The Authentic Eclectic
Do Speak Ill of the Dead, or the Living
Silencing And Secondary Wounding
Disclaimer: As always, I’m not your mum, counsellor or health care professional. Please do not change your life based on advice you read on Medium. Conduct due diligence and make decisions that work for you.
There is such a thing as verifiable black and white truth.
Do you know who claims otherwise? Who hears the the word truth and jumps in to assure you that there are always shades of grey, middle grounds, that truth is not a constant? Who claims it’s a philosophical debate?
Liars, abusers and occasionally fools.
I’m writing this article in my study in Queensland, Australia. That’s the truth, in accordance with fact and reality.
It’s a beautiful day. The way the wind moves through the palm trees, the shimmering sunlight through the fronds is delightful. That’s an opinion.
You’ll often hear the phrase “Don’t talk ill of the dead”, and sometimes of the living too. That worldview benefits rapists, predators and other people of ill intent, who want to continue behaving badly, free of consequence. And it also benefits their apologists. If someone had spoken up, large parts of my life could have been a lot less damaging.
Things left unsaid can fester in the darkness.
Or, as a better writer than I once said “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
People have a right to tell their own stories. You have the right to walk away if you don’t like it. If they are telling the truth, they can shout that truth across continents if they wish to. Others can listen, or not, as they choose.
But, there are caveats:
Be prepared for the disheartening reality that some people won’t believe you, or appear not to. Some will believe you’re lying. Some will know you’re honest but just won’t care. Some will say you’re lying when they know you’re not because they don’t want to deal with it. Some will convince themselves you’re a liar, so they can keep being the hero in their own story.
Being honest won’t always win the day.
Some folk prefer conspiratorial silence to factual reality. Some sympathise with the person who has harmed you. Some just don’t want to confront them, or support you, for many different reasons.
And beware abusers who may offer the further final abuse by accusing you of libel, slander or defamation if you can’t offer proof.
You may be ignored, contradicted or told you, who experienced the harm, are the one causing a calamity.
People telling you to stay silent may not be looking out for your best interests.
Every circumstance is different. You may choose not to speak.
But it should be you who chooses. If you do not tell your story it should be for your own reasons. Not to make others feel more comfortable. Not because of “good manners” or “don’t judge me” considerations or people telling you to “be kind, move on, forgive”.
Silencing someone who wants to speak their own story can sometimes perpetuate their abuse. This is often called secondary wounding. The ultimate insult added to injury.
“After trauma we try to get stable: We look around us for signs that things can be OK again, that what happened was an isolated event. If we have good support, and our experience is validated (‘yes, this awful thing happened to you, no, you didn’t deserve it, and yes, we’re here to help you through this’), we have a much greater chance of recovering and being able to move on. If we don’t get that support, and our experience is not validated (‘I don’t want to hear about it; it didn’t happen the way you say it did; it’s not important or a big deal; it’s your fault for failing to predict or prevent it’) we experience secondary wounding and are at much greater risk of longer-term effects, like PTSD.”
The above was a quote from an article: https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-long-half-life-of-trauma — however the article appears to have been removed. I’m keeping the quote however, as it’s beautifully expressed.
“Many victims report that their secondary wounding experiences were more painful and devastating than the original traumatic event because the shock of the original betrayal was further coupled by a subsequent betrayal from those who were regarded as sources of support.”
The perils of being silenced
I grew up in an abusive environment. Very early on I recognised that I would not be listened to, but would be told to shoosh, disbelieved or invalidated if I spoke up.
The environment in which I lived normalised and minimised violent behaviour against the vulnerable. Many around me were also the walking wounded, diverting prying eyes from sometimes far worse abuses and harms than mine.
My friends, peers and relatives lived an unexamined life. Our abuse stayed smothered in a pall of silence, fear, shame and acceptance and normalisation.
I have moved on from these abuses, found forgiveness (on my own terms and in my own time).
Enforced Forgiveness is perpetuation of abuse
Don’t join the cult of forgiveness — the video
It took me many years to reach that calm acceptance.
And one of the things that prevented progress was being silenced.
I’m a fairly quick study, and understood early on that the expectation was silence and normalisation of the abnormal.
This meant that I went looking for answers within myself and, finding none, accepted violence as normal and myself as deserving of it.
Because aggression was apparently completely normal I accepted violent behaviour as a standard.
Aggression normalised among children exposed to violence | News | CORDIS | European Commission
An international team of researchers have conducted new research showing that the more children are exposed to…
By the time the night came where Gary almost killed me, he’d already exhibited several of the signs of an abuser. I know that now. The shoving and threatening and controlling behaviours were precursors to him choking me into near unconsciousness, then headbutting me and throwing me to the floor.
