The Silence is Deafening

I have been struggling with a class conversation on domestic violence and whether to speak up when you see someone being victimized. My frustration comes from many places. Beginning on a personal level, I was in a domestic violence relationship for many years and one of the (many) reasons I stayed was feeling like I had no support because no one seemed to notice the way my husband undercut my thoughts and feelings by the way he spoke to me, or about me to others, or that I was often upset and stressed. At the time, I didn’t know how to reach out, or how it would be received if I did? After all, my (then) husband was often the fun, life of the party guy. My family seemed to love him and seemed to look past his harshness toward me, but then again he also treated me like a princess at times. Of course, my family has its own dysfunctional system in place. Did no one ever question why I was forced to take car rides and then came back puffy eyed and broken? I remember feeling hopeless when no one seemed to notice, and that hopelessness kept me isolated and questioning my own sanity. I was slowing drowning and didn’t know how to swim. Basically, I was in a frantic doggie paddle trying to stay afloat and still try to be a good mom. Would I have listened if someone spoke up and said “you deserve to be treated better” or better yet to my husband “your treatment is unacceptable?” I don’t know. But what I do know is a seed can be planted when someone steps up and speaks out. I can close my eyes and clearly remember a scenario in which a stranger spoke up on my, and my children’s behalf. It was at a gas station and my (then) husband was screaming at the attendant because of some perceived slight. The children and I were in the van and could see this interaction taking place. My (then) husband came to the van yelling about “how dare this idiot, lowly gas station clerk not give him paper towels” and when I asked my (then) husband to calm down his rage was directed at me. The attendant came over and asked me if the children and I were ok, and explained that he was worried about our safety. I, of course, said we would be fine but was, as always, inwardly not so certain. Long story short: this man’s simple, but powerful gesture, planted a seed in my head that not everyone thought my (then) husbands behavior was ok. This of course is the very short snippet of a very long battle of coming to terms of my situation. But my issue is, as a social worker, I feel it should be my duty to speak out and step in when I see this happening in public. I understand that speaking out can endanger myself and that of the victim, however, the victim is already in danger and has most likely lived through much worse than what is being publicly displayed. I don’t think domestic violence is going to be eradicated until people begin to stand up and declare, “No more! This is unacceptable!” That means within our families and in public. Apathy does nothing to promote change, and as a social worker and as a human being, I demand better and work hard at being an agent for change. I am working to educate myself so that I may interject in a manner that can be effective, but I refuse to remain silent. Silence can be deafening, and is just another way to re-victimize.

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6 thoughts on “The Silence is Deafening

  1. Wow, Eileen…I agree totally about speaking out. I’ve been wondering if all is well with you this week and I see you are still going strong…the lighthouse.

  2. I, too, believe that you should speak out. If more were to say that this vicious, disrespectful behavior is unacceptable, maybe abuse could be thwarted. I understand that one may be jeopardizing one’s own welfare but how does it stop if no one speaks up!!! Well said, Eileen. I’m proud of you and I love you.

  3. I have been contemplating on your words since last week from the perspective of someone who has spoken up, as well as someone who has experienced violence first hand. As a society we see the sanctuary of a family, intimate relationships as something that appears to be none of our collective business. By breaking the silence, whether that is initially received with a positive or negative response, engages peoples and raises, perhaps for the first time, questioning of such behaviour. Your sounding and thinking like a social worker Eileen, and that awesome, keep it up 😉

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