Feature Article of Monday, 5 November 2012

Columnist: Nyarko, Afia

Speak Up! Sometimes Silence is a Silent killer

In the field of medicine, some conditions such as Hypertension and Deep Vein Thrombosis are considered as silent killers. It's because they hardly give out any sign or symptom until their victim perhaps, suffers the unprecedented event of death. Martin Lutter King Jr once said, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent to the things that matter".

As a feminist and survivor of domestic violence, I cannot keep silent now that I have a voice. Silence is golden when you can't think of a good answer, quoted by Muhammed Ali. There is time for everything. The time came when my silence proved my integrity. A time when I found my inner peace, recuperate, identified myself and proved how strong I could resist the hardest temptations, withstand the strong winds and face the most challenging situations in social, economic and spiritual life.

Perhaps, all the inner peace and contentment were borne out of the unbetrayed silence exercised at its appropriate time. Speak up! When you deem its right, when matters of importance needs talking about. Don’t keep silent about the violence and abuse you, a friend, neighbour or relative are going through. You may not be listened to. You may not be heard. But through your words, one of them may have courage to wake up from their dormant state. Your silence gives consent said Plato. Most unlucky victims of domestic violence will be remembered by their silence – their untold stories but not by the brutalities their perpetrators subjected them to.

I once read an article in April 2011 about Amina, known only as Eunice, the thief who was stripped naked and humiliated by some male students at University of Ghana, Legon campus – residents at Mensah Sarbah Hall. I watched the video hours before it was removed from you tube. It was like watching trailer from a horror film. The pain as a woman, felt everytime it springs to mind is indescribable. While these men pounded on her like a prey without mercy at the hands of their predator, they mauled her right in the mist of the institution built to transform them. While some enjoyed inserting their fingers in her vagina to satisfy their evil desires, others parting her limbs open with agonising ache, their counterpart voyeurists were males quick enough to record the barbaric act to share with their perverts. I was glad at last when enough reports made youtube shut the horrendous broadcast video down. Thanks God, there were women and men who saw evil as evil to speak up. Male and female feminists who believed it wasn’t right to keep silent. People who beyond doubt proved silence was a silent killer – hence condemned such reality-horror by acting.

Don’t hesitate to turn a page of silly jokes because this page isn’t for those who condone Conspiracy of silence about domestic violence or abuse of women. From The Conspiracy of Silence, a film documentary written, directed and produced by Neal Marshad and Donna Olson in 1995/1996, it is based on the assumption- but a realistic conspiracy of silence surrounding domestic violence. The victim stays silent and believes this lack of action will be enough to avoid further violence from her abuser. Nevertheless, such silent victims never get a breath of life if they remain silent. Plato was right; - I shall assume your silence as consent. Their continuing silence sends them early to their grave before someone or they themselves could cry out. B. F. Skinner will continue to be celebrated as one of the famous behaviourist as we can see his fundamental tools of operant conditioning utilised by both abusers and their victims. The victims who remain silent to abuse fuel the positive reinforcement their perpetrators are yearning for - and the punishment they sentence such women to.

Don’t be afraid to be tactful about feminism and violence against women, it is worthy than silence. Much golden to the very thought which most late victims of domestic violence upheld- the unknowingly silent killer. My advice to both girls and women especially is to keep silent where it belongs to. Silence should not exist in an abusive relationship. Speak up. Tell a friend or relative what you have been going through in your turbulent violent relationship. There are always people available to help. Ghana needs each one of you healthy and alive. Each week, we find one of our sisters, a daughter, niece, mother or granddaughter being lost to a husband or male partner. Please don't keep silent and suffer on your own.

By Afia Nyarko


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