Here’s what happens when you share your story

I’ve been trying since I got home to sit down and write a post about how the first day of the When You’re Ready Project went, but I can’t. I’ve been glued to my phone and keyboard corresponding with the countless people who have reached out with words of support and encouragement, to thank me, and to share their stories. This day has been the biggest emotional roller coaster I’ve been on in my entire life. And the best.

I woke up at 3am overwhelmed with anxiety. Yesterday I shared the Project with my family and told them today that I was going to publish. I reached out to influential women and asked for their support – there was no turning back. I didn’t go back to sleep, I spent the next few hours worrying about what might happen when I came forward. Always a good use of time, right? Worrying about a future you can’t control. In the past few weeks as I’ve crystalized the idea for the WYR Project I’ve spent many nights doing just that: worrying.

But let me tell you what actually happened today…

I was worried that my parents would be worried, or embarrassed. 

My mother and step-father both called me. My Mom told me through tears that she was proud of me. My step-father said that he regretted not being there for me back then, but that he was here for me now. He said that by coming forward and sharing my experience I’ve given him the opportunity to re-write history with his granddaughter (WYR FTW). He said not to worry about him confronting my rapist, because he knew that nothing he could do with his fists was as powerful as me standing up for myself in such a beautiful and articulate way. My Mom has already told some of her friends and is excited to share this project with even more – she knows so many women who need to know they’re not alone.

This is finally out in the open.  Last night, Lucy told me how great it would feel to know that once your name and your story are out there, you will never go back to keeping the secret again. It’s out of your hands and there’s nothing you can do about it. I didn’t totally grasp that when she said it but today it clicked and she was right. I’ve been raped. It’s out there. I never have to think about whether or when to tell someone again, and that’s liberating. Secrets are heavy.

I was worried that no one would notice my Facebook post and I’d have to awkwardly remind them to pay attention to me.

Over 750 people have viewed whenyoureready.org just today, the Facebook page has 50 “Likes” and says my posts reached 375 different people. The WYR Project got a  $100 donation via IndieGoGo and 25 followers on Twitter – not bad for one day!

I was worried that people would notice my post and not care.

This turned out to be the most unfounded fear of all. All day my phone and browser have been blowing up with messages of support and encouragement. People thanked me for coming forward, they called me brave and offered to help and said they were proud of me. I spent the entire day with my eyes welled up and a smile on my face.

I knew that many women have experienced the same things or worse – but I could not have imagined the magnitude. Woman after woman reached out – some friends, some strangers – sharing their stories with me:

  • One person said that based on the (intentionally minimal) details of one of my rapes she thinks she might have been raped by the same person.
  • Several said that they had stories to share but weren’t ready yet, but that the WYR Project has made them feel closer to being ready. The stories vary widely but they share the common elements of guilt, shame, and fear.
  • I was shocked to hear that another person was raped with permission from a boyfriend.
  • One woman and I spoke on the phone and practically said in unison “I felt like I deserved it as a consequence of bad choices I made.”
  • I have a friend who is a counsellor and wants to work together to put together on outreach to teens and young women.
  • One person told me that her sister saw the project and for the first time opened up about a rape that happened over a decade ago.

Any doubts I had this morning are gone and replaced by a feeling of certainty that this is the right thing, and now is the right time. Many of these women agreed to share their stories here, as soon as I can I’ll be posting them.

I was worried that one of my rapists would read the story and contact me.

This hasn’t happened yet. It might – Lucy told me to prepare myself for it just in case and it was good advice. I shared my story today with my entire Facebook network which includes mutual friends and acquaintances of all three of them and the other people in my stories.

I was worried that my friends would recognize the individuals in my stories and be offended that I shared them.

A handful of people close to me knew immediately who I was talking about – but that was never my intention. They weren’t offended, if anything they were outraged. Two people reached out regarding separate stories, realizing that they were there on the night/day that they happened. This was the second most upsetting outcome today. It was upsetting because these women apologized for not doing anything to stop it. I hated the idea that they read my story and played back those nights in their head and took on even the tiniest bit of misplaced guilt or responsibility. But then I realized that this is another reason to keep at it with the WYR Project. Sexual violence doesn’t just affect the ones who are raped, it affects our loved ones too. Here’s the thing: sexual violence isn’t anyone’s fault except for the attacker. Period.

The most upsetting and the only negative reaction today may or may not have been an attempt to intimidate me. I was contacted by someone close to one of my rapists. This person reached out ostensibly to praise the Project, but also to ask if I’d identify one of the rapists.  I hesitate to even say this because it could have been a sincere offer of support. My gut said it wasn’t, and I’ve decided to talk about it here in case you’re thinking about sharing your story. Lucy was right – prepare yourself for people recognizing themselves and getting in touch with you. My response was that I wasn’t going to share any names on this blog or with people individually…but that has left me going back and forth wondering if that was the person’s intent in the first place….it’s probably just time for me to get some sleep.

Like I said, this has been the most emotionally overwhelming day of my entire life. I have a stack of stories that women have shared with me and given me permission to post here. I’m exhausted but so happy and reassured.

THANK YOU all for the various kinds of support you offered today and ongoing.

Love,

Lauren

Author

Lauren

Lauren

Lauren Reid is the founder of When You're Ready.org, a three time survivor of rape who built this community to let other survivors of sexual violence know that they're not alone. When you're ready, I'll be here.

Related

Comments

  1. Becky says:

    “A bend in the road is not the end of the road… unless you fail to make the turn”. You, my Dear Lauren, have once again burned through the turn! I have been impressed and inspired by you since meeting you. My heart was so heavy all day after reading your words. I am sorry. Please know that I couldn’t be prouder or happier for you and all you do and accomplish. Thanks for sharing and for being the winner. Much love and heartfelt hugs are coming your way. Peace be with you. LOVE YOU!