You’ve faced fear and felt alone. You felt shame that it happened to you, guilt for not coming forward sooner and frustration because you “know better.” You’ve watched other brave women come forth and take lashes from the press, the public and on social media.
With all of the doubt and negative backtalk that may result, perhaps you’re hesitant to come forward. So many women remain afraid to tell their stories because of fears of retaliation, post-traumatic stress, career interruptions, or “black-listing.” What happened is wrong, and you’re not going to take it anymore.
But if you’re finally ready to take the leap—if you’re tired of holding back—below is a road map to get you started on your journey. There will be bumps in the road. The challenge is to stay on course.
This is how you tell your story on your own terms.
#1: Set a goal.
Figure out what you hope to achieve. This enables you to channel your thoughts and emotions. By setting a goal and leading with intention, you’re able to filter what’s essential from what’s not.
Is your goal to share your experience so you feel heard? Do you want to inspire other women to come forward about something that’s still mainly gone ignored or pushed to the margins? Is there a specific action you’d like your company, organization or community to take? Do you want the person who did it to be held accountable for his or her actions?
#2: Find other people to support you.
You will face haters—some who won’t believe you no matter what, and some who may even threaten you. They’re not your audience.
You’re not alone. Many others will be supportive. They are the ones you want your voice to reach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re one of the Silence Breakers or a survivor who’s been silent until now. You have shared experiences.
Always remember: Women who came before made sacrifices by coming forward to tell their stories. Their courage paved the way for you.
#3: Anticipate roadblocks.
It won’t be easy. Most likely, it will be an uphill battle or feel like you’re slogging through mud. In a recent article in The Wrap, Sarah Ann Masse details the impact the stress, trauma and pain this can cause.
How do you handle the shame and blame game? In litigation, it’s common for the other side may try to raise doubts about an accuser’s credibility. They will seek to make you question yourself, as well as causing others to question you. They will try to poke holes in your story and to make you feel small and alone.
How do you deal with potential fallout in your career and social circle? This will tell you who your real friends are. Some people may even fling mud because they feel ashamed or disappointed with how they handled their own situations. It will be a painful and stressful odyssey, but you will come out stronger on the other end.
#4: Craft your message & frame the story.
Whoever’s story is first has the advantage. If you get out in front, you set the tone and frame the story. Craft your message carefully and persuasively to anticipate how things might be misinterpreted, twisted, confusing or unclear—and steer clear of those pitfalls.
Then the other side is on the defensive. The burden is on them to try to challenge and discredit your claims.
#5: Go forth and be strong.
Now that you’ve set your goal, gathered your posse, anticipated roadblocks and crafted your message, it’s time to get out there and tell your story. The world needs to hear it.