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Finding the Right Balance: Sharing Survivor Stories

Oftentimes, survivors and victims’ voices can be silenced or ignored.

That’s why this past Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we decided to find a way to highlight survivor’s voices and give them a platform. 

In doing so, I learned a lot and want to share what I learned. If you ever want to recount a survivor’s story for any reason, the following can aid in the proper ways to do so! 

What You Need to Know

Stories can be taken and shared anonymously, which is how we approached it, but they can also be taken directly from survivors themselves and repeated, or used in presentations. 

First of all, if you want to share stories from survivors, you should make sure to ensure confidentiality and consent. Let them know if and when you plan to discuss the details of their experience, and if you’re talking to them directly, gauge their reaction. They have to feel safe enough to say “no” if they’d like to, so try your best to ask in a way that allows them to decline. On the same point, let the audience know that you have the survivor’s consent to share, as well! This sets a good example to your audience & it’s a good practice to have.

Don’t force any victim to discuss their story if they don’t want to, as it can be extremely triggering to retell it over and over. Some survivors find that sharing their story can be cathartic and empowering, but that’s not the case for everyone. 

If you’re collecting and sharing stories anonymously, properly explain when and where you plan to share the details of their story. Consent is key! 

In any instance, be mindful! Explain that you may need to change or omit any details that may reveal a survivor’s identity or threaten their safety, such as demographic information. Another factor you want to consider is sharing specific or graphic details of a story. Not only can this threaten to reveal the survivor’s identity, it can sometimes just be too triggering or be used as “shock value”. The overall message MUST stay the same, though. After all, it’s vital to a survivor that their own unique & true story is told.

It’s not always ethical to share every detail of a survivor’s experience. If you’re considering sharing graphic details and your reasons are only: wanting to provide “shock value” to gain reactions, to prove your own expertise, or just because there are survivors in the room – don’t! Violence shouldn’t be sensationalized, and if you want to prove your experience working with survivors, let your knowledge about the subject speak for itself. Along with that, sharing just because other survivors are listening doesn’t always bring the desired impact, as It can be very re-traumatizing.

Overall, just keep in mind who your audience is and why you want to share these stories. The key to all of this is to treat the survivor with utmost respect & validation, & giving due credit and acknowledgement if their identity is involved. 

The Sexual Assault Task Force of Oregon summarizes valid reasons for sharing survivor’s details well:

“1) To cultivate empathy for survivors and what they have experienced.

2) To demonstrate the widespread nature of sexual violence.

3) To break down stereotypes and myths about both victims and perpetrators.

4) To provide a context for the audience about survivors’ experiences.

5) To make an impact on the audience.

6) To give the audience ideas on what they can do.

7) As a training tool.”

As always, when sharing, make sure to debrief the content in the story beforehand or provide trigger warnings. Remind the audience that self-care is necessary and they can always step away if needed.

Sharing survivors stories requires a good balance of respect, empathy, and protection, & hopefully this has helped you to form an appropriate approach when doing so!


You can view the survivor stories on Instagram @dvnconnect.


By Becca Schroeder

DVN Marketing Specialist