“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” Elie Weisel from her 1986 Nobel acceptance speech.
I want to share an experience with you. I am and have been a volunteer mentor for women who are victims of domestic violence and are involved in custody issues. I am also a non-custodial mother. I talk to and offer support to women on a daily basis and have for some time, that is the backdrop for this event.
My best friend has a special needs daughter. When I lost custody of my child, she was there for me. She told me she needed help raising hers and would welcome my input. Her husband did not help much in that department. A few years back she asked for my input when Trinity wanted to play a game on line. Mom said it would help her with the math reinforcement she needed for school. I said it could get her started on gambling, because addictive behaviors go with her diagnosis, and because the game gave you bonus “money” for doing certain things. Mom said that was silly, because they have free offers with credit cards now and enticements for lower interest rates. Neither of us suspected the real problem.
There was a chat room in that game and she could make friends all over the world. She was having fun texting her friends from different countries and making pen pals. She met a guy in the chat room too. The guy took up a lot of her time, and encouraged her to use phone minutes she did not have. He helped her create a facebook, and helped her sign up for Skype. Trinity told her parents about the boy, and they thought it was cute. Trinity did not say he was a man, and all are unsure as to when she figured that out.
He encouraged her to take nude pictures of herself. Trinity has always had boundary issues, that symptom goes along with her diagnosis. Trinity wanted to please him, and asked if there were certain poses or what parts of her he wanted pictures of. Even though they were Skyping, they have an older computer that does not have a web cam.
When she asked for help setting up a web cam, her parents were eager to help her, and it was in that process they discovered some of the messages that were exchanged.
So…I asked what the police had to say. Mom said she never called them. I could not believe my ears! I said you HAVE to call them! Heaven only knows how many other children he has done this to or worse! Mom says he is in Europe, and they fear bringing it out in public will damage their child more than staying silent. I told her not saying anything sends a message to Trinity that the abuse is ok and she should just be silent, which is wrong.
Then my bestie stood up, and she is taller than me! It was an intimidating move on her part too! She said to me, “I was there when they took your child, I was in every court hearing by your side and I have read all your court papers. Do you know what I learned from that? I learned that you should have kept your mouth shut! Since that time through your talk and all your “advocacy” work I have learned that if I report this to the police, I can lose my child! I love you like a sister but I am not taking the same path you took! We will work this out as a family and some other family can expose him for what he is. Let them air out their families dirty little secrets for the world to see! I understand that we all need to take a stand against this crap to make it stop, but look at the girl in the military who reported her rape and all she has gone through!”
Some days I just wonder. My Bestie and I, as I look at our arguments past and present, I see we are both correct, just from different perspectives.
This is hip wader material. Are we as advocates actually encouraging women to stay silent when we share our experiences? Is this a cycle of it’s own? How can we encourage women to speak out when they see what happened to us when we spoke out? We know things are not going to change until all domestic violence is reported and addressed and the perpetrators actually get charged, yet when it gets reported we lose custody of our children and are often punished in other ways as well.
I am very tired of chasing my tail in this circle, and I am ready for the next generation of advocates to develop better strategies than we have.
© Mia Tyler Kailin