"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
~ Archbishop Desmond Tutu
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
~ Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our culture is one that promotes violence. Turn on network TV at any point during prime-time and you're bound to see half a dozen murders, beatings, muggings, or rapes before the 11:00 news comes on. We are enured to violence. Once we have become desensitized, it is hard to care about the neighbor in the apartment next door, even when we hear her crying at one in the morning because her boyfriend just punched her in the mouth. We may see the bruises but until we feel them, the pain we witness is remote and doesn't have any impact. In the same way we are able to sit comfortably at home with a bowl of chips and salsa and watch news reports about the starving people in Somalia. Their pain is miles away - it is meaningless because it cannot affect us. It cannot touch us.
Our society happily enslaves millions of people just so we can have conveniences like ready-made clothing, designer-knock-off purses, and discount stores where we can pick up a case of beer anytime, day or night. If we stop to give thought to the plight of the ten year old workers in Indonesia who made our fake Prada bags, we often smugly state that they must be grateful for the money they earn. Never mind the fact that in some factories in some parts of the world, children whose thigh-bones are broken so they can't run away are forced to sit and sew those purses that we paid $30 for. Never mind the fact that workers the world over go home to starving families subsisting in tar-paper and tin shacks and know that even the money they earn with their eighteen hour work-days can't feed their kids and their aging parents too. We live as if it is only our comfort and needs that matter.
So what does this have to do with violence against women? After all, that's my usual subject. Well, in a word - everything. When we refuse to fight oppression, we give license to the oppressors. When we turn a blind eye to evil, we are propagating evil. When we ignore the neighbor who sits on her porch, staring blankly out through swollen, bruised eyelids because it isn't our place to say or do anything about her suffering, then we might as well throw the next punch.
October is domestic violence awareness month. I've thought for a while now about what I should post to help raise awareness, make my readers think about intimate partner abuse and what it does to people, but I confess that until this afternoon, I've had trouble deciding what to say. Not because I have run out of words; not because everything that there is to say has been said, but because it seems like an uphill battle and just now, I am really tired of fighting and climbing. I'm tired of trying to make a difference in a world that doesn't seem to give a damn. I'm tired of working to change attitudes and then watching commercials where women in bikinis are used to sell everything from cars to cheeseburgers as if their bodies were just another commodity to be bought, sold, or traded. But if those of us who have suffered do not use our experiences to bring light into the darkness, then who will? The media? The government? The church?
No - it is individual voices that begin to affect change. It is up to us - to me and to you - to raise our voices in solidarity until society can no longer ignore what we are saying. In every situation of injustice, if those of us who see and understand choose to remain silent, then we join the oppressors and the enemies of humanity. Your cause may not be the same as mine, but whatever you believe in, don't make the mistake of staying silent because it "isn't your place" to speak up. Speak up! Be heard! Do not be silent about the things that matter. Victims of all kinds need you, because their voices and their choices have been taken away. We must live the change we look for - if we don't, then who will?