By Katie Lloyd, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
1. Choose who to share your story with carefully
It’s best to choose someone who you trust will be supportive, particularly if you haven’t talked about the abuse much before. You don’t owe it to anyone to share your story with them, regardless of the nature of your relationship or how close you are. Another thing to keep in mind is confidentiality; if you want to keep your story private you might choose to avoid telling people who have a history of gossiping or not keeping secrets.
2. Keep your safety in mind
Your physical safety is clearly of utmost importance, but think about your emotional safety as well. Talking about abuse can be an intense experience. Ideally, you will have some coping strategies in mind that you can turn to if you start to feel overwhelmed. Something as simple as taking a break from the conversation, going on a walk, or making a playlist of uplifting songs to listen to can be helpful.
3. Decide how much detail you feel comfortable sharing
How much detail you disclose about the abuse is completely up to you. You may find that it is overwhelming to talk about the specifics of what you went through. On the other hand, you may find it therapeutic to discuss details. What details you choose to share may vary depending on who you are talking to or where you are in your healing.
4. Set boundaries
Unfortunately, some people have a tendency to ask invasive questions in response to hearing difficult stories. You have no obligation to answer prying questions or talk about aspects of your abuse that you would prefer to keep private. It may be helpful to decide ahead of time how you will respond if someone asks you something that you’re not comfortable answering. One response might be just, “I’m not comfortable talking about that.”
5. Practice self care
Think about ways that you practice self care or things that you do to help yourself feel better. Planning to do something positive for yourself, whether that’s taking a bath, eating your favorite food or watching your favorite movie, can help you to cope with some of the difficult emotions that may come up around sharing your story.
6. Consider talking to a professional or joining a support group
There can be a lot of power in sharing your story with people you are close to, but you may find that it is also helpful to talk to someone who is more removed from the situation. A professional with experience working with survivors of abuse can help you to gain valuable insight, answer questions, and be a nonjudgmental listener. Additionally, talking to other survivors who have been through similar situations can be very powerful and can provide a different type of support than talking to friends and family.
7. Recognize that you can’t control other people’s reactions
Unfortunately, some people may react to hearing your story in a hurtful way. Their reaction is not a reflection on you, it is a reflection on them. If someone reacts in an unsupportive way, make sure to take extra care of yourself emotionally.
8. Think outside the box
There’s no right or wrong way to share your story; sitting down and talking about the abuse may not be a good fit for you, and that’s okay! You might consider using writing to share your story, whether that’s journaling privately, posting on a forum or a blog, or even writing a book. Some survivors find that creating art is a powerful way to tell their story.
9. Let others know what type of support you need
You’ve probably had the experience of not knowing what to say or do when something horrible happens to a loved one. It’s very likely that the person you’re speaking to wants to do or say the “right” thing, but they may not know what that is. If there is a specific type of support that you want, feel free to let the other person know. You might say, “don’t feel like you have to say anything, I just want someone to listen.”
10. Celebrate your courage
Sharing your story requires an enormous amount of bravery. It isn’t easy to put yourself out there and be vulnerable, especially when the subject is something that can carry so much stigma. Give yourself credit for being strong enough to speak about what you have been through. By telling your story you are helping to reduce the stigma around abuse.
Katie Lloyd recently graduated with a Master of Science in Counseling and Educational Development from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a specialization in Couple and Family Counseling. In her spare time Katie enjoys playing with her dog and traveling.