You know, it’s strange, but I remember feeling most of those things myself, but as a child. I think some times we don’t take it as seriously when a child is threatened by other children. Or when a child is threatened by an adult, because we assume that the child misbehaved or did something bad.
But the voices of these people, as they described why they didn’t speak up before, reminded me of what it felt like. I felt a kind of tension in my chest, perhaps from taking slow measured breaths, almost as if the very air escaping from my lungs might be enough to earn me some kind of nightmarish retaliation. It was almost as if my very breath, or a slight change to the look on my face, might give a clue as to how angry I was, how terrified I was, how hurt I felt.
No wonder some kids who are bullied commit suicide! And on rare occasion some people to kill others in the process. The feelings of being trapped, of being powerless, and of emotional pain, ... are that intense.
Fortunately, I never tried to kill myself or anyone else. I kept it all bottled up inside, for the most part. Or I ended up in a “Why don’t you ... Yes, but ...” back-and-forth with my parents, who didn’t really understand what to do about the “problem.” The problem was bigger than they were, bigger than the school or the teachers or administrators, bigger than my town or even my state. It was so big that it reached everywhere because it was based on the very culture in which we lived. A set of assumptions held by almost everybody, without realizing that there were other choices.
Now it’s all starting to come out. This, it seems to me, is stage one. We must hear this. We must listen to these stories until everyone gets a chance to tell theirs, no matter what it takes. We must hear the women, and the men, and the children.
Eventually, we’ll be ready for stages two and three. Those are going to be just as tough as stage one. But not yet. First, let's just listen.