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Telling your story

a creative arts exercise

Words Images


Video Examples: A survivor's story - verbal, A song without words, A male speaking out against rape, (triggering) Images and music illustrating the emotions following rape, Date rape

Sign language for descriptive terms of assault such as rape can be found at this sign language browser by alphabet.

Telling your story is a way for sexual assault survivors to begin healing. Sometimes that is a hard thing to do. Art therapy is a good way for trauma survivors to begin to express themselves safely.

Taking small steps towards expressing yourself may be easier.

Most victims of serious trauma actually store memories of the event in the form of images instead of words. That's why it's so hard to find the words to describe it. Sometimes it's just too immediate to use words. It may be easier to start telling your story using metaphors or images.


Images ~ Online Images ~ Words


(Please stay safe and do not push yourself to do anything you don't feel comfortable with. Be aware of your boundaries and stop to use coping skills if needed.)





see also: Online Images


The simplest way to tell your story with images is to find some magazines and make a collage out of the images you find there.

What you will need:

Round tipped scissors, paper and rubber cement. Just select the images you identify with and paste them in any order onto a peice of paper. This is used in art therapy programs frequently. Examples of collages, examples of drawings.

Often you may find you want to use words along with your images.


You can also create a Mandala.

How to create a mandala. More information about mandalas I | II. Mandalas are also used in art therapy and are associated with jungian theories of healing. Sometimes you can just draw a circle and then draw inside of it. If you like you can divide the circle into four and draw images in each section. It reminds me of the circle of healing.


For the web savvy:


Telling your story in an

online support group


Sometimes when I can't bring myself to "say" what is bothering me I like to do an art therapy google-game. Basically I use google (or any search engine) to look for images that I identify with. I post them in a survivor message board forum. Sometimes I add a few words under each image to 'hint' at what I am really trying to tell people. Sort of like a poem or haiku. I usually feel a little better for having people feel - if not fully understand my message.


If you like the idea- try using google image or altavista image to find the right metaphor/image.

You can save your story to a message board creativity forum or to your own anonymous web page. If you do not want to share your story yet you can put it in powerpoint or a word document.

Please do not use your full name, address, email address with your name as part of it, or phone number on either for safety reasons. This is always a basic internet safety rule.



1/ Message boards

To post the image to a message board type a descriptive word in google image and then double click on the image you feel is right. Next you can either: example search

1/ Double click on the image (or words 'see full size image') to enlarge it and then highlight the url, right click, select copy (or just copy as you would normally): It should look like this: example1, 2

Example of a url: http://www.yourimage.com/heal.jpg


2/ Go to the website and right click directly on the image and select copy image location.


Next step:

Then in the message board post click on the icon that represents inserting a picture (sometimes a tree inside a frame). There should be a row of little icons at the top of the space you type into. One of them will be the 'insert picture' icon. If you put the mouse over the icons they may have descriptions that pop up.

After you click on the picture icon- paste the url into the text box that appears. The tags sometimes look like this:


(Please give credit to the website or person the images came from)




2/ Web sites

You can also create an online photo essay using this tool - Create your own photo essay or using free images or your own art work.

If you are saving your story to an anonymous web page you have to think about copyright. Someone else did the work to create that image. You might want to find free images to use.

Examples of photoessays:

Examples of photoessays - a story in image , survivor art work, Perceptions (the last one may trigger), (do not use these images without permission)

Here are some copyright free image sources:

Free Images.uk

Free Images.com

Free animation images

Big foto

Image after

Or you can search for others

You can also create the image yourself using a camera, a drawing or a collage from magazine images.


You shouldn't use their bandwidth so you have to save the images to your own server.

This is not difficult. Just find the image you want and right click on it- save it to your computer hard drive. (Do not do this if someone finding the images could be a problem.) Then when you create your site from a template (they will explain) you can just upload the image from your computer like an email attachment. It's as easy as using email.

When you save the image to your computer be sure to notice what folder it is saving the image to. It varies but often automatically saves them to the my pictures folder, the desktop or another file folder. You can select the folder you prefer as you are saving them.

