Just Listen!

The other day I was talking with a friend about the Michigan library that was defunded over a controversial book. One conversation led to another, and we ricocheted over to a book called Push by Sapphire. A high school librarian shared with me that she had to keep it under lock and key, a few years back. Otherwise, the copies kept disappearing. That speaks volumes about what was on the minds and hearts of those young patrons. 

Push, from which the movie Precious was based, deals with a teen that is being abused by her mother’s mate. The mere fact that so many young women at the high school wanted to keep the book announces that they identified with its main character. They obviously were having similar experiences and often those traumatic emotions are dealt with in isolation along with self-recrimination. 

Too often, the victims are not believed, silenced or shunned by those who they should be able to trust. Some women or mothers do not know how to deal with their daughters’ developing sexuality and certainly cannot face the fact that their beloved mate has a roving eye. It is easier to tuck one’s head inside the turtle shell and act as if it is not going on or to blame the daughter as if she in some way invited the unwelcome attention. 

I recently finished the book Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates. When Norma Jeane was about 15, her foster mother married her off to the first man that she could because she did not like the way her husband looked at Norma Jeane. When she became famous, Marilyn Monroe never answered the woman’s letters because she never forgave her for pushing her into marriage to simply get her ‘out of the way.’ Of course, the marriage did not go well. 

It makes me think of the countless stories where women or men have repressed the sordid occurrences and when they try to tell someone in the family, they are often cast off as if they have a plague. In the movie, Prince of Tides, the mother makes all her children keep the secret that they had been sexually assaulted by some escaped convicts. The don’t tell anyone syndrome is as old as the sun. They kept the secret, but it landed the sister under suicide watch in a hospital. 

I read that one star tried to tell her family about her father’s abuse and once again, she was not believed nor taken seriously. Those who refuse to be silent are too often labeled as mentally disturbed or someone who should not be heard. We are not armchair psychologists, but if someone opens up about such a sensitive topic, we can at least listen. It would never occur to me think that anyone would make up anything about abuse. 

That is truly a turtle approach because those who refuse to hear it,” Can’t handle the truth,” as Jack Nicholson shouted in A Few Good Men. Of course, there were no witnesses. Abusers don’t operate in the light of day with an audience. But I can say from working around both young girls and boys, if they are acting out or unusually angry, its often a symptom of something else. If someone took the time to get to the heart of the problem, there just maybe some inappropriate activity taking place somewhere. But most people do not have the time nor mind to delve deep enough to see what is really going on. 

We should listen to both our girls and boys because usually the perpetrator or the one causing the hidden stress is in the next room or somewhere very close by. I would say, “Parents, take off the blinders. Don’t be In Love and In Trouble like the title of one of Alice Walker’s books. Listen. Pay close attention to your child that may be harboring the unthinkable. Get rid of the creep and nurture your God-given gift (your children), so that they can rise to their true potential! 

Lynn M. 
August 20, 2022 

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