Actions speak louder than words. A nice little potted saying that I have heard stated so many times throughout my life. Especially so in my childhood years. And yet, to me, it wasn’t the actions that spoke louder than words it was the words, or the lack there of that spoke loudest. It was the silence that screamed, so loudly it screamed into the core of my very being.
Silence screams loudly. It screams loudly everytime a bystander watches a human person being abused or victimised, it screams everytime a family member stands by and says nothing, it screams loud and clear, accusing the victim of worthlessness, unworthiness, and blame to name just a few.
Silence screams too even when the vitim of bullying, abuse, assault etc are confided in after the event by people that what they endured is wrong. It screams perhaps even more loudly as it says we see this wrong and yet we choose not speak, it says to the victim you are not worthy of me risking my personal comfort to speak out against wrong.
The screaming silence, the deafening yell of this silence leaves victims in dangerous places. It says tacitly to abusers — don’t worry we won’t say anything.
How many lives could have been saved, how many acts of abuse could have been stopped if people stopped screaming in silence and opened their mouths and spoke up, said this is not ok.
I know a little about being bullied, I experienced relentlessly in my home life, my school life, my work life. I know about abuse I experienced it at home and at school and in relationships. One of the most detrimental things in those experiences was the realisation that nobody was prepared to say anything, people stood by, saw it, realised what it was and yet stood by and allowed their silence to scream loudly at me that I was not worthy of being rescued.
I wasn’t without safe people, they were there but they didn’t speak out. They would tell me quietly that they saw it, that they knew it was horrible. But they never spoke out. I guess their own reasons for not doing so were complex and nuanced, but that complexity and nuance does not excuse the silence. It does not excuse the inaction, it does not excuse the leaving of me in unsafe, violent and abusive situations.
My grandmother, my cousins, my uncles and aunts have said to me often how they would talk about the terrible, unfair and abusive treatment I received, particularly at the hands of my father. This was a double edged sword, it had a positive effect in that it made it clear to me that my inner life that kept telling me how wrong what I was experiencing was, and yet, it left me hurt and angry with them too that they didn’t say anything do anything to intervene, to stop, to save or to get me out of that situation.
I asked once why that was so, well actually I asked a number of times why they never did anything. The reasons given were that they didn’t feel it was their place. Well on this I call bullshit. It’s absolutely a steaming pile of bullshit that it is not our place to step in to protect other humans in danger.
The screaming silence of not my concern, not my place, nothing to do with me must be stopped, it must be excised from our experience. It is absolutely our place to step in, to speak up for the vulnerable, the abused and the bullied.
I started with an old saying and I will finish with another — The standard you are prepared to walk past is the standard you are prepared to accept.
We must no longer be prepared to walk past and accept a standard that allows our fellow humans to be abused, victimised, bullied, assaulted and dehumanised.
Surely it is time for silence to stop screaming and our voices rise to speak out for justice.