A caution to survivors of sexual assault
By Katy Temple
Special to the Salisbury Post
The #MeToo movement is a call to victims of sexual assault to gather together and regain some power from an event that robbed them of control. However, since the movement began, victims who don’t want to share their stories, those who aren’t ready and those who simply aren’t sure are feeling pressure.
No one should feel obligated to share their story. Being unwilling or unable to relive horrific events doesn’t mean they’re not behind the cause. They are no less courageous than the victims who are speaking out.
Telling takes a lot of courage. It can be a form of asking for help, either to make the abuse stop or to work through its after-effects. Telling can be a way of taking care of yourself.
Once you decide to talk about what happened to you, it is important to have a network of reliable people for support. When building this network, it takes careful consideration to choose who and how you are going to tell.
If you are a survivor, and are considering speaking out, use caution. Once the silence is broken, it cannot be reversed. Choose the person you decide to tell wisely. Would you like to tell a counselor, friend, or family member? Does the counselor have experience in sexual trauma?
If you choose to tell a friend or family member, has this person been supportive of you in the past? What is this person’s relationship (if any) with the perpetrator? Will the relationship be a problem in her/his acceptance of your experience? Will this person honor your privacy and confidentiality if asked?
Remember, you cannot be responsible for the reactions of others, but you can take control of your actions by being prepared for the outcome if you decide to share your experience with others. Opening up about the experience can begin the process of healing. It will feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable at first.
The Sexual Violence Survivor’s Bill of Rights
1. No one has the right to abuse you or anyone else.
2. No one deserves to be assaulted or abused.
3. You have a right to stop the abuse that is happening to you or anyone else.
4. You have a right to pursue healing and justice for the abuse that has happened.
5. Sexual violence is wrong. The abuser is wrong. People who protect the abuser are wrong.
6. You did not destroy the family or betray their trust by speaking out about your abuse. The perpetrator destroyed the trust of the family every time he/she committed an act of abuse.
7. YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME.
Preparing to talk about what happened also means being prepared to deal with your feelings after the talking is over.
Family Crisis Council of Rowan County has trained staff that can provide assistance in moments of crisis as well as resources for ongoing support. They can offer information and resources including support groups, individual counseling, medical and hospital accompaniment, court advocacy, victim assistance, and emergency shelter. All services offered by Family Crisis Council are free and confidential.
Katy Temple is special victims program manager for Family Crisis Council of Rowan.