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Silence is Golden (continued)


When I was told was to be silent and therefore isolated from anyone that might have comforted me, I could only believe that I had done something wrong. I was at fault for being raped. Why would I be told not to speak out or reach out to those that cared about me? Shame. If my parents were ashamed of what happened then what was I to feel?

Shame is not an emotion we are born with. It is a feeling that is foisted upon us by those we perceive to be in authority, or community and societal mores. The former can be parents, older family members, teachers, clergymen, or those we believe to know more about life than we do. The community and society we live within may believe they should dictate behavior to a dysfunctional extent.

Does any of this sound familiar? These are some examples of how shame is introduced into our lives.

A parent states to a child disdainfully:

“I can’t believe you did that. I’m so embarrassed.”

“How could you have done that to me? What will people think?”

“Can’t you do anything right?”

A young girl is raped or abused and her parents scream:

“Why were you there? You should have been at home.”

“Don’t say anything to anyone – your reputation will be ruined.”

“You must have asked for it.”

An abused wife listens numbly to her husband:

“If you would just do what I say you wouldn’t make me hurt you.”

“If you tell anyone, they will know you are a bad wife.”

“It’s your job as my wife to have sex with me whenever I want.”

Shame is a powerful weapon that is used to control in some way. There are people that in some way are uncomfortable around us, so they must find a method to regain control. There are those that believe that they use this weapon as a tool to help others grow and to shield them or to influence others to their point of view.

It is a toxic method often rendering the target of the shame helpless in the face of it. Results for the target of the shaming can vary in degree from silencing a voice or halting a behavior to crushing dreams or suicide. While some of these may seem negligible or livable, they are not.

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