The acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie shared this experience from her life:
“I left Nigeria to go to university in the United States. I was 19. My American roommate was shocked by me. She asked where I had learned to speak English so well and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language . . . My roommate had a single story of Africa [and] in this single story, there was no possibility of Africans being similar to her in any way, no possibility of feelings more complex than pity, no possibility of a connection as human equals.”
Adichie’s experience shows that we often oversimplify complicated issues. Her roommate viewed all Africans as the same, even though they are individuals with rich stories. Similarly, sometimes people tend to view all sexual abuse survivors as the same, even though each survivor is an individual with unique experiences. Over the past few months, many survivors have come forward to share their individual stories, and these stories are giving everyone a better understanding of the prevalence and complexity of childhood sexual abuse and the impact it has on people. Awareness is increasing, but there is still the danger of falling into “single-story thinking” and viewing all survivors as the same.
Here at The Younique Foundation, we want you to know that your individual story matters. We post survivor stories every week on our website and we have a Faces of Survivors Instagram page because we believe that there is power in stories both for the person who shares and the person who reads. As you read survivor stories, you’ll probably encounter moments that resonate with you, places where you can see similarities between your story and others. But there are also parts of your story that are unique to you. You are an individual.
As more and more survivors share their stories, you might be encouraged to share your own. Your story has the power to create change by helping people understand sexual abuse better. Also, reaching out to others can be a big step on your healing journey. But always remember that your story is yours. No one can make you share, and you should never feel pressure, from yourself or others, to talk about anything you don’t want to. Once a survivor discloses, family and friends might be curious, and they could ask lots of questions, but you don’t need to say more than you are comfortable with. Also, telling your story once doesn’t mean you have to tell it again and again. Share your story when it feels right to you.
We are here for everyone: people who have shared their story publicly and people who haven’t. The power of your story is real, and it’s yours. You get to decide how to use it.