Small Town Silence : Ben Aged 32
In small towns, there are two big silences. Domestic Violence is silent and the events in small towns are silent. Together the silence is deafening. Together the silence creates and feeds fear.
Growing up in a small town I did not know that the violence in our home was not normal. For me it was normal. The abuse that my father handed out to my mother, myself, my brothers and sisters was normal. We were raised not to talk about what went on behind closed doors. It was no-one else’s business. We didn’t ask what went on in anyone else’s house; and nobody asked what went on in ours.
Growing up in a small town we knew that you had to ‘mind your own business’. We were raised to believe that men did not talk about their emotions and we were taught that men did not cry. I knew that I was not to speak up. I lived in fear; constant all-encompassing fear.
When a child grows up with this fear and surrounded by silences, it is hard for the adult to deal with conflict, with confrontation and with the knowledge that what I believed was normal was so far from being normal. As an adult, I have had to learn to find my voice. I have had to work my way through depression and anxiety, through struggling to trust people and through facing the realities of my past. I had to learn that when you speak up and share your story that there are some who will reach out a hand and support you; while others will turn around and walk away.
Finally, I was able to go back to where the horrors of my childhood happened. I now know that fear must be identified and looked at straight in the eye. I went back to the small town. I stood at the gate and looked at the house where it all happened. I faced it.
As an adult, there are still days when the past sneaks up on me. I still hate hearing a confrontation and I still struggle with a fear of not being what I need to be. I still have to manage the depression and anxiety that plague me. But, as an adult, I now have the strength to stand here and say it is not okay and that talking about it and sharing your ‘business’ is the only way to defeat fear.