Sexual violence is a global epidemic. It is finally receiving the public attention it deserves in the U.S., courtesy of celebrity predators,social media, and a growing number of men and women who are brave enough to be angry in public. The popular #MeToo campaign took off four weeks ago, and since that time, tens of thousands of sexual assault survivors have “gone public.” Here I offer some practical advice for public victims/survivors about working with the press, managing trolls, and establishing a self-care routine.
Working With the Press
If “going public” means you’ll be working with the press, keep in mind that this may be a retraumatizing experience that consumes your life and leaves you with little peace.
If “going public” means you’ll be working with the press, keep in mind that this may be a retraumatizing experience that consumes your life and leaves you with little peace. You can manage the press in the following ways:
- Work with only one reporter so you don’t have to tell your story again and again. Also, this will enable you to develop a relationship with one reporter whom you trust.
- Write a brief statement about your rape/sexual assault that you can send to reporters so you do not have to rehash these details again and again.
- Put together a few general statements about your personal sexual assault/rape experience that you can say again and again without it triggering you.
- Set aside specific hours to speak with reporters. Don’t let reporters dictate your schedule and fill up your day.
Dealing with Trolls
If you go public in the press or social media, you will no doubt encounter trolls— strangers who contact you on social media in order to demean, frighten, intimidate, and silence you. Here are some simple steps for managing trolls when you become a public victim/survivor:
- Don’t feed the trolls. Resist the temptation to respond to strangers that post nasty comments on your social media. They want you to respond to them because it validates their existence, but keep in mind that the most irritating thing you can do to them is ignore them.
- Have someone else review social media comments and emails from trolls in order to limit your exposure to nasty, threatening comments.
- Ban and block all abusive trolls on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. You do not owe anyone space on your timelines or feeds. Manipulative trolls may try to shame you when you delete comments and ban trolls, but ignore them.
- For Facebook, you cannot outright prevent nasty strangers from posting on your page, but you can shut down comments with this hack.
- If you are feeling overwhelmed by trolls, you can change your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter settings to private until the troll swarm passes.
- If you receive a credible death threat, you can report it to the authorities, but keep in mind that law enforcement and the FBI mostly mishandle these complaints, so lower your expectations of responsiveness.
Creating a Self Care Routine
Dealing with public attention can be mentally and physically exhausting. You may face insensitive questions from reporters, nasty comments from trolls, and less than supportive comments from friends and family members. Here are some tips for self-care as a public victim/survivor:
- Turn off your phone and disconnect from communication technology each day so you do not get overwhelmed.
- Work out at least 20 minutes each day to relieve stress and get you out of your head and into your body.
- Spend time with friends/family who will not ask you a lot of questions about your experience of sexual harassment/violence.
- Journal every day.
- Meditate for at least a few minutes every day.
- Draw your support network on a sheet of paper with you in the middle. Contact members of your support network before you “go public” to let them know the special role they play in your life.
- Connect with local, national, and online survivor support networks.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you need assistance in going public as a victim/survivor, or if you have additional advice you would like to add to this article.