The Silent Community 2
Society of Silence
Domestic violence and sexual assaults are two of the best kept secrets in our nation. Why? Survivors rarely speak out about the crime inflicted on them. Why? This happens because of feelings of, judgment, shame, blame, guilt, fears, threats, retaliation, humiliation, and embarrassment. These are all normal feelings of survivors. To break the silence and help the survivors we must address all these feelings. These feelings are enabling tools that allow the offenders to continue in crime and feed the silence in our society.
I know the dangerous and deadly outcomes of silence when it comes to domestic violence and sexual assault crimes. Because of my personal experiences with both domestic violence and sexual assaults, because of the traumatic crimes told me by survivors and because these horrid crimes must stop, I speak. Allow me to give attention to three areas of our silent community.
History of Silence
Domestic violence and sexual assaults haven’t always been crimes. For hundreds of years, the abusive treatment of women was considered normal. Because it was normal silence against these crimes was accepted and normal. History sheds light on the silence. Throughout US history women have been degraded, abused, humiliated and objectified.
Women were viewed as property, especially married women. Male privilege has always been a staple in our society. Male privilege was and still is accepted as part of our society. Laws had to be passed to protect women from being raped by their own husbands. Laws were put on the book in Texas as late as 1993 and 1994. Though laws were passed the mindset of many in the male gender population has yet to be changed. Some men continue to rape, degrade and abuse women. Society continues to objectify women and therefore the cycle continues.
If we want to go deeper into history lets go way back to the bible. The bible has written documentation of male privilege. Throughout the Bible, there are stories of rapes, sexual abuse, and objectification of women. Let me just mention a few. In Judges, a concubine was gang-raped and died with her hand on the door of the home her master stayed in overnight. In Genesis, Dinah the daughter of Jacob was raped. Jacob, the father did nothing, however, Simeon and Levi revenged the defiling of their sister. In Samuel 2, King David’s own daughter, Tamar was raped and the king did nothing yet Absalom in anger killed the rapist, his brother Amnon. Queen Vashti and Queen Esther were objectified by King Ahasuerus and his advisors. When Queen Vashti refused she was put away, as an example of what would happen to wives who refused the commands of their husbands. Just a note, submission is a form of order not a command, an order. Today in some countries society is not that far removed from the barbaric acts in the bible. Men felt they had the right to lord over, control and abuse the female gender. How much has society changed?
Culture of Silence
In today’s society what goes on in this house stays in this house still is taught. Based on reports from 10 countries, between 55 percent and 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted non-governmental organizations, shelters, or the police for help. Again shame, embarrassment, guilt, fear and more keeps victims from speaking out. Only 5% of known offenders are convicted of their crime. Not that long ago in the United States men considered their wife their property. I remember my own husband saying to me “you are my property. I own you”. This was in the mid 70’s. He wasn’t my husband for long.
Blaming and judging the victim are two very misguided false accusations. Blaming the victim for the assault on them is the same as accusing a robbery victim of the theft of their possessions. If a robbery victim is not blamed for the crime of theft against them, why is the abuse victim blamed for the theft perpetrated on them? The victim should never be treated like the criminal, the predator however society, family, friends and the court system do just that to a sexual assault survivor. This has devastated many victims. Instead of blaming and judging the victims put the blame where it belongs, on the criminal. Instead of asking a victim why you stay or why you let it happen, ask the offender why are beating and raping.
Victims of domestic violence and sexual assaults internalize what happened to them. Survivors try to reason and justify the crime so they can cope with life. It’s easier to blame yourself, find fault in yourself and move on with your daily life. Self-shame and self-blame are common coping skills to survivors. Unfortunately, these self-coping skills though they may appear safe for a while can be detrimental even deadly to the survivor.
When silence is broken individual lives are saved from physical, emotional, spiritual, mental traumas and even death (suicides). Future lives are saved to fulfill hopes, dreams, careers and healthy futures. When the silence is broken marriages and families are saved. Finally, communities will be safer, stronger, healthier and vibrant.
How to Break the Silence
Speak up in a safe environment. Stand tall in spite of what others think or say. Walk in the truth. Put the shame and blame back on the offender. Know it is not the survivor’s fault in any way. It was not anything the survivor said, did, wore nor where they went. When you realize the survivor did nothing wrong the feelings that can hold the survivor in bondage are now removed and blame is correctly placed on the criminal.
The perpetrators are in our community. They are part of the community. They are not strangers coming into the area. They are people we know! They are family members, neighbors, community servants, church leaders. Perpetrators are in every walk of life, on every financial level, in every culture, every religion, etc. They are everywhere in our community. Timeout for walking on eggshells. Timeout for doing nothing and allowing these evils, these criminals to fester in our community and steal the souls of our children, our loved ones. There’s no more time for silence.
Support proposed laws that help prevent these crimes and protect the victims. Report the crime. Citizens speak up! If you know someone who is suffering in silence, speak up and speak out. Encourage survivors to speak up in a safe place. Encourage them to speak to someone they trust. Survivors should always report the crime. Direct them to the proper authorities that can assist them in getting legal advice. A survivor may want to seek legal action against the offender. Many victims cannot face the trauma and humiliation of the legal process or they are pressured to drop charges. Even if the survivor doesn’t go to court and drops the case, the offender and the offense is on record and can be used in future cases to convict a repeat offender. That is why being examined at the hospital after the attack and DNA is so important in these crimes. Reporting the crime may save another person’s life.
Finally support organizations such as Silent Screams Inc.
I hope this information has enlightened and inspired you to break your silence. Our community needs help. Be a voice of hope, a voice of life to those who suffer in silence. Be their strength. Help break the silence. Together we can help bring restoration to these battered, broken and bruised lives.