Let me clarify our organizational position on something:
Don’t ever ask us if you can have a survivor speak at your function.
Our answer will be no.
Don’t ever say “but I’m sure we can get you a bunch more donations if our people can hear a survivor speak”
Our answer will still be no.
Don’t ever respond with “but if the audience can hear about the abuse, and the horrible situations that person has gone through, they could really relate more”
Our answer will yet again, be no.
You can beg, you can plead, you can curse us. We will never ask one of our clients, one of our friends, to stand alone in front of an audience and entertain them with stories of “the life”.
Why do you need to hear a survivor speak? Is it for them, or is it for you? Is it so you can put up a great FB post “wow, just heard an amazing survivor story, so sad, how do people do that to each other”. Because for you, it’s an interesting evening. For them, it’s reliving their lives, experiencing the triggers, putting themselves out there in front of an uncertain & uncaring world.
Here’s a better option, because we as an organization, as a movement, have no time for hashtag activism, fair-weather friends or armchair quarterbacks: Get off your duff & actually do something.
Donate, fundraise, volunteer, help.
If you really want to hear a survivor speak, help them develop their voice, one-on-one. There are a number of programs to do it, ours included. Help them get a job, get their kid back, get their felonies expunged, cover up their tattoo’s, find a place to live, write a resume, pick out clothing. It’s dirty, it’s gritty, it’s hours & hours of boredom combined with minutes of sheer terror. It’s real & it doesn’t make for a good FB status update (partially because most orgs won’t let you post about it on FB).
Survivors are special. They’ve gone through shit that would have killed a normal person. They’re not to be gawked at, not to be referred to as “sex slaves”, not to be put on a stage for FB status updates. They are people, they are survivors & more than anything they just want a chance at a normal life with the same opportunities that everyone else has.
So go ahead & ask if you can have a survivor speak. We will say no & then we will walk away… sometimes we will laugh as we do it