Why Silence is not always Golden: On Rape and other evils

Posted: October 1, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The way I grew up was certainly friendly to silence.  From the adage “children should be seen and not heard”, to the literal silencing that attended each un-welcomed or unsolicited utterance; in church, in school and in home.  You see as a girl child I learned well through various institutions about when to speak and when to be silent.  Soon like most, I learned to be quiet and I have been very good at it.

So… What does Silence have to do with Rape?

It has everything to do with it.  In fact for a rape to be successful the attacker counts on their victim being silent, yes in many cases they take extra precautions like gagging and bounding to ensure this silence. However, deep down they know that the victim is that much more frightened by their command of silence and the repercussions of speaking that they will uphold the silence.  It is because of the pressure of the silence why rape/incest and pedophilia victims never report, are afraid to come forward with their story.  If breaking silence is rewarded with becoming an outcast, people looking at you like you carry leprosy, not being believed as in the case of many incests it is hard to encourage anything but silence. If silence is imposed on all things even the good it becomes confusing for a person to feel secure in breaking the silence.  It is silence that keeps the offenders powerful and which allows them to do these heinous acts over and over.

Take this issue up a notch

Recently in my homeland there was a spate of rapes, 5 females in St. James one of them an eight year old, in the same week there were at least two more reported incidences (note the distinction of reported versus unreported), girls who are living in children’s home were attacked on their way home from school…talk about a double whammy of violations (more on that another time).  I don’t want this post to become about my homeland–Jamaica since where I work in Canada each September the rapists return, oh they have already done 2 attacks that were reported and September isn’t done yet and did I tell you that they stick around until late November and these rapist I am convinced are not caught since each year they return (yeah I believe they are the same people–more on that another time).  Recently I posted on my Facebook “a girl child ain’t safe in a world full of men” but if I am to be honest and fair it is not just girls and men are not the only offenders.  Comes back to my earlier detour on silence, for it is silence why we first think of women as rape victims unless we live in certain places where rape is an act of war against all especially women and children.  Fortunately the recent spate of violence did not fall into the silence trap.  Not only were the crimes against the females reported but there was symbolic action taken by all at home.  The entire country (Jamaica) on Friday engaged in civil protests, wearing full black in most instances and chanting words like “real men don’t rape”.  While it may just be a public outpouring of disdain it was significant because usually when we are able to gather in these ways it is for useless politicians or for dances.  So in many ways I felt the country grew especially given technology which forces us to do like I am doing now–hide behind a screen and type exegesis about issues we will probably not impact.  The people, women and men; stood against these heinous acts of violence and it was noticeable, it wasn’t silent and it was a start!

This start is what is needed globally as silence about crimes is not golden!  Next we need to take these issues up a notch.  Breaking the silence is important but I fear there is way more work to be done. We need to be honest! Honest about our collective culpability in the silence and creating the environments where acts like rape find a breathing ground.

Can we be Honest?

Is it possible to be honest about the societies we have created which breed acts like rape?  The media and the mores of the land and our institutions are all culpable. The mores that call nature “mother nature” then rapes and plunders the land, the mores that see women as things to conquer/own/possess.  The media which feeds the mores, painting pictures of women as possessions, they come with your hot cars, they come with your cigarettes, your new shirt, ties, hair gel and more.  The media which through cartoons and other images relegate children to odd spaces where they silently absorb messages, video games where rape and other violent attacks are just a milieu unexplained, content void of discourses about good touch bad touch but instead filled with heroes (all white males) who are good for us, will rescue us and who doesn’t like when we are “bad/naughty”.  The music which becomes absorbed as norm has every possible reference about self-hate and misogyny even presented by female content-makers. In dancehall music it has gone to sickening proportions from daggering, to romping shop to countless other scenarios where the male antagonist is only interested in sexual acts with the seemingly willing female (note I keep using female, really I want you to think in patois –Fe–Male, what is that about?).  Mores and media tell us what is normal, how to act and then they get re-enforced by institutions like our families, our churches our schools and our offices. Do you even wonder why it is hard for children or alter-boys to speak about the fondling from priests?  Do you even wonder why some teachers or other authority figures like coaches are found in sex scandals or pedophilia rinks? Do you wonder why the boss feels it is okay to be inappropriate with secretary or other subordinate staff? Do you wonder why victims of incest go many years without talking or allowing the memory of abuse?  Do we ever wonder why the offender doesn’t seek help at the impulse of becoming an abuser? These things all work in concert! Silence–Mores–Norm–Silence!

Let us end the silence!  Today let us call it all out; from our role in it, to the impossibilities society has set up for children to fight back and speak out, women to be safe and for offenders to seek help before offending. We can’t expect to stack the odds against change and then hope for change.  Victims must feel they will be honoured, heard and respected if they speak out!  Antagonist must know that we will not ignore their deeds by heaping layers of cop-out on them! We should all be safe in this world and the good news is we can all impact this shift. 

Be honest and Break the Silence…that would be golden!


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