Difficulty to Disclose Abuse Exercises


Disclosure Exercise

  • Audience: Obviously, I change up the conclusion depending on my audience. I have used this training all forms of audiences -- police, judges, attorneys, catholic priests... I have never had a bad experience with it. I believe a part of why this exercise is so poweful is because of the change in mood that is created, which is why i advocate really building up the fun and humor for the first half of this.
  • Objective: There is one exercise that i use that I particularly like that starts fun but really captures the difficulties that people experience with disclosing sexual assault.
I find it very helpful initially to highlight the fun aspects and tease the participants a bit with the initial parts of this exercise.
  • Instructions: Have the participants break into groups of 2 or 3. "In a moment, I'm going to ask you all to share something about yourself -- which I promise is painless. So, I need you all to pick which one of the people is going to share and which is going to listen. If there are 3 of you, one will share, the other will listen, and the third person, just watch what happens and notice the dyanmics. Again, I am not going to ask you to disclose anything terribly personal."

Give them a few moments to decide (and to allow the anxiety to grow). Some people will be asking what you want them to share. Remind them that you'll tell them in a moment. Once you have a sense that in general, people have decided on their roles continue...
"Okay, you've decided who's going to share and who's going to listen? Good. The person who is going to share (pause...) I want you to share your BEST sexual experience."
There will likely be, rather immediately, laughter, looks of disbelief and checking in with you to make sure you're serious, and other examples of nervousenss and anxiety. Give it a good couple of/three moments and to the degree you can, make them think you're serious (I can almost never do that). Once the laughter and anxiety has reached a peak...
"Okay, okay, I'm not really serious."
Take a pause and allow them to be and act relieved that you're not serious. There will likely be lots more laughter and talking amongst themselves. Give it a few moments...
"What was your reaction to me asking you to share your best sexual experience?"
During this part, share what people say and then point out what some of the behaviors suggest -- nervousness, hesitancy, maybe some embarassement, etc.
"Were any of you maybe a little angry that I even had the audacity to ask such a thing? After all, the last thing you expected when you came to this training was to share your sex life..."
Generally, once you've given them permission, at least a couple of people will acknowlege that they were, in fact, angry -- or at least annoyed -- that you asked such a thing.
"Hold onto those feelings for a moment."
At this point, change your tone to one that is decidedly more serious.
"Imagine that I hadn't asked you to share your best sexual experience, but your worst"
(short pause)
"And imagine that you weren't with colleagues, peers and friends, but I'm a police officer with a gun on my hip and a squawking walkie talkie that I've turned down, but you can still hear..."
(short pause)
"And imagine that I am, in my most professional and appropriate way, asking for the intimate details of this worst sexual experience...and then what did you do, and what did you do after that, and what did he do..."
(short pause)
"And imagine you know what you know, which is tomorrow you're going to have to share your worst sexual experience again with the detective, and then next week the prosecutor. Each of which will ask for more and more details of your worst sexual experience..."
(short pause)
"And imagine that you know what you know that in a year or so, you get to stand up in a room full of strangers, and one more time share your worst sexual experience, only this time someone else is asking for all the details who is not being so gentle and professional (i.e. the defense attorney), AND, the person who raped you is sitting...right...there (point to an empty space not far out of arms reach).
(short pause)
"Now how many of you would be willing to share?"
Almost no one will raise their hands
"And this is what we expect of women or men who have been sexually assaulted. It's even worse for children and youth. What I've described here is the BEST circumstances, which rarely happen. This is why they are hesitant to report, and this is why our first response is to acknowlege and celebrate the incredible courage they have shown to disclose. This is why we let them take their time and why we advocate with the police, the detective, the doctor, and the prosecuting attorney to allow them to take the time they deserve to tell their story. This is why we're here.."