How Silence Still Cripples Us

Silence = Death

If you were around in the 1980s and early 1990s, that should be etched into your memory. Even if you didn’t know it was a film, the slogan reached far and wide and was a raised fist for AIDS activists. To know it was to understand no one should remain quiet when it came to fighting the scourge of that disease.

Even with its origins in AIDS and LGBTQ rights, Silence = Death has an overall meaning: not talking about a problem leads to disaster. And yet, even today, people can still willfully ignore any topic that makes them uncomfortable.

In 2017, the harassment and assault of women finally (and deservedly) became not just an issue, but a movement.

One line that struck me during the ongoing conversation was: “We talk about how many women were raped last year, not about how many men raped women.”

It interested me, because one year earlier I had written a letter to my son; the content of that letter was consent. I feel it is on fathers to raise better sons, that we may end the cycle of violence against women. In the letter, I wrote:

There are those who like to glorify the past—to create a false narrative of what was, and shout, ‘Back in my day, we didn’t have to discuss rape. We didn’t do things like that.’

Not true.

It’s specifically because of the lack of dialogue that rape occurs, and we can no longer continue down the path of silence. It is in silence we allow problems to fester and actions to continue.”

I want to reiterate that last line—“It is in silence we allow problems to fester and actions to continue.”

I posted the letter on my personal blog, The Huffington Post, and a couple other places. As soon as I put it on Facebook, I started getting positive reactions. One woman told me she was going to share it with her son; another messaged me privately. She said, “I love the message, and wanted to personally say thank you.” She also noted she was sharing it on her page.

Then I got a message from a moderator of one of the websites I had posted it on. It is a website that promotes itself as being specifically about the importance of fatherhood, and how dads raise their children.

“I was talking to our CEO, and he doesn’t want articles that deal with politics, rape etc. He asked me to take [your] article down.”

I wasn’t upset—it’s their website, they control the content—but I was disappointed. If a website implies that it’s about fatherhood and raising kids correctly, shouldn’t important topics of discussion be on the table?

Living inside a comfort zone is what we all strive for. But, every so often you should turn an eye toward reality. Face an ugly truth, if you will.

I have a son, and a daughter, and I’m going to have some unpleasant conversations with them. Do I want to discuss the topic of strangers on the internet and not taking naked pictures for boyfriends with my daughter? God no. But I’m going to, because I have to. I don’t want her to have pictures online forever because she thought she was “in love” at age fifteen. Do I want to discuss condoms and masturbation with my son? God no. But again: I’m going to. I don’t want him becoming a teenage dad, and he needs to know that when he’s in the bathroom “combing his hair,” hey, that’s normal. There’s no need to be embarrassed, because we all do it. Comb our hair, that is.

*cough*

I’m going to talk to my kids about domestic violence, and how racism helped Donald Drumpf get elected. Two subjects that caused websites that claim to tackle “important topics” wince and send me, “this is too real for us” emails.

I’m not looking forward to these conversations, and I wish I didn’t have to have them. But if I’ve learned anything in my life, it’s that when we don’t face down problems, they continue.

Or, to put it another way: Silence still equals death.

Do you like the way I barf up words? Then please, buy my latest book.

Here’s the letter to my son regarding consent:

A Letter to my Son About Rape

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