Normalized Dysfunction: Eliminate Silence and Implement Openness
This episode of Something Positive for Positive People has made me think about silence. Audre Lorde’s famous quote comes to mind: “Your silence will not protect you.”
I’ve always been afraid of saying the wrong thing. I tread lightly around terminology I may not be familiar with, but I repeatedly expose myself to it in order to understand it so that I can use it in order to help people. Over time, I’ve learned just how simple it is to trigger someone, as well as what the difference is between being offensive and triggering. In my experience, being offended is usually where the person is feeling what they think someone who’d actually be offended would feel if they saw or heard whatever set them off. Being triggered, however, produces emotions as if a person is reliving a traumatic event that happened in the past that they are healing from. It is as if you’re reopening a scarred wound back to its original state before healing.
This fear of saying the wrong thing often has extremely long-term consequences one may never see. In my experience, it has caused me to remain silent in the face of wrongdoings or injustices and even calling out unethical behavior for perpetrators to be held accountable for their actions. I identified it as being fearful of backlash and criticism, but this fear causes silence which has far more long-lasting consequences than just being wrong and called out for it.
I spoke to a 25 year-old black woman who has been living with genital herpes for more than 10 years. Prior to that, at age 12, she was treated for chlamydia which she contracted from an adult man. At age 6, she was sexually abused by her cousin and then later introduced to what can only be described as dating apps before phones had internet access.
This story is a follow-up to episode 96 with Dr. Lexx James-Brown where we discussed how healing sexual trauma looks different for black women. In this episode we get an inside look at how shame, and not being able to talk about sex enables and perpetuates unethical, abusive, and illegal behavior. Our guest Z expresses that her experiences were viewed as normal. It’s just what people did. The family didn’t talk about it, there was no one around to point out that what went on was not normal, and therefore, with no voices being heard, or even speaking for that matter, these dysfunctional behaviors were allowed to continue.
Z says we need to eliminate secrecy and implement openness in homes and the communities. This alone would’ve shifted how her life turned out. Change can’t happen if we’re fearful of minor consequences if we don’t speak up. Silence causes far more harm to those who need help than we could ever be harmed for poor word choice. We can apologize for words we say, but people like Z can’t get their lost time, or their childhood back.
Promoting sexual health talks in families is NEEDED. Parents need the resources and support to help them initiate and navigate these discussions. With resources like Sex Positive Families, our youth has to space to openly share what’s happening with their bodies.
Stay positive, everyone.