How many times did we hear that phrase while growing up? Along with the dreaded…”Nobody likes a tattletale!” Seems like it was kind of an American staple in everyone’s household along side the meat and potatoes. For me, there was also a slice of “Don’t speak unless you are spoken to.”….. and for dessert…”Don’t tell anyone or I will hurt your mother and it will be all your fault.”
To the outside world, we were this wholesome American Family, but inside the four walls it was something far different. The lesson I learned from an early age is to keep my mouth shut and mind my own business. I tiptoed lightly so as to not draw any attention to myself. The more I could be in the background, the safer I was. I tried to do everything by the book, remember all the little rules and most of all be the “keeper of all secrets”. The result was, I lost my identity, all of my power and most of all, my voice. Even after leaving home, this took me years to find.
I think for many of us we were programmed to be the “good girl” and women that spoke up for themselves and others were “loud mouth bitches”. I think there is a time for minding your own business and allowing people to chose the kind of life they want to live. For me, the line in the sand is when people’s choices impact the right of other’s to live the life they choose. Doesn’t it seem reasonable that every human being, whether it be a man, woman or child, have the basic human right to feel safe and respected?
Safety and respect are two hot buttons for me. Now that I have found my voice, I have become an advocate especially for those who can’t speak up for themselves. There was a couple that lived next to me in my old apartment building. They mostly kept to themselves, but one evening I heard fighting, the sound of things being thrown against the walls, followed by crying. I knew those sounds and had become very accustomed to what happened next. There was a fire that filled me and I couldn’t just sit there and listen to it happen. I went next door, knocked on the door and was greeted by the man who was red-faced angry. “Yea, what do you want?” he said. “I would like to speak to your wife.” She slipped under his arm, and stood before me with wide eyes and tear stained cheeks. “Is everything okay here?” She shook her head “yes” with much more energy than there should have been. “Are you sure? Because you can come over and sit with me awhile.” I said. She assured me that everything was okay. I then turned to him, looked him straight in the eye and said, “I know what is going on here and if I ever hear anything like it again I am going to call the police and have you arrested for domestic violence. Are we clear?” He stared back at me, then looked away and said in a small voice, “Yes, we are clear.” I was shaking inside in part from fear, but the bigger part was a kind of fire. I am certain now that what he saw in my eyes was “I dare you to fuck with me”.
People closest to me were furious that I went over there, telling me that I could have been shot or killed. I agree, that could have happened. But I had to listen to that voice inside of me that said…”You have to stand up for those who can’t do it for themselves”. Once my ex and I were at a party where he hit me so hard that I flew across the room and hit the wall. The place got silent, but then everyone went back to conversation and having a good time. Nobody. Said. A. Word! Now listening to what was happening, I just couldn’t sit there; pretend that nothing was going on, and not say anything. I could not, for one more minute, mind my own business when it could be the difference between life and death for someone else.
The next day I came home to a letter and a gift left at my door. The letter was from this man thanking me for caring enough to stand up for the woman he loves. He went on to say that this was a wake up for him to finally get the help he needs. He assured me that there wouldn’t ever be anything like that to happen again. He ended the letter with…The world needs more people like you, here is a small gift in appreciation. For the rest of the time I lived at that complex, I never heard any more problems coming from my neighbor. The next time I saw her, she hugged me and simply said, “Thank you!”
I don’t know what became of them and whether they were able to heal as a family or not. What I do know, is in spite of the risk to my personal safety at the time, I had to break the rules for this woman. I had to do for her what no one was willing to do for me. I would NOT mind my own business! Regardless of the outcome, I feel good about finding my voice, stepping into my power and standing up for someone who felt powerless to stand up for herself. It may have had little impact on this world that is so prone to anger and violence, but it all has to start somewhere. The voice inside me says often, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Like a stone that hits the water, we never know what the ripple effect could be.
~ Kimberlee Anderson