None of Sofia’s pieces has been easy to read — but this is particularly heartbreaking because it faces the discovery that some of her prolonged agonies had been known by someone close to her…
So much silence.
It tore at her heart as she read the words on the pages, the black ink choking her into silence, like a rag forced down the throat.
So much silence.
Yet the events screamed for attention – they were recorded as if she was the one at fault and yet there seemed equal recognition of her innocence.
Written, recorded… yet kept concealed. Silence.
There was more than enough evidence to have convicted. So why was it only now coming to light? The words were in her mother’s hand. Notes from conversations scrawled on scraps; dated thoughts in her diary; internet articles printed out. All relevant. All condemning. All too late.
Too late since the damage had been done and her soul train-wrecked in a marriage that had been left to continue because silence had been allowed to rule.
Too late as her mother was now a year underground, forever silent.
She let the pages fall from her hand as she struggled to breathe.
Why? Why such silence?
Marriage had taken precedence over everything – it was a biblical decree.
Full allegiance had been demanded – her husband before all else. She learnt early of his expectations of acquiescence to his need to be adored and to be right. A simple voicing of her opposing political opinion at a family dinner had been enough to unmask the oppressor in him. He aggressively demanded her agreement, regardless of her own independent thought – after all, independence contradicted the marriage vows. As man and woman, they had become one.
‘How dare you say that? Contradict me? You should support me – always. Always! That is what a good Christian wife does’.
The private explosive anger of his fury after the event, unleashed in verbal barrages, battered her mind, causing her to question her self. Anytime she voiced an alternate opinion to his, she inevitably ended up cowering under the resultant onslaught. Survival would eventually depend on her walking the impossible tightrope of trying not to correct his statements (whether blatantly false, unkind or rude), a tightrope between integrity and deceit. Truth was chained in silence.
She reached out again to touch what was left of her mother’s voice, now scattered in the silent sheets lying on the floor. Tears like acid scorched her face… ‘Was the silence my fault?’
’Stupid daughter… so ashamed… She is besotted with him…’ … Her mother’s written words pummelled her, asphyxiating her. Telephone conversations, clearly written in real time, supported her mother’s statements. She remembered them only too well. Caught between trying to show her mother she cared, while having to negotiate her allowance of telephone time. For her husband agreed only if she discussed with her mother what he wanted to be said – threatening that the relationship would only continue if she did. Torn like a flag at battle’s end, trying to maintain some sense in the conversations she was emotionally blackmailed to engineer, she satisfied neither’s demands, bearing the brunt of discontent and wrath from them both. So it seemed right for her mother to berate her behaviour in the fractured relationship brought about by her keeping silence.
Oh – but she had so wanted to share the silence with another. Anyone. If only she had been able to speak. If only someone could have listened. She wanted to question if the marriage was right. There were a thousand moments when she had been crying, screaming, begging for help. Asking behind closed doors, shut windows, gagged and bound by the clause of marriage-loyalty. Didn’t anyone guess? Anyone see? She grew increasingly confused about what was right. … What was right? HE was right. That was all she heard.
And the people in the world beyond the front door, those within the church and without, agreed in their complicit silence.
Silence held truth to ransom until she could not discern it anymore.
As she sat on the floor she lifted a page and read again…
- ‘dreadful phone call… he was speaking through her… I believe she has been indoctrinated by him’.
- Diary entries from 5 years previously: ‘she has been brainwashed ….he treats her like a slave… his abusive treatment of her…’
Different days, different reflections, same story.
One article caught her eye. Printed out, highlighted and scribbled on in that so familiar handwriting. Entitled: ‘How to help a friend or family member who is being abused’.
The enormity of what she read hit her again like a bomb blast.
Her mother had known. She had seen. But she hadn’t spoken! She hadn’t acted!
And suddenly the reactions of others came flooding to her mind. When she had separated a few months ago from her husband, seeking safety, she had not explained to anyone the details of why. Yet, there had been no surprise from those who had known her well. Even a few who had spent less time with her said they thought it a good thing. That they had harboured some concerns. Yet they had buried their questions at the time within a framework of self-protective non-interference. The white and soulless silence of knowledge unshared chilled the room.
As in the aftermath of an explosion when frenzied action continues noiselessly, she suddenly felt scared. For she wanted now to break that silence. She had finally come to see the marriage lie for what it had been. Scared, she wondered if her story, her words were enough. Would others hear? Would they allow her to speak? Or was appearance shrouded in silence preferable to seeing what was really there?
Scared, she felt unseen, unheard and insignificant.
Silence had kept her prisoner, barely alive and betrayed.
Why so much silence?
If you missed them, the previous pieces are here: