Don't Confuse My Anonymity for Shame
By Anonymous Survivor
I’m writing this anonymously, so you have no idea who I am. I wish that I could tell you who I am. I wish that I could speak openly about my experiences with abuse. I’m proud of what I’ve overcome and all that I’ve learned from those experiences. I wish that I could stand openly in solidarity with the many courageous other survivors who do speak publicly about their experiences. Oh, how I wish that I could finally tell my story out loud for all who are interested to hear.
But, I can’t be open about my story and my identity as a survivor. It has nothing to do with shame. At times in the past, I admit that I was ashamed to have “gotten myself into” an abusive relationship. When I was first grappling with my experiences of abuse, I was embarrassed that I had been abused. Fortunately, it didn’t take me long to realize that I didn’t need to feel any shame about those experiences. Instead, my abuser is the one who should carry all of the shame for what he did to me. Today, I don’t carry any shame about being a survivor of an abusive relationship. I’m proud of myself because I walked away from that relationship and because I’ve worked really hard to become a better version of myself since then.
As much as I wish that I could be open about being a survivor of abuse, I simply can’t do it. The truth is that it’s not safe to do so. My former abuser still has it out for me. If I were to speak publicly about what he did to me, it would almost certainly set him off, and this wouldn’t be safe for me and other people who I care about. As much as I want to be able to publicly share my story, I just can’t risk the danger it could create if I do so.
And so, I’m an “anonymous survivor,” and only a handful of people who are close to me know the full extent of what I went through. Because of this, I know that there are many other people out there who are just like me. There are many other people who are survivors of past abuse who’ve never told others or spoken publicly about abuse they faced. We all need to remember this: Many people who we meet every day have faced abuse and other traumas in their lives, but for one reason or another, they keep those experiences private. And, it’s their right to do so.
Being open and public about being a survivor does give people more opportunities to help others by sharing their stories and by being a role model to other survivors. However, being public about one’s story of abuse isn’t a requirement for successfully recovering from abuse. Let’s continue to work toward a world that provides more support and validation to all survivors of abuse - whether we know who they are, or not.
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