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Deciding to share your story

Survivors of gun violence can talk about the issue of gun violence with unique lived experience. The voices, faces and stories of survivors of gun violence are critical to creating lasting social and legislative change — and social media and other platforms can help amplify survivors’ voices in powerful ways. Sharing your story is your choice, and you should make informed decisions about whether and how you do it. This page is meant to be a resource to you as you evaluate whether you want to share your story with the public.

Many survivors find that sharing their story can be a positive, even a transformative experience. Survivors have said sharing their story to help build the gun safety movement is empowering, healing, and/or helps honor their loved ones who have been taken or wounded by gun violence. However, if you choose to share your story, also keep in mind that doing so could also be painful and/or bring on strong emotions. A desire to speak out is important, but preparation is key. That is why it is important to prioritize self-care, regularly conduct self-assessments to evaluate whether telling your story is right for you, and seek support if needed.

Please note that you are not permitted to upload or submit any material to Moments that Survive if you are under 13 years of age. If you are at least 13 years of age and less than 18 years of age, you may only share your story on Moments That Survive with the permission and supervision of your parent or legal guardian.

Start with a Self-Assessment

As you begin thinking about how you will write or share your story, consider doing a simple self-assessment to help determine if you are ready to post on the Moments That Survive website, on social media, at an event or to your friends and family. Ask yourself some simple questions:

  • Am I ready to post my story online where others, including strangers, will learn about my experience and could have a range of reactions? Am I ready to share my story in-person in front of friends and family and strangers?
  • Do I have a support network to which I can turn? Think about friends and family, as well as outside support from psychological, religious, or spiritual counselors.
  • Are there any family members and/or members of my support network that I should speak to before I publicly share my experience so they can prepare themselves?
  • Have I shared my story before to a trusted person or supportive network? How did it feel?
  • Do I know someone who would be willing to read a draft of my story before I post it on social media or the Moments That Survive site?
  • Have I thought about how I can prioritize self-care both before and after I share or post?
  • Do I know a survivor who has already taken this step and could share their experience doing so with me?

You may be ready to share or post your story one day and find yourself feeling differently the next. All of these emotions are completely normal. Know that it is completely acceptable to change your mind and decide not to share your story at any point in time. If at any time you wish to remove your story after it has been published, please write to us at [email protected].

Protect Yourself, Maintain Security, and Report Online Threats

Social media can be a powerful tool for you in the aftermath of gun violence. Talking about your experience and the healing connection can create a sense of community with others who have experienced similar trauma. Also, an online community can be crucial for those who live in isolated areas or feel isolated in their offline community. Your experience, and the sharing of that experience, can help change public awareness and public policy. When more people break down the silence surrounding gun violence and recognize their own connections, more change will happen.

However, as you assess the decision to share your story, maintaining personal safety is a priority; do not share or post your story if doing so places you in an unsafe situation or could harm a pending legal case. Some social media platforms allow you to control your privacy settings, if you so choose. Effective passwords, protecting your personal information, and knowing how to secure your social media accounts can significantly reduce unwanted activity from online users who may seek to harass or intimidate you. Some ways to protect your information include:

  • Make sure your home address and other personal contact information is not visible to anyone outside your personal contacts.
  • Do not accept friend requests from people you don’t know.
  • Do not share any personal information on your accounts. This includes travel plans, information about your workplace, or your daily schedule.
  • Avoid “checking in” at locations, and make sure that location data is turned off for all of your accounts.
  • Avoid tagging locations in Facebook photos, and if someone tags you with location data, remove it as soon as possible. There is an option with Facebook to require your approval before you are tagged. Even sharing events that you are attending could be used to locate you.
  • Remember if you have privacy concerns but still want to share, there are ways to share your story while remaining anonymous (you can use a pseudonym or your initials, for example if you share on the Moments That Survive website).
  • If you are engaged in, or think you may become involved in, any legal proceeding (including serving as a witness in any criminal, civil, family court, or any other formal action, or being a party to a civil or family court action), publicly sharing your story could impact that process. Your story should not only be truthful, but should also be one that you are comfortable potentially being shared beyond this website. Please consult a lawyer (and another trusted confidante) about the possible effects of publicly sharing your experience while engaged in legal action (whether you are a potential or current witness or a potential or current party to a lawsuit or criminal action).

Please Don’t “Feed the Trolls”

A “troll” is someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community or in comments to an online article, with the primary goal of disrupting a discussion by provoking an emotional response. It can be upsetting when someone says something negative or hurtful about something as personal as your experience with gun violence. Know that even though trolls can be loud and disruptive, they are in the minority – most Americans support and stand on the side of gun safety. The best way to deal with trolls is to ignore them. If a troll persistently harasses you or threatens you (including sharing your personal information), you should report the incident to Facebook or other social media sites and block them. If you feel your safety is threatened, please contact local law enforcement.

Practice Self-Care

Take just a moment (five minutes or over the course of days, whatever feels right) to sit still and reflect upon what you need to do to help yourself before or as you choose to share your story. Self-care is about being better attuned to your own needs and then responding to those needs. Self-care is not selfish, it actually helps you to be the best you can be and will support you throughout the stages of sharing your story: writing, posting, reading the comments of others, and reflecting upon the experience.

Some Self-Care Ideas:

  • Write in a journal to process thoughts and feelings.
  • Practice breathing and relaxation techniques; meditate.
  • Connect with family and friends.
  • Give yourself a break. Take time to rest and do things that you like to do.
  • Try to eat well. Limit intake of caffeine or alcohol.
  • Try to practice good sleep habits. Go to bed at the same time every evening, wake-up at the same time every morning.
  • Get some exercise or physical activity. Take a walk, go for a bike ride, or get exercise if you are able.

If You Need Additional Support

After experiencing gun violence, you may find you would like or need some emotional support or a mental health intervention. Most communities offer a service referred to as 2-1-1, where citizens can pick up the phone and dial 2-1-1 for information and referrals to help. They can give you the name and contact number for crisis support, counseling, or any resource available in your community.

Other National Resources:

    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (all ages) 1-800-273-8255
    National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233
    National Sexual Assault Hotline (all ages) 1-800-656-4673
    Trevor Line (for LGBTQ teens and young adults) 1-866-488-7386

Through the Everytown Survivor Network, you can also find peer support and mental health resources. To learn more, please fill out this sign-up form to join the Everytown Survivor Network and you will receive information about additional resources.

DISCLAIMER. This information does not and cannot constitute or substitute medical or legal advice. Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund is an organization dedicated to educating and bringing awareness around the issue of gun violence prevention, not providing medical or legal advice. If you are experiencing a medical, mental health, or other emergency, please dial 9-1-1 for immediate assistance.