Survivor Stories: The Importance and Gifts of Storytelling
Increasing awareness and decreasing stigma are central to eliminating sexual misconduct and abuse in sport. Survivors bravely sharing their stories is crucial to ending the culture of silence. Like turning the lights on in a dark tunnel, these survivors and their stories illuminate the way to a safer future.
When shadow is brought into light, there is healing potential not only for the individual survivor, but for the world. Unlike often retraumatizing processes, such as retelling one’s abuse in the justice system, the experience of telling your survivor story in a compassionate and trauma-informed setting can be empowering and helpful. By sharing in an anonymous way with control over your narrative, you can express your point of view, your journey, and even help others who unfortunately may have had similar experiences. We all have the same core needs–to be seen, heard, and loved. These stories help facilitate a means to meeting those needs in a digital setting, and in a powerful and moving way.
Storytelling links members of society together. Before written word, there was oration scaffolding cultural history. Stories were the way in which knowledge and legends were passed down through generations, engaging members with parables and motifs essential for survival and a full life. Today, stories still grip our attention, pull at our heart strings, and change the world. The anecdotes of others that we remember are imprinted into our souls from childhood into our later lives. Stories are how we learn, remember, build empathy for one another, and provide deeper avenues for connection in ways we cognitively may have been stuck. They aid us in making sense of our messy universe, and they are key to changing culture.
Stories matter. Your story matters. Survivor stories matter. Each story, each voice, each situation displays nuances of the human experience and uniquely delivers a healing sentiment. From a meta review of stories shared with #WeRideTogether, themes and trends regarding the strength of the human spirit and the resiliency of the human heart stand out and transcend the hurt, suffering, and unfathomable behaviors that transpired. In spite of all reported misconduct and abuse, readers are left with hope, guidance, and most importantly, not feeling alone.
Survivors speak to other survivors, to coaches, to sports organizers, and to their fellow teammates and their parents, passing along their wisdom – lessons for all humanity:
No matter your sport, in spite of the details of the trauma you experienced, these are the threads binding survivors together and directing the world and our systems to solutions. Thank you to all storytellers, to all survivors, for your vulnerability, courage, and lionhearts in sharing your truths.
Kathryn McClain, MSW, MBA
Program and Partnerships Director at #WeRideTogether
If you are a survivor who is interested in sharing your story and want to learn more about this process, please reach out to Kathryn McClain at email@example.com.