At the very beginning of 2020 when I decided to share my lived experience publicly, there were four key actions I focused on to ensure I stayed anchored throughout what I expected would be a difficult time.
First, sharing my story so openly to the public began with me speaking to family members who were not yet aware of the abuse. From here, I would talk specifically with the older generation in my family, the ones who I felt had been complicit, in hopes of helping them understand the impact of their choices, and how I proposed we could begin to change the cycles in our family. Thirdly, I wanted to remove the silence around this matter, in hopes of empowering others to no longer protect perpetrators. My final action involved reaching out to known victim-survivors and opening my door to them should they want or need to speak.
Time, however, changed my focus and perspective and in May 2020, I revisited this list of actions, the first now being to speak openly and publicly about being a survivor of sexual abuse. This would start with family and mediation, whilst making a statement and putting legal measures in place against the perpetrator. Secondly, talking directly with the older generation, especially those who I felt had failed us, to help them understand their failings and how they could help to stop the cycles of abuse. The third, was to remove the silence to empower people to no longer protect perpetrators and the fourth, reaching out to known victim-survivors and open my door to them if they wanted or needed to speak.
These were BIG actions, and over time, during the years to come, it became clear that they were not going to be my focus point. There were heavy emotions of anger fuelling the list of actions from May 2020, and were heavily focused on others. I had written them to force people to change because I needed others to take accountability, though it became clear that this was never going to work. To make real change I had to begin within myself, to focus on my healing and the communication around my story, to control the controllables. So I continued to adjust these actions and over time I began to write my memoir, this helped change this list and in February of 2022, as I finished my final draft, I again sat down to update my actions.
Interestingly, there are now only three. The first is to share my story, so others who might have similar stories or can relate may feel less alone and be able to come out of the shadows of shame. To focus on the message that you can’t be what you can’t see, and remembering that we develop connections through sharing, and as survivors, we are stronger together.
The second is to speak publicly, to dismantle the misconceptions around high-functioning survivors and begin reframing what survivors really look like and what we need from supporters when we ask people to walk beside us.
And the last is to encourage others to tune in to their instincts. Leaning into discomfort and using their voices to speak up, with a focus on child safety and survivor support.
Reflecting on this I can see a significant shift in my healing journey, as my list of actions transforms into my why. Moving far beyond a list of things to do and grounding the purpose of why I show up for myself and for survivors all around the world. I’m proud of how far I’ve come and I look forward to seeing my why continue to evolve as I move with the trauma and live my life beyond it.