Here are some free website companies:



Deviant art - a visual arts blog site


Here are some easy to use photo album sites:

These two allow you to post images to message boards by url.




Please use internet safety precautions when setting up your website. Do not give your address, full name, phone number or real location to the server or anyone else on the internet. If you need to create a free email that does not contain your real name that only takes five minutes. Some free email servers are hotmail and yahoo.


If you don't want to share your story with others at all yet- you can create the story in a word document or in power point. Just copy and paste the images.

Computer Privacy:

To find out how to clear your computer history click here. This will not delete any images you saved to your hard drive. It only clears the record of what websites you have visited. If you live in an unsafe environment you should do this. Images you saved may be saved to your desktop folder or your my images folder. You can find them by clicking on Start in the lower left corner, then my recent documents. You can also search for them by clicking on start and then search. Type in the name of the image.

This is intended to be a free - association creative arts exercise. The author is not a trained therapist or counselor. If you do not feel safe doing this please don't. It is most important that you stay safe.

You also need to see a trained therapist, rape crisis counselor or speak to a rape crisis hotline about your healing path.


See also: Coping skills for panic attacks



If you want to write your story with words you can post it at a support message board or submit it to a website that publishes stories anonymously.

The Power and Mystery of Naming Things by Eve Ensler

Incest survivor tells her story - video interview. This survivor published a book as well.


The advantage of posting it to a support group is that you will definitely get positive, supportive feed back. No one at a rape victim support group is going to disbelieve you. If they did, they would probably be banned. Support groups are usually well moderated.

Word game: tell your story in butterfly wings


Healthy Place


"Telling your survivor story can be difficult, but it can be healing and empowering too. It also lets other rape victims know they aren't alone in their experiences and feelings.

When you're done, take a look at some of the other survivor stories." Read other survivor's stories.

You can also listen to books on tape or psa's on how to get help.



Take back the news


This is a survivor / feminist site – I am no longer a victim is the motto. When you hit your survivor stage you will feel stronger and may want to tell your story on a message board. This site deals with the telling of our stories and how it aids in the healing process and regaining our strength.


Gentle Touch's Web


You may read stories or submit your story to this site. I am not sure if they are updating the site currently but the form works.


Dancing in the Darkness


"This Site contains the stories of over 600 courageous survivors. If you wish to add your story, you may use the form below."


You may read stories at Surviving to thriving





Foliano, Janet S. (1995). Listening to the voices of survivors: The effects of rape on self-esteem and self-blame. ; Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The Sciences and Engineering, 56(4-B), Oct 1995. pp. 2323. link


"Several researchers have begun to look at the long-term effects of rape (Calhoun, Atkeson, & Resick, 1982; Cohen & Roth, 1987; Ellis, Atkeson, & Calhoun, 1981; Resick, 1983). This research suggests that women beyond the initial crisis phase are in need of services. Depression, guilt, shame, fear, anxiety and interpersonal difficulties have been found to be present in survivors beyond one year after the rape (Cohen & Roth, 1987; Resick, 1983). Crisis theorists (Burgess & Holstrom, 1974; Sutherland & Schurl, 1970) have provided a model by which the emotional sequelae of rape can be better understood. However, crisis theory models are limited because they compartmentalize the aftermath of rape into phases and the actual experience of being raped can be lost (Fischer, 1984). A qualitative study of rape survivors' experiences of self-blame and self-esteem was conducted. The voices of rape survivors are employed to gain a better understanding of the experience of surviving rape. Three participants took part in a one to two hour interview designed to capture the multi-layered nature of the psychological experience of surviving rape. The study utilized the voice-centered method of data collection and analysis as described by Brown and Gilligan (1992). The interview tapes were listened to four times in the following way: the story the participant told, how the participant spoke of herself, how the participant spoke about the rape in relation to others, and how the participant spoke of her world. The acute reaction stage was absent from the accounts of the participants. They instead discussed a denial phase, in which self-blame, self-damaging behaviors, and lower self-esteem played a role. The shift from the denial phase to the integration phase seemed to be marked with breaking the silence by sharing their story with a caring, supportive person(s). Healing was also aided for the participants by participation in group therapy. The participants also appeared to have experience"




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