Children will say the strangest things at every opportunity they get. I have seen parents wish the ground would swallow them whole because their precious bundle of joy chose that precise moment to demonstrate how well they can speak. While most of us laugh it off as our hearts melt at their cuteness, their parents will do their best to explain why they shouldn’t repeat mommy’s conversation with her friends in public. However there are those moments when the words they say have the power to change everything and yet in those moments we do our best not to listen.
Two sisters, both in their 40s, were talking one day and one remarked how she did not like a certain uncle who used to live with them when they were little. When her sister asked why, there was a long pause before she answered, ‘he used to hurt me’ . Her sister froze but the look on her face let her sister know she too had been hurt by him. They cried together, finally breaking the silence on a secrete they did not realize they shared. When emotions calmed, the younger sister asked her why she had not said anything, she responded and said she did tell someone once, their mother. All she remembers afterwards was being told never to speak of it again, and that their uncle went to live with relatives. Yet he was at all the family events and was still allowed to visit.
I would like to say that stories like this one are rare but sadly they happen more often than we would like to admit. Fear and shame of the family name often take priority over a child’s safety, teaching them early on the pains that come when trust is broken. That their pain is not as important as ‘what will people say?’ So they must keep quiet and do their part to protect their family honor even if it means protecting the source of their pain. Then years down the line they are the first to question why their children are so angry or why don’t they visit, refusing to acknowledge the first mistake they made.
You see, you can’t first break a child’s trust then be surprised at the consequences you have to suffer for it. What many also fail to realize is that the abuse is not specific to their child and unless they speak up and stop it, there will be other children who will suffer for it. It does not just go away because they want it to. What is even more scary is the thought that at one time the perpetrators may have been either witnesses to such abuse or victims, perpetuating a vicious cycle. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying all who have been victims go on to be perpetrators, but rather in a lot of cases it did not start with them but it can end with them.
BUT what really angers me is the fact that people will use culture to excuse bad beviour. To hear people say ‘it’s taboo to air your problems in public, we’ll take care of it’ or ‘don’t speak that way about your elders’ drives me up the wall. Is it really that important what other people would say, that we would rather close out eyes and cover our ears? Do you not realise the courage it takes to speak in the first place? I often tell people, if someone has the courage to speak, listen. When we fail to do that, we break thier trust, and in their minds, validate everything that is happened to them.
The time is now to break the silence. It’s time to be the loudest voices to the quietest whispers. It’s time to hold all accountable. It’s time to listen. It’s time to LET THEM SPEAK.
Children are a gift from the Lord ; they are a reward from him.