Silence is very loud

As a note of warning, this entry could be triggering.  No event is described, but abuse is mentioned.

If you have silence in communities, I think that silence is very loud.

(Rebombo as cited in Jecks, 2009)

This quote is from Dumisani Rebombo, a man who admits to raping a young woman in his village.  He was talking about how silence within the community, enables South Africa to continually have appallingly high rape statistics.  But I think that this quote is easily transferred to almost every situation where abuse goes unreported or hidden.  Someone is keeping the silence, someone is benefiting from that silence and someone is suffering within that silence.  Through tacit consent areas within society allow abuse to occur.  In New Zealand, the most obvious case of this was the death of Nia Glassie.  Neighbours and family members admitted during the trial, to seeing Nia being subjected to the horrific abuse.  But, they never reported any of this abuse to the authorities until after her death.  The silence around Nia was deafeningly loud.

The secrets that the dissociative system keep are another form of this type of silence.  I often wonder when we learned to keep the silence.  As a newborn until about six months old we screamed whenever put down for a nap, so we obviously didn’t come into this world silent.  We were the only one of the four children that was a Plunket baby – monitored for health, well-being and development.  According to our Plunket book, we were a healthy, happy, alert and curious baby.  But by the time we reached school, we were noted as being withdrawn, studious and a loner.  The changes in our behaviour may well be nothing of consequence, but in the context of Katie being three (nearly four), it raises questions.  It is this documented change that I struggle with the most.  Why were there no questions asked?  Why didn’t anyone see the changes?  I know that there are now no answers for these questions, but it feels like we were subjected to abuse and an associated tacit consent from before the age of four.  This consent meant that for the next 30 years, it felt as if we didn’t have any control over our life.  This statement is obviously not true in the strictest meaning of the words – we went to University, got a job, moved away from the home town etc.  But none of those decisions seemed to have been made consciously, it was about meeting expectations of those around us and keeping busy – must always keep busy…

The one other area of our life where the quote from Rebombo fits, is the silent anger that the father exhibited.  I’ve mentioned the father’s brooding, silent anger briefly several times in this blog.  One day I might be able to write about it in more depth – not his anger, but the effects that it had.  Today isn’t that day, but if I keep mentioning it in little snippets, then it becomes less scary to talk and think about.  Well, that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it :)


Jecks, N. (2009, July 29). Tackling South Africa’s rape epidemic. BBC News. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from


9 Responses to “Silence is very loud”

  1. 1 Ivory August 2, 2009 at 3:32 am

    You are so right. Many communities are like that. Many family units are like that – keeping quiet about abuse. I still don’t believe my parents knew about the abuse I was subjected to before it happened, but my mother knows about it now. My brother knew to an extent and it is because of that he has campaigned against me and now the whole family is distant and unforgiving to me.

    Still, your response to abuse and my response to abuse is so very similar. I, too, have never felt I am in control of my own life and I struggle with speaking up about it.

    I hope you are one day able to write about your father. I would love to read about it and I have found that putting it out there is probably the most dramatic way of healing because it is so profound to have someone identify with it. For me, that removes the “power” from the memory, even from the incident. It tells me that there is someone out there who I can relate to.


  2. 2 Paul August 2, 2009 at 8:34 am

    This is a very important post. I have been hearing about what’s going on in S. Africa. Your post is a call to action. Well, maybe just a call to common sense. Not all of us can be activists and march on Washington or wherever. But what you have done is make a statement. It’s important. I heard it. I hope others do to. Paul

  3. 3 gracie et al August 2, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    silent brooding anger is a horrible thing for a child – or an adult – never knowing what it is that you have done wrong to cause the anger or when the anger will explode atyou and in what way that explosion will occur.

    during my career i had numerous cases of girls so obviously sexually abused, who – despite evidence from me as their doctor, from teachers and siblings – were disbelieved by not only the parents but also by the police. a couple committed suicide. the others – god only knows. i was not able to help them depsite, over many months, screaming on their behalf at the top of my voice [ metaphorically speaking ]. i was not able to help them because society did not want to believe that such things could even happen. because if they believed it they would have to admit their failure and that the mess to clean up had already grown beyond horrific proportions. easier, in society’s opinion, to turn a blind eye and deaf ear.

  4. 4 castorgirl August 2, 2009 at 11:36 pm

    Silence happens everywhere doesn’t it Ivory :(

    Paul, thank you for listening.

    (((Gracie and everyone))) thank you for having the strength to try and open people’s eyes.

    Sorry, I need to write something but am not really in the right mind set to do so. We’re not coping well with the mother being here. One day at a time… Only 27 more days until she returns home…

  5. 5 gracie et al August 3, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    your mother is there for a whole month !!!!! omg !!!!

    i would go insane if my mother stayed for a whole month. i love her dearly but 4 – 5 days is enough under one roof.

    she must have come from the other side of the world to justify such a long stay. best of luck to you all.

  6. 6 kerro August 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    Oh my Castorgirl, you could be writing about me there. I also lived my life to expectations… until recently. Now I don’t know who I am or what I’m doing. And I’m also very familiar with the silent brooding anger. It’s so hideous and destructive. I also hope that you can write about this one day. But please take your time. Only as you’re ready.

    Good luck with the mother. You’re very good, and very brave, having her for so long. Please take care and reach out to us when you need to.(((CG)))

  7. 7 castorgirl August 4, 2009 at 11:02 am

    Yes, she’s staying with us for a month. Part of the reason is that she wanted to come, and we are so easily swayed by the will of others that we just went along with it. She’s really keen to be back for 6 months if this month turns out alright. I’m hoping that it will soon be obvious that its not working. We can put on a good dissociative front for a couple of days, but then it starts to slip.

    It all goes back to not feeling in control of this life…

    Take care :)

  8. 8 davidrochester August 6, 2009 at 5:33 am

    That really is a wonderful quote. I think parents need to pay close attention to sudden changes in a child’s socialization patterns, affect, and behavior. It is astonishing to me that it goes unaddressed so much of the time … everyone just falls silent, and that’s the end of that.

  1. 1 When progress stalls « Kerro’s Korner Trackback on August 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm

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