I saw this in my Twitter feed this morning. Of course, it intrigued me as I am focused on silencing behavior right now.
This story by federal prosecutor Sarah Chang exposes society’s role in the silencing of abused children.
“Psychiatrists say the silence conveys their sense of helplessness, which also manifests in their reluctance to report the incidents and their tendency to accommodate their abusers,” Chang wrote as an explanation for why children in the videos she watched were often silent, showing little emotion.
It makes sense that these children would feel helpless. The very people who are supposed to care for them and keep them safe are the ones accused of abusing them. What power do children have in such situations?
But why do so many of these wounded, betrayed children remain silent?
But in reality, a voiceless cry is often the most powerful one.
Their abusers are master manipulators. Threats of losing even the abusing parent to prison is often enough to silence a child. That parent might be abusing that child, but he or she is the only parent that child has.
Fear of further loss silences victims.
Chang goes on to describe law enforcement officials, prosecutors and defense attorneys who judge victims based on their emotional responses to questioning.
“Silence can be the most devastating evidence of sexual abuse; it can be the sound of pain itself,” Chang wrote.
Some people close to me have suffered sexual abuse as children. Disclosures were made to me in confidence, in quiet times and in privacy. There was no emotion.
There was shame. There was self-condemnation. There was self-blame. There was little healing to be had because they just didn’t want to talk about it.
What was my part in this silent suffering? Did I bring up the abuse at a later time to offer further comfort? I must be honest and admit that I didn’t. I did not know what to do.
I carried some of the pain with me from that day forward because that is just how I am, but I don’t think I helped even a little bit.
Does society silence the abused? That is a very good question. What do you think?