Read Me with Shareen Mansfield on RAWr Words

As a writing coach, the main work I do is pointing writers to the door that is damming their healing progress. From there, I become a cheerleader. My work is all behind the scenes. I’m not telling my story, I’m helping you to tell yours.

I have been the doula for many rape stories. It is a trauma common to women and real for men. Often, we work together on multiple iterations of the event. We tell it true, we tell the details we forgot, we tell the connections we made after we told it the first (or second or third) time, and we tell it as it should have been. Most survivors walk away with their stories on paper and their voices heard and that is enough for a time. But nearly as frequently, writers come back and ask, “What next?”

My answer is, “Destroy it or publish it, but let it go.”


The Two Sisters, Theodore Chasseriau

Letting go is a practice. We let go of the same stories again and again. Destroying your work offers its own satisfaction, especially when that destruction takes the form of a ritual geared toward release. Burn it, drown it, stab it, or consume it so you can shit it out. Sometimes, though, the best release happens through being heard in a greater forum.

Every rape survivor knows that silence is our greatest oppression. Publishing our stories not only allows our voices to be heard, it allows the voices of our brother and sister survivors to also be witnessed. We are calling out to our tribe, “You are not alone.” Solidarity makes the survivor world go round.

Shareen and I do our coaching by text message. When she messaged me deeply triggered by Marco Rubio’s assertion that he would encourage rape survivors to carry the child of their rapist, it was a slap in the face. A push too far. She needed help getting back, and that help was having someone hear her story. I’m honored that I got to be that someone. I’m even more honored that she chose to publish her story, but she only agreed because I asked if I could share her byline. If, just like in our offline life, we could stand up together in support of one another. Solidarity between survivors.

Shareen has the first and last word as it should be. I’m just there so she is not alone.

Read Shareen’s story on RAWr Words now. 

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

5 Discussion to this post

  1. That was moving. Thank you for sharing. <3

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  2. This is a wonderful post and relevant to all trauma survivors. Thank you for writing it.

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  3. Katie says:

    So wonderful with words. It’s glorious and powerful!

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