Monday, October 25, 2010

Take Sides!

 "Take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.
 Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. " ~ Elie Wiesel

What? What? Take sides? Don't be neutral?  Isn't neutral good? What are you saying?

I'm saying taking sides ensures there is an acknowledgement of both sides, of all sides.  Even if it is just to say, "No! Stop! That's wrong!"

I'm saying being neutral is a false safe place, it is a big lie which removes anything that looks like responsibility.

Neutral can be a temporary measure to get you to safety, to pause a cycle of violence, to create an escape for a time.  It can not be permanent - you have to stand for something.

When someone tries so hard to be fair, to be neutral, to NOT take sides they are actually taking a side.  They are drinking the sweet poison of denial.  

They can sound something like this - with their excuses:

"We treat our children equally, we don't take sides, parents have to be neutral."

"You cannot take sides, you don't understand the whole situation."

"You need to be quiet, it's none of your business."

(When my family didn't choose sides, they choose for abuse and they choose for silence and they didn't choose for the one being hurt.  They didn't choose to speak up for me, they choose silence.  Not just once, not just because they didn't know better but because there was something more important to them than my hurt, my pain, my wounds.  The friends of my brother, maybe even him, who watched me being raped choose silence, they choose for the one taking.  Even as they laughed about it later, even as they labelled me and blamed me they still thought they were neutral.  They did NOTHING .)

When the youth pastor took advantage of his position, when the gym teacher, basketball coach or anyone else takes advantage of other's silence they are winning!  When someone thinks the long term solution is silence there is nothing being done for the wounded, the injured, the abused.  They are not helping anything but the status quo.

It makes me want to scream when I hear, "Someone should do some thing."  Is that their version of neutral?  Is that their way of not taking sides?  To stand there and ask for someone, besides them, to do something.  

Or have the neutral people tried any of these on you: maybe you misunderstood, maybe you need to see it from their point of view, I'm just trying to see both sides. 

I'm pretty sure I didn't misunderstand a broken arm and a whispered, "Keep your mouth shut.", I think I've seen enough of their point of view to last a lifetime and I live on  my side and it hurts and that's the one that matters to me.

It seems to me that it isn't that complicated.  Simple steps to avoid being stuck in neutral, easy ways to take sides and yet we are faced with the on-going stony stare of silence, the manufactured bliss of neutral and still there is blood, there are tears, there are people wounded and dying because no one will risk being the one saying what everyone knows.  Don't believe them someone always knows.  Even if they only suspect they are the ones who are not surprised when the secret is out.

And what does everyone know?  We know that abuse is wrong.  We know silence gives permission by default.  We know that history shows bullies, abusers and cruelly neutral parties always end up on the side of pain, where they like to be, where they can dish it out.  We also know what history shows that silence, once broken, is never repaired.  It is then that we can start healing.

it's not super complicated to speak up for what is right, to speak out when something is wrong.  People make things complicated, they make things hard. Sadly, I cannot even say these are 'Basic School Rules' as our schools are some of the most deadly places for children.  These are the basics, in my playground, where you stick up for those who are being picked on, share and be kind, everyone gets on a team so pick sides and don't let me catch you acting like you don't know better!

I will not be silent!  Won't do it.  Won't risk it.  Because when I look back and I start to wonder what would have changed in the world I lived in, the world I live in now if one person had spoken up?  If one person has one less scar, if they have one less minute of shame, if they have one less day in the myth of neutral then my own scars mean something.  

Silence can be safe in the short term, being on neither side of a fight can be safe in the short term, attempting to find a way without confrontation when it is not safe is wise. Survivors survive because they have learned these things but there will come a time to start living and that means we need to stop being silent. 

It only takes one voice to change the world. It only takes one candle to light thousands.  It only takes one hand to hold another and a chain grows that won't be broken.  I'm still healing and I'm still finding my voice.  I'm praying that you find your voice, I'm praying for you on the healing path and I'm praying for us all no matter where we are in our journey.


  1. YES, YES, YES! And YES! again.
    Personally, I find the silence the most puzzling thing. WHY didn't someone say something? WHY, when years later a person makes a comment that shows that they knew I was hurting, WHY did they stand back and do NOTHING, say NOTHING, but silently add their consent and approval to what was happening. Did they think I would instinctively *know* that what was happening was wrong? But how can someone who hasn't been there ever understand that the abusers strike first at our minds and souls - that most of us even think that to *suggest* that something is wrong is beyond comprehension. It is only years later that we wake up to that. It is only once we wake up to that, that healing can finally begin...

  2. Hi nice to read you..I am now following and look forward to reading more :)

  3. Wow! THIS needs to be in front!!

  4. Such a powerful statement to make to the world. Yes, your scars mean something to me and to every other survivor who reads this. This would fit so well in the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse for next month. Check out the current issue at to see if you would be interested in participating.

  5. Zoe - thank you for sharing, and I agree that when we are young the abuse becomes 'the normal' and when the silence of others who should (and do) know better confirms it we cannot heal until we see through that.

    Bongo - I've followed your blog now too, thanks for reading and sharing.

    Viv - thank you...

    Patricia - I'll check that out for sure, and thank you I'll be participating for sure. I'm glad my scars mean something to you, yours do to me as well - as do all our scars.

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  7. Am angry too...for you, for me, for all who have faced this response. Support in my case was definitely for the abuse and silence. I even got "you need to see a different therapist" when they didn't even know who I was seeing. It's like the manual...the FMSF manual of how to respond. The first one to remember loses...with family of origin.

    In healing, we make supportive families and find supportive family after some of the fear subsides, if we're lucky.

  8. Maggie - thank you for your post and your wish for all of us. May we all be 'lucky' (although I'm not a believer in luck alone!).