Our Readers' Opinions
March 22, 2013
The abused need to emerge from their silence

Fri Mar 22, 2013

Dear ST Vincent: International Women’s Day triggered a rash of public discussions and writings about violence and abuse, women’s rights, how far we have come, how far we have to go etc.{{more}}

But what effect will this have on me, a woman displaced from my beloved home through a sustained campaign of harassment, threats and burglaries? I have stayed in more than a dozen places in the past 19 months. If countless police reports and summons to the magistrate’s court failed to curtail the perpetrator (whose whereabouts are known), then how will these discussions about women’s rights help to restore the lives of thousands of women and children whose suffering needs to be taken seriously?

While the talking continues, abusers gather momentum in the void of silent suffering. Unheard are the voices of the emotionally repressed, assaulted, raped, and families of the murdered. Excluded from discussion is our daily reality. Many talk but don’t listen, creating the illusion of concern. This blanketing of the truth is worse than the ominous sufferers’ silence that, if examined, reveals the way forward.

We begin entering the silence by contemplating a fact that should be unbelievable to rational thinkers — victims of abuse feel so much shame, whilst abusers do not. Victims succumb to low self-esteem, diminished selves, displacement and compromised life potential, whilst the perpetrators hold their heads up high at home, at work, and in their social circle. Obsessed with not being caught, concerned with keeping up appearances, they are cunningly deceptive.
As victims remain silent in their suffering, abusers are impressively vocal, with a sense of entitlement and grandeur, unabashed. If it ever comes down to the victim’s word against theirs, the abuser has the upper hand. They carry themselves with calculated confidence, whilst the victim, trembling from accumulated trauma, collapses their energy, their suffering further compounded with the derision that they are shamefully ‘weak’. Abusers drain the consciousness of others as they terrorise loving humans into fearful ones. They get the attention they need through shaming and manipulating others, a practice that has become the cultural norm. If we dig even deeper we find that what drives them is a fear superseding even that of the victim’s.

Through excavating the silence we find the origins of abuse, and its poisonous companions: sexism; authoritarianism; racism; economic and educational snobbery.

If those targeted are encouraged to emerge from their silence and tell their story, we will at last understand the real damage done to the nation by violent and abusive behaviour. We will transform the active perception of the vulnerable as ‘weak and deserving of abuse’ to equal citizens who are sensitive, full of potential, and worth protecting. We will create healing from pain, self-worth from degradation on personal levels and societal scales.

The struggle for equality should be the concern of all those who care about human rights. Yet it’s not the frightful experience of our own women and girls that spawns the annual sporadic discussions on women’s rights, but an internationally designated “Women’s Day”. Do we not possess a sufficient sense of injustice to compel us to act from our own initiative, not once per year, but every day?

We may be far from attaining higher consciousness when we know the abuser and the victim are one, for in harming another I harm myself. We can, however, take an initial step towards it by exposing the violation of our humanity instead of remaining its captive, forging a new understanding of ourselves and create an altogether different story.

On behalf of those sincerely wishing to create a new story,