There can be consequences for trying to be heard. The inability for understanding, alone, can strangle you in mid-sentence. But, you know, these words have become vital, so you crack your chest wide open, hoping people are more concerned about the wound rather than the mess. But every word that bleeds out is violently washed away with anger and lack of accountability. Everything you say, every tear you shed, is used against you. As a strike against you, your words are stolen and twisted. As history likes to repeat itself, you are stripped of you name and given a new one: attention seeker, entitled.
This is what it is to be an invisible victim. It is to be challenged and unrecognized. Each label is a blow to the already open wound on your chest, a barrier put in the path of reclaiming the identity that was stolen from you.
With each hit, your heart becomes more exposed, and your heartbeat becomes louder, and louder. The thumps of your heart are screams for freedom from the misery and oppression that often goes unheard. The louder your heartbeat, the more you have to speak up, speak through your pain, yet you’re met with an opposition of statements such as “You already get so much”, and “Stop trying to make us feel bad.” All you want to do is give people a chance to understand a reality that is often hidden. Sadly, all you receive are sighs, eye-rolls, and silence.
This is what it is to be a silent witness.
Struggling your whole life, angry at what makes you different, avoiding the deep-seated truth that lies within you: it is your existence. However, you know something now that you may not have always known, which is: your existence is painful, but it is also beautiful.
This is my experience with speaking up in class, in the workplace, and organizing events. The struggle is in the fact that you spent so long just trying to learn to love yourself, and accept your identity, and when you finally do, it feels there is no one there who wants to listen. To you, your experience is so real, but to the people around you there is this misconception that they fully understood what you went and are going through. From this I feel a fire in the pit of my chest for all the things I want to say – I don’t want my feelings to be suppressed, yet there’s this intense need for me to intricately and adequately justify what I feel, especially in a room of people who have either normalized or denied my trauma.
In class, people speak of my life in these abstract concepts, letting hundreds of years’ worth of violence casually slip off of their tongues. I don’t want an apathetic discussion, I want to be heard… Society made my pain invisible, and now I want people to feel the broken parts of me that they so often deny the truth of.
Many times, I felt the hardship of being an invisible victim. I once sat in a class and listened to an older professor explain why Women of Colour don’t fit into the history of feminism. In distress, I raised my hand and said, “Why do you feel People of Colour don’t deserve to be acknowledged? Specifically, on this land, Indigenous women?”
And without any hesitation she responded, “On the ‘totem pole’, feminism would be low.” I watched a crowd of heads nod in agreeance – They were witnesses to ignorance. To them, I was the bully, shoving my beliefs in all of their faces, while on the other hand, her comment was a much deserving justice. This world makes invisible victims because our realities are never real, relevant, or urgent enough.
Because we live in a society where people feel they know more about our own experiences than we do, I’ve had to make a rule: I’m not going to doubt myself. I won’t doubt my gender when my family uses the wrong pronouns, or doubt my hurt when my coworker says I’m being too irrational. The world loves to erase the existence of the most vulnerable, and in this, there are silent witnesses. People who stand by and watch my identities’ be stripped down. They watch and act as if there is no place for them to say anything. Claiming they are not responsible for the violence that happens. In a world that refuses so many forms of legitimate support and empathy, I’ll find my strength in not doubting myself.
If I can give any advice to a silent witness, it’s to be a voice for the invisible, and to not question someone’s hardships and pain. If I can encourage anyone who feels the strain of being invisible, it’s to not doubt yourself when you want to be heard, and to keep speaking when you want to be heard. People will fight against you but they will never know the love you have for your history, your people, and your identity.
You deserve to be heard.