shortly after though was about how many people have suffered this abuse and who still live in their silence and completely undeserved shame. It almost ended up on a well-read blog that deals with lots of important topics. I’m glad now, that it didn’t end up there. The reason it didn’t end up there is because I also sent it to Jackie for “Learninghope.” It belongs on learninghope.org. How Jackie and I know each other and became friends is a pretty amazing story in itself. That’s perhaps a story for another time.
In the first 10 days, Jackie updated me with the number of times my story had been read and shared. I was floored. As a former Wisconsin resident, my visual comparison was having Lambeau Field full of people listening to me. To Me. Since the story has come out, many people have shared their own stories with me – strangers and people I know. No more silence for us.
The story was also picked up by several organizations that are well known for helping survivors and educating people about abuse. My national church denomination (ELCA) picked up the story, edited it for length and republished it for their print and online publications. http://elca.org/Living-Lutheran/Stories/2015/08/150819-On-forgiveness-and-sex-abuse Our national denominational education for pastors about issues of abuse and boundaries will be including my story as part of their training events.
In giving permission for publication in “THE LUTHERAN,” I was given the choice by the editor whether to publish anonymously or to use my name. That was sort of a heart-stopping decision, and yet, I knew what I needed to do. The story needed to be grounded in a real person with a real name. In the weeks between making the decision to allow my full name, and the publication date of “THE LUTHERAN” I knew I needed to prepare some family members for this to be in print and nationally distributed. There were people that I didn’t want to feel guilty about not protecting me. This was a very tense time for me to say the least. I worried about crank calls and worried what would happen if my abuser found out. I had no idea what to expect. But I am in a well-supported time and place in my life, so I started contacting a few family members.
What I discovered is that among my childhood circle of family and extended family, I was by no means the only victim. I was surrounded by other children who were also being abused – by a variety of abusers. But we never talked to each other because of our shame, or because of threats. None of us knew what the others were going through. At least one of the people I didn’t want to feel guilty for not protecting me, was abusing another little girl. To think about that makes me feel ill. I think about all those little kids feeling like they were the only one in the world going through something so literally unspeakable.
Does Sharing Your Story Really Matter? I’ve learned some very basic things about this question in these three months.
· The most basic thing is that the answer is a resounding “yes!” Tell your story and keep telling your story until you believe that you are worthy of genuine love. You were not at fault.
· The people I was trying to protect by not telling my story all those years – did not need to be protected. I did. The other children did.
· A very important thing I learned was, even though the number of people who have read my story is staggering to me, the most significant sharing has happened among my family and close friends who found their real voice because I used mine. In connecting with other survivors who are also in strong, healthy adult relationships, we celebrate our strength together and vow to break the cycle of silence, shame and abuse. We won’t participate in poisonous relationship anymore. You don’t need thousands of people to know your story. Your story matters because you matter.
· Remember the statistics. Learning hope has specific stats posted. I tend to generalize and think if there are 8-10 people in a room, there are probably several survivors. It’s an epidemic that no one has wanted to talk about. What the telling of my story accomplished was to get a whole lot of people to read and talk about “the elephant in the living room”.
· I told so I could heal. My story ended up helping others. So can yours.