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The Dimensions of Silence

Silence is deadly, but for who?

In any unjust situation, the victim remains under the foothold of the oppressor. The victim may be forced to silence their voice, while the oppressor strips away the rights of their victim. For example: A husband may force his wife to reside at home against her will by threatening her with punches, as it brings him pleasure seeing that he is able to exercise this misplaced power over another individual.

What really is the role of silence?

Often, in cases of domestic violence, silencing is utilized as a steppingstone to gaslighting. When someone is regularly told to keep quiet by a perpetrator of violence, they start to question whether their concerns are valid; or if they are just victimizing themselves and exhibiting “attention-seeking” behaviour. In some communities, the role of silencing – as it relates to domestic violence – often involves the oppressor’s misplaced belief that they are naturally superior to their victim. For example, men in some communities are brought up to believe that they are superior to women. This leads an oppressor to aggressively work to silence any claim that they are, in fact, oppressive towards their partners, or children, as they do not want any such claims to threaten what they wrongfully perceive to be their natural place to be.

Moreover, silencing culture, where the victim is told to keep quiet about their traumatic experience, is often present because of the stigma that surrounds speaking up. When a victim speaks up, they are often targeted through amplified prejudice, and gossip. These victims are them told to keep quiet as to preserve the family image, or for the family to avoid processes such as filing a case of domestic violence, and court processes. Such unfortunate communal consequences make it difficult for many victims to speak up about their trauma.

Amal and Silence

Amal Centre plays a key role in breaking the cycle of silence. They recognize the strength it takes to raise a voice – be it to a friend or to the authorities. Because of their empathetic approach in handling cases, they were able to recognize the importance of effective listening techniques and the load carried by community Listeners. By understanding that silence is often broken by whispers in informal networks, Amal Centre invested in developing a toolkit for Listeners who are a part of informal support networks. Their toolkit provides a new dimension in the role of silence – the silence of Listeners can relieve the voices of victims.

The use of silence: Focus on what they are saying and not on what you want to say next.” (Toolkit p.10)

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About the author:

Hifza Randhawa is a second-year neuroscience student at McGill University. She is passionate about women’s rights, neuroscientific studies, martial arts, and philosophy. In her free time (which rarely exists), she likes to read, meditate, bike, do martial arts, or have a good laugh with friends.