Sharing stories, fostering dialogue
Spotlight on the BARCC Survivor Speakers Bureau
What can change people’s minds and move people to action? Hearing personal stories. That’s the idea behind BARCC’s Survivor Speakers Bureau (SSB). Formed in 1999 by a group of survivors, the SSB is made up of 20 volunteers who share their stories to educate others about the realities of sexual violence, reach other survivors, and change community norms.
For many survivors, joining the Survivor Speakers Bureau is a powerful way to connect with people, put a face to this issue, and motivate communities to take action to end sexual violence. Every survivor experiences sexual violence differently, and every survivor can add to the understanding of sexual violence and its impacts. SSB volunteers reach hundreds of people every year, including high school and college students, police, journalists, health-care providers, legislators, the military, and others.
The SBB is gearing up for its annual volunteer training this fall and is currently recruiting new members. For many people who have experienced sexual violence, volunteering can be a rewarding and also challenging commitment. Joining the SSB isn't right for all survivors. Some people never want to join; others want to join, just not right now; and still others may want to jump right in. What is it like to be an SSB volunteer? We could give you a sense—but the Survivor Speakers Bureau members can do an even better job telling you themselves! If you’re interested, read below and check out our speaker guidelines to help decide if now is the right time for you.
“If you have felt frustrated in the way that sexual assault has been portrayed in the media or in schools, etc., this is a chance to craft your own narrative and share it in a way that is empowering and to people who want to listen; flip the script, so to speak. It's one of the best things I've done so far.” —Sophie H.
In their own words
Why did you want to get involved with the Survivor Speakers Bureau?
- “For many years, I kept my assaults to myself and suffered in shame. After attending an event and seeing some BARCC speakers share their stories, that inspired me to come forward.” —Natasha
- “To create awareness about the sexual abuse of boys and men. To represent the 21,000,000 male survivors who do not have a voice or a platform like SSB to speak up and be heard.” —Manassah
- “I first spoke publicly about my assault at my college's Take Back the Night event. . . . I was the only survivor who spoke, and the response on campus was overwhelming. Classmates and friends, along with students and professors who I had never met, were so supportive. Many reached out to me personally to share their story. One young man . . . hung up fliers the following day all over campus with his cell phone number for anyone who needed an escort or safe ride home on the weekends. He wrote that he was so moved by the event and wanted to take action as an ally. It blew me away. . . . Something I said moved someone into action. People really rallied to make a difference. That is why I share my story.” —Julie
Why do you continue to be involved?
- “I've done a few speaking events and both were extremely empowering and positive. I look forward every month to our SSB 'supervision' knowing I'll be in a room with people who truly understand.” —Sophie H.
- “I love the community and support of other SSB speakers at BARCC. I also believe that using my voice can help someone else.” —Natasha
- “I like being part of the solution; if what happened to me can inspire someone to take a stand, then I want to tell my story over and over again.” —Julie
What’s one of your favorite parts of it?
- “Speaking to kids around the age that my abuse occurred and hearing the very thoughtful questions they have.” —Lori N.
- “Hearing shifts in the the audience's thinking, like ‘I had never thought of it that way before’ or ‘You've given me a lot to think about.’” —Sophie H.
- “The feeling I get when I see firsthand the impact of my story on the audience and the incredible feeling of their undivided attention, respect, and compassion. I have to say the first time doing a speaking engagement with my daughter in the audience was pretty special.” —Kevin O’Donnell
What are some of the challenges you face as an SSB volunteer?
- “In terms of challenges surrounding speaking itself, there are always going to be some. This is tough stuff to talk about. I've fielded some really tough questions, some triggering comments, some combative audience members. The BARCC staff does an amazing job at supporting us through it all. They check-in before and after an engagement, and talk through a self-care plan. They are also committed to learning and making adjustments.” —Julie
- “Taking care of myself, recognizing when to decline a speaking opportunity. This has opened more doors In terms of my ongoing healing that I didn't even know were there which is exciting and challenging at the same time.” —Sophie H.
What would you say to survivors contemplating applying to join the SSB?
- “The SSB is very rewarding but can be challenging. For me, it has given me the opportunity to talk about an all too often unspoken topic and to bring awareness to others. . . . to give that boy a voice and to make something positive out of such an awful and traumatic event in my life.” —Kevin O’Donnell
- “It's completely a go-at-your-own-pace opportunity where you are in the driver's seat of when, where, why, and how much you share. It's such an empowering experience, and you'll meet wonderful people as a bonus!” —Lori N
- “If you have felt frustrated in the way that sexual assault has been portrayed in the media or in schools, etc., this is a chance to craft your own narrative and share it in a way that is empowering and to people who want to listen; flip the script, so to speak. It's one of the best things I've done so far.” —Sophie H.
- “It is an empowering and healing experience. Go for it!” —Natasha
Interested in joining the BARCC Survivor Speakers Bureau? Read the guidelines and apply today. Want to host a survivor speaker? Request a speaker.