On the fear of being unheard and hurt
by: Kathy West
My greatest fear is that no one will hear me.
I face this fear in small doses: with my three-year-old who ignores my instructions, or at night when I want to stay up and talk but my husband wants to sleep, or in large groups where my stories are too long and my voice doesn’t carry. My quiet, quiet voice.
But I’ve never been unheard in a dangerous way, a violent way.
I know someone who has.
A friend shared with me vague stories that seemed full of anxiety. Average conversations felt loaded with fear. Until I realized that over months, I’d been hearing about my friend’s abusive relationship.
I didn’t witness the physical violence. But I did hear an abusive spouse mow down my friend’s voice by talking over every word, shutting down a conversation by mocking and chastising and shaming in front of everyone.
I think that’s one place violence springs from—from refusing to hear another person.
If you refuse to hear someone else, you think they’re separate from you. You can treat them as an other. You can hurt them without it hurting you. But the boundaries between us are blurrier than that. The sound waves of my voice vibrate the bones in your ear.
I couldn’t change my friend’s insistence on staying in that relationship, on staying silent.
But I wanted to do something. So I created a project called Ten Voices.
Ten writers and artists created ten pieces of art meant to inspire voice. We’re organizing a creative workshop for survivors of domestic violence. Our goal is to support and inspire the voices of those who have experienced abuse and decided to leave.
I’m becoming as committed to hearing others’ voices as I am to being heard.
(I would love you to raise your voice with us. Support the Ten Voices workshop and own the art here, only through the end of today, 2 December 2013: http://kck.st/1fptu0Z)