Survivorship and Speaking Out


“Healing begins when someone bears witness.”

I love this quote, because it acknowledges both the power of speaking out and the potential healing offered by those who listen. When it comes to being a survivor of interpersonal violence, including sexual assault, relationship violence, or stalking, there are a number of ways to speak out and a number of organizations with folks prepared and willing to “bear witness” to your experience. Even if you’re not interested in filing any charges against your assailant, either through the University’s Grievance Panel Procedures or a report with local police, sharing one’s story can be a powerful mode of healing.

One way allies can support survivors is by respecting survivors’ preferences about how they choose to “speak out”. Not every survivor will want to speak out the same way, and some won’t want to at all. How public an individual is about their experience of IPV does not determine their level of “survivorship” or their right to identify as a survivor. In that same vein, the amount or mode of “speaking out” about one’s assault is not indicative of how much an individual has healed from their experience. Learning that friends or loved ones have experienced interpersonal violence (IPV) can motivate allies to become involved in speaking out against IPV themselves, but it is important to not share a survivor’s story without their permission- even if you leave out names or identifying information.

Here are some ways survivors can “speak out”, anonymously or not.

In person:

OCRCC Shout Out!
Submissions due March 15
The Orange County Rape Crisis Center will host the 11th Annual Shout Out Against Sexual Violence on April 16, 2013. Survivors of sexual violence and those who care about them will have the opportunity to read works and perform pieces surrounding the issues of rape and sexual assault. If you would like to submit a piece to the Shout Out, please email Joey at joey@ocrcc.org or call 919-968-4647 for more information. Please indicate whether you will present your piece at the Shout Out, or if you would like a staff member or volunteer to present it on your behalf as an anonymous submission.

Support groups for folks who have experienced relationship violence and sexual violence are available at the Compass Center for Women and Families and the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, respectively.

If you’re a student at UNC Chapel Hill, it’s important to be aware that under the University’s Policy on Prohibited Harassment, including sexual misconduct, and Discrimination, staff and faculty of the university are mandated reporters of incidents of sexual assault. Meaning, if you disclose or chose to share your story with a staff or faculty member they are required by federal law to report the assault to the Deputy Title IX Student Complaint Coordinator at the university. The Deputy Title IX Student Complaint Coordinator may get in touch with you to follow up and make sure that you are provided information about all of the options available for filing a report through the university or the local police.

On paper:

Blind Reporting at UNC- CH
For sexual assaults involving a fellow student at UNC Chapel Hill, a blind report can be filed with the University. This report does not require names and can be turned in anonymously. The only identifying information that is required is the last four digits of your PID. (This is used to ensure that the university does not receive any “double reports”.) You may fill out as much information as you are comfortable providing on the form. You can place a completed form in one of the anonymous reporting boxes available in the Student Rec Center or Rams Head Rec Center, mail or bring it to the Dean of Students office or email it to the Dean of Students Office at dos@unc.edu.

Over the phone:

Orange County Rape Crisis Center (OCRCC)
The OCRCC hosts a 24- hour help line which can be reached by calling 1-866-WE-LISTEN (935-4783). Trained companions and OCRCC staff respond to help-line calls and are great folks to talk things through with, offer options for counseling, or just listen.

Compass Center for Women and Families
The Compass Center offers a 24 Hour Relationship Violence Hotline at 919-929-7122. Trained advocates and Compass Center staff can offer resources and/or a supportive listening ear.

Online:

Project Dinah’s Speak Out Blog
Submissions taken on an ongoing basis
The UNC student group Project Dinah (PD) runs a blog on which anonymous submissions of stories of sexual and interpersonal violence are submitted and posted. Please click the comments link of the post titled “testimonials” to share an anonymous testimonial. A site administrator will post your testimonial after it has been submitted. PD asks that folks who submit stories do not include any personal information that would reveal their or anyone else’s identity.

And it Was Wrong
Submissions taken on an ongoing basis
And it Was Wrong is a grassroots compilation of women’s experiences of sexual assault. Stories are submitted anonymously through the website; a few are posted online periodically. Rachael Goodman-Williams, the founder of the project, provides only one guideline for submissions: that they end with the phrase “and it was wrong.”

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network’s Online Hotline
If you’re hesitant or hard pressed to find a private place to chat over the phone, RAINN’s online chat offers trained volunteers who are available to chat with you online 24 hours a day.

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