When Does Silence Become Complicity?
Last night I watched an episode of Torchwood that was highly disturbing. “Sleeper,” it was called, and it was about a sleeper agent alien.
A couple’s home was invaded in the middle of the night. Masked men violently broke in, knocking the husband out and terrorizing the wife. Who knows what they would’ve done had her sleeper alien not come out and stopped it, severely maiming them. The woman/alien had no idea she was an alien, thus the sleeper part.
Suddenly, everyone is concerned about the dying abusers. Really? These two men who broke into someone’s home in the middle of the night and terrorized a couple? For all we knew, they would’ve raped her. Killed her. Who knows. But everyone is worried about the dying criminals.
The members of Torchwood proceeded to terrorize the clueless woman, accusing her of being an alien. She had no idea, of course, and they could see she was terrified; but they continued just the same. Relentless. Sadistic.
This was very upsetting because it’s common, like the stories about a homeowner being sued for injuring the criminal intruder during a break-in. Really?
Why does this society protect predators?
Twenty years ago I was sexually harassed by a professor. I don’t mean being called baby or sweetie, sexually harassed. I mean abused, molested.
I was naive, of course. Twenty years old. He was 45. He was brilliant, and he showed an interest in knowing me. I stupidly thought it was for my intellect.
The first time it happened, we were in his office. I came by to discuss literature, but we didn’t discuss literature. He closed the door and told me how each time he looked at me in class he’d get a hard-on. And, he said, all he could think about was how much he wanted to fuck me. His words. Then he came over to me sitting on his office couch, and sat on the arm beside me. He forced my hand to the last place I wanted to touch.
I was disgusted. Mortified. Humiliated. Confused. Scared.
Soon thereafter, I made some polite excuse to leave. I, of course, didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
This predator. This fucking abusive authority figure taking advantage of his position…and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Honestly. Where does one learn that?
I wish I could say that was the only encounter. I just wanted to forget about it. But I never have.
Although I told a friend or two, I never told anyone at the University. I thought it wasn’t worth ruining a man’s career over, right? Destroying his life? His reputation?
“Silence is the abuser’s greatest weapon.”
How many other girls were humiliated because I said nothing? Harassed and worse.
And still, I don’t type his name. Twenty years later, I’m still protecting him.
Of course, had I told then, it would’ve been me on display. Humiliated again. A respected professor’s word against a stupid young girl. Perhaps I would’ve been blamed, saying I was “asking for it.” Because that’s all too often the way victims of abuse are treated in our society. The abuser–the predator–is protected and excused, and the victim of abuse is humiliated. Called a “home wrecker,” “career destroyer,” “petty,” “vindictive,” etc.
Victims of abuse are shamed into silence and try to move on. Predators count on that. And in doing so victims devalue themselves and empower, not to mention protect, the abuser. So he is free to continue his abusive behavior with countless others.
I wrote a blog a few weeks back entitled Ethical Responsibility that touches on this in another scenario.
How many other women have been hurt because I stay silent?
Does my silence empower me or devalue me?
Does my silence protect me from further harm?
It certainly protects the abuser.
Speaking out is not about hurting the abuser; it’s about stopping the abuse. If we stay silent, the abuse continues. Is the silent then partially responsible?
Tell me, when does silence become complicity?
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~ by omgrey on April 8, 2011.