Silence as a Sign of Abuse

Deu 27:24 “‘Cursed be anyone who strikes down his neighbor in secret.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

Psa 64:2 Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers,

Mar 4:22 For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.

One sign that a person is a victim of abuse is silence. I have seen this quite often. We write it off as “well, he/she is just a very quiet person.” And while it is true that some of us are not as communicative as others, the kind of silence I am speaking of here is a remarkable silence. It is something that stands out, to which people take notice. “So and so is sooo quiet. They never talk hardly at all.” The problem is, while we see the symptom, we fail to understand its cause.

Domestic abusers (including spiritual abusers and other types of tyrants) insist upon secrecy. “What goes on here in this family stays here!” A disguised “front” is displayed in public, but that image is a facade. What really happens behind those walls is evil, and it must remain hidden. So secrecy is an aspect of an abusive system. And this means – don’t talk.

The fear that an abuser instills in his target cultivates this silence as well. Perhaps she will say something that she will be punished for. And even if she tries in the slightest way to ask others for help, she may well be accused of “disrespecting” her abuser. So there are all kinds of pressures from many different sources that produce this resolve not to speak. The victim may not even be aware of how abnormal their non-communication is. If they could see themselves in years past, before the abuse began, often they would see a healthy, outgoing, talkative person. But that person has faded into the past. Now she is silent.

I have most typically seen this dynamic in women who are being abused by their husband, but I have also known some men to evidence it too. “Have you noticed that he just doesn’t talk?” is a common observation by those who know him, but few if any of these people understand the reason for the silence. They think “it’s just him.” But very often this non-talking trait is a symptom of abuse.

Do you see how devilish this is? How cruel? if a victim is going to be able to get help, they are going to have to talk. If we are to know what is going on behind the scenes, we have to be told. But the wicked use all kinds of tactics to ensure that this telling never happens. Threats. Shaming. Accusing. Stealing one’s confidenct. Destroying the victim’s trust in their own ability to interpret what they see. It all is designed to ensure that the power and control continue, and that no one knows about it. Secrecy. Silence.

To any victim presently caught up in this bondage, let me say this. You are afraid to talk. (And that fear, by the way, is well-grounded in many ways. Not only because the abuser has made threats, but because those the victim tells about the abuse normally become a loose cannon causing even more grief for her). But let me say this to anyone in an abusive marriage or other toxic relationship that insists you just shut up – you can begin talking by talking to the Lord. He will never respond in a wrong way. He, in fact, already knows all about what is happening to you. And in His providence, He is able to direct you to help and freedom.