If you are in a relationship where a man chokes you (whether he’s pretending it’s sexual play or not) be aware that this is considered an exceptionally dangerous type of abuse. As well as death and trauma, strangulation can lead to brain damage, which is not always picked up at the time.
People who are strangled in relationships are at a much higher risk of being murdered. I was genuinely lucky he didn’t kill me.
Strangulation: The Red Flag Of Domestic Violence That We Never Discuss
By Sa’iyda Shabazz When we think about domestic violence, we often think of broken limbs, bruises, or even a black eye…
“The study found that 43 percent of women who were murdered in domestic assaults, and 45 percent of the victims of attempted murder, had been strangled by their partner within the year before.
As the National Domestic Violence Hotline website points out, there isn’t a more potentially deadly form of domestic violence than strangulation. You can lose consciousness within seconds of strangulation, and death can happen in minutes. If you’re lucky enough to survive being strangled, the odds of your partner doing it again are ten times higher. And even if you survive non-deadly strangulation, the effects can certainly be permanent.”
Australian Institute For Strangulation Prevention
We offer a wide range of high quality specialist non-lethal strangulation intervention and prevention training and…
Gympie Choking Victims Need Support as Sex Loophole Exposed
By: Sherele Moody GYMPIE, AUSTRALIA - It's been many years since a trusted man tried to choke the life out of Jacque…
Men are the key offenders in the crime of strangulation, but of course if you are a man who has experienced this assault, you should also be concerned for your life.
Silence Can Be Deadly
If I had not been silenced and had not internalised and normalised violent behaviour that night would probably not have happened. I could have been exposed to healthier narratives, received helpful feedback, learned from the stories of more nourishing relationships. I could have asked questions, told my story and found out that no, violent aggression in relationships is not not normal at all.
Silence fed the false narrative that I deserved abuse and that it wasn’t unusual behaviour.
Many years later I was having dinner with a friend (who has a degree in Social Work), and I got to chatting about that night. I told it as a matter of fact tale — because for me it is. She was appalled. I was quite surprised by her shock. Even now I sometimes forget that what was typical for me was not so for many others. She asked if I had called the police. Raising a quizzical eyebrow I replied “Of course not. They wouldn’t have believed me. My word against his, and he’d have denied it. I told absolutely nobody, for years. I didn’t even consider calling anyone for help. It was just what it was.”
Speaking up, speaking to others about the horrible truth of childhood violence changed my acceptance of it. I will never be in a relationship like that again.
Don’t Judge Me: The Big Red Flag
The don’t judge me brigade are considerately offering you a rather large clue that they’ve done something they know would be considered wrong or unethical by some, and they want the freedom to behave as badly as they choose without wagging fingers. Your acquiescence assists them, not you.
You should immediately be suspicious if someone demands you do not judge them. What are they afraid of people finding out?
Gird your loins
Suggestions for the person who has never spoken up about what happened to them, but wants to.
Write it down. Write down what you need to say, so if people confuse you, attack you or try to shame you into silence you have your facts to refer to.
If possible, find someone supportive who you can debrief with, and who will advocate for you, or at least listen to and believe you.
Or if you already have a friend or relative who is encouraging and supportive, ask them to help you through it.
If it’s your first time speaking up, it can be particularly confronting to face disbelievers, deniers or minimisers.
People have their own reasons for their behaviours
As I said, be prepared for some people to either not believe you, or pretend not to believe you.
You can’t do much about any of that, I’m afraid.
You may be ignored, contradicted or told that you, who experienced the harm, are the one causing a calamity by speaking up.
Nevertheless, speak your story if YOU want to speak it
Speak ill of those who harmed you if you wish to, and if you’re brave enough.
Weigh your options and your choices and decide if its worth it.
Don’t allow the politeness police drag you off to enforced forgiveness prison. Don’t let their sticky-fingered sanctimony sway you. Don’t let them tell you it’s ill mannered or hurtful to tell the truth.
If you choose not to speak — let it be for your own reasons. Not theirs.
“The one that dares to tell the truth is called at once a lunatic and a fool” — George Francis Train
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Alison Tennent, September 2021, Queensland, Australia
Copyright Alison Tennent 2021, all rights reserved. Scottish by birth, upbringing and bloodline, Australian by citizenship. If you’re reading this anywhere but The Garrulous Glaswegian or Medium, this work may have been plagiarized.