Silence beckons. Silence heals. Silence opens. Silence kills.
Speaking seems so easy.
Open up the mouth. Vibrate the vocal chords. We do it all the time. We even do it inadvertently and involuntarily at times. Snoring, sighing, yelping with surprise. Speech shouldn’t be difficult for most of us. Those of us who are not abled in speech have found other ways to communicate. So there is communication, regardless. There need not be silence.
Though, some days the only thing I can tolerate is silence. Some days I hate noise. On the street, on the bus, on the television, there is always noise. Sometimes noise makes me stressed and angry. This constant noise angers me because it is useless but oppressive noise to the hypervigilant mind. I listen to all—continually anticipating threats–and everything frightens and places on edge. Little soothes.
Music often soothes, so I blast it in my headphones whenever and wherever possible. Even now The Nationals are screaming in my ears, to keep out noise that doesn’t come from inside of me. Because my internal noise is all I can afford to hear in this moment, or I might write something disingenuous…something frightened or pressured or monitored in ways that feel dishonest.
Some days I need to create silence in my own mind. Yoga poses and meditations. Listening to my breath and to my self has become one way to cope…and hope. That silence—that listening only to my spirit and the place it holds in the universe in the moment—and that presence brings the knowledge that noise and fear and pain are not all that my life holds. That silence heals me. That silence is my best defense against a life of trauma and struggle and shame and loss.
But there is yet another silence.
There is the silence that hides.
There is the silence that harms, denies, and destroys. It is the silence that says, “I don’t want to carry your pain. Your trauma—the injustices against you and the pain in your heart and the chaos in your mind—is too much for me to want to deal with or process.” So you stand silent. You don’t acknowledge the wrong or the suffering or the victimization. You just don’t get involved. You don’t speak it. You stay silent.
What you may not realize is that evil craves your silence. Injustice demands your silence. Perpetrators want your silence. It is all they want from you, and you willingly hand it over. You willingly hand me over to them in your silence. By keeping it secret and keeping it safely outside your experience, you give permission—you give your consent. My raped and beaten and broken body is lying here before you because your silence is your consent.
Your silence is your consent.
Your silence makes you my enemy. You choose an alliance with the ones who have harmed me…and harmed so many others. Your silence keeps justice from me. It piles shame and stigma upon me. It forces my own silence, which further harms me, because my community recognizing my victimization and offering restitution is essential to my healing. You won’t let me heal, because you choose silence.
All you need to do is speak. All you need to do is hear me speak, and echo my cries!
End the silence. Stop the killing silence.
I understand the many ways that silence is easier. I was silent for years and years. It seemed harder to face the truth than to stay silent. Some days it still seems easier to stay silent. But what is easiest isn’t often what is best. And the silence continues to break people already broken.
Speak out and refuse to allow the breaking of others. Speak out and let victims know that you are on their side—that the perpetrators in this life do not own your allegiance.
Stand with us. Raise your voice.
(For more on the perpetrator asking for silence or the victim’s need for restitution and recognition, see Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence—from domestic abuse to political terror by Judith Herman.)