SILENCE IS CONSENT no matter what our age or personal circumstances

Monica Clarke-Bennett
Posted January 31, 2021 from South Africa

I was then 26 years old, living in a council tower block. A qualified nurse, married to a handsome man, with two lovely children. An outwardly ideal family. But also an abused wife. I knew what to do, where to go to report, but didn’t do it for ten years of almost weekly Intimate Partner Abuse.

When smothering in my own fears, after yet another beating, I hear the shouting and screaming, knocking and wailing through the thin walls from next door. I would close my ears, turn up my music and try to sleep through the turmoil. The voices in my head and the sound of running feet through the corridor past my window, like ghosts fleeing predators, made sure that sleep did not come.

I did nothing.

Fast forward 50 years. I am now 76 years old, living in the tranquillity of  first world suburbia. Now I stand and look at the children play, their laughter and joy giving me pleasure. But within my mind I am still haunted by memories of

THE LITLE BOY NEXT DOOR

He's just a little boy next door

And I’m an old woman.

I see him. But he doesn’t see me.

I see him walk his dog, talk with his dog

Whispering to it secrets

So no-one can hear

I watch him everyday

I see him play to take his pain away

I can see the shame he carries

I see him walk with his head down

And I know it happened again.

I want to take his blame, iron it out

Smooth it for him

So he won’t trip over ripples of fright.

I want to call to him

I want to say Boy, come here

Let me help you

Let me put salve on your wounds, but

I DO NOTHING.

 

Coz he’s just a little boy next door

And I’m an old woman.

I see him. But he doesn’t see me.

 

That night I hear the screaming

I hear the shouting, I hear the crying

I watch him next morning

His head is down again

Down with shame, carrying the blame.

This time I stand in my door

I call Boy, come to me

But he does not hear me

As he passes

Deep in his world behind heavy glasses, and 

I DO NOTHING.

 

Coz he’s just a little boy next door

And I’m an old woman.

I see him. But he doesn’t see me.

 

Then I see him behind the bush

I watch him sit down

I see him drag from the rag on his face

I see him lie down

To try to sleep his pain away

Then the night comes

And I hear her shout his pain

I hear her pleading

And as the two of them run out

Out into the night

Renting the darkness apart

With the sharpness of their fright.

I stand by and watch.

I peep through my lace curtain. But still

I DO NOTHING.

 

Now I hang my head in shame

I must carry the blame

For a little boy next door

Who wets his bed at night

Who is giving up the fight in nightmares

Sniffing stuff behind a bush

To block out the light for darkness

I must take the blame

For doing nothing

For a little boy next door

 

Coz I’m an old woman.

I see him

Even if he doesn’t see me.

I must take the blame

For still

I'M DOING NOTHING

 

That was then. Now I am that old woman, but a changed old woman. Now I shall do something, say something, for my silence shall no longer intensify my neighbour’s suffering.

Monica 26 then. 76 Now.

Comments 29

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Nini Mappo
Jan 31
Jan 31

Monica,
Are you really an old woman? suffering the weight of years and the burdens they sheltered? Are you really an old woman, stretching your arms to care while waiting for a carer? Are you really an old woman, carrying the blame of frightened concern, and its children and grandchildren? Because when I read your poem, I don't see her. I see a warrior, whose scars speak of resolve, resilience, and faithfulness.

I soaked in your beautifully penned, heart-wrenching poem, as you emphasize how important it is to speak out so that ourselves, as well as others, can heal, or be safe, or belong in community.

And as I read the last paragraph, I see the transformation, the beauty, the courage, the contentment--and can only pray that the little boy, like Monica, got to see himself in complete beauty and wholeness of the man he ought to be when all the wounds heal and all the lies lie silent, never to speak again to accuse, shame, or taint his sparkling identity.

Thank you for sharing Monica. I hope one day I can be as sparkly as you at 76 :-)

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Nini, Nini. What a heartwarming response. Thank you. When you get to 76 I'll be well gone, but I promise to tell them there of the good work you are doing here on earth, young Nini! (Please tell me what your lovely name means).

Randall Maarman
Jan 31
Jan 31

You've literally walked the talk and impacted many lives, both directly and indirectly. I am a witness of this: your commitment to education and empowerment. The preventative approach you used in your method to train women and girls to protect themselves....many found their identity and purpose through their association with I Protect Me, the organization you started. Thank you dear aunty Monica. We love and appreciate you!

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Randall, my guide and example. A third my age and full of wisdom, especially helping me to be patient and showing me how to relate to others. Randall, the Chair of www.IProtectMeSouthAfrica.og who has the interest of women and all vulnerable groups deep in his heart. Thank you my brother for your support of us as your sisters throughout your life.

1952blonde
Jan 31
Jan 31

Beautiful prose used so expertly to remind us to look outwardly to the realities of the ugly side of human nature. A powerful reminder to us all to take action to offer protection where we can.

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Thank you so much for reading and responding, my dear sister. I am so grateful for WorldPulse - a place to check our pulse and also to let out our suffering. A place to find healing and to heal. Thank you for being here, my sister.

Regina Afanwi Young
Jan 31
Jan 31

Hello Ma'am Monica. Thanks for your write up. Am sorry you had to go through so much abuse for 10 years. I felt your pain mum when I read your beautiful write but I love your determination to fight for and defend anyone going through any form of violence. Yes you are 76 years old now but you are still full of energy that I can feel through your pen. Thank you ma'am for taking up the commitment to be the voice of the voiceless.
Lots of love from Cameroon.
Regina

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Chère Regina Merci ma soeur! Je garderais vos paroles pour toujours!

I am passionate about helping our women and children protect themselves against abuse. Doing something is the only way we can turn our pain into power. I would love to come to the Cameroon to introduce our training in schools there. Please stay in touch with me and look at www.IProtetMeSouthAfrica.org - we'd love to come to schools in your area! Bless you my sister.

Monica, wow, just wow! I am moved here. As Nini notes this writing is a journey to the light, it feels like in your own sharing and transformation you bring that boy out of the bushes into the light, from the darkness, as you yourself share your light. This feels and reads like transformation. This act of you writing, reflecting and sharing is the doing now in action. Now you do something. It is never too late, we are on this journey and now I feel your resolve, your resilience, your sparkles as Nini notes, and your power. So many children and all us are moved by your power, this is you doing something Monica. Something transformative.

hugs to you from Montreal!
Adriana

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Thank you for your kind, thoughtful, healing words, Adriana. I, too, came from law and am pleased to meet you here on WorldPulse. I hope that you shall continue what you are doing with strength and resilience. I like it that you are combining your passion for human rights with physical wellness. Thank you for being my sister.

billypauson
Jan 31
Jan 31

I met you for the first time. I found in you a woman of virtue and strength. Your passion your tenacity and your drive to make others succeed is beyond comprehension. It is never too late to make a difference in someone’s life. Some people come into our lives to influence others make an impact. You did both. God richly bless you Monica.

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Billy, my brother. Thank you for the strength your words give me. Can we ever thank you enough for what you are doing for the women and children of Port Elizabeth, South Africa? That it is through you that we at www.IProtectMeSouthAfrica.org have our premises to continue the empowerment of women and children to defend themselves against abuse? It is you to whom I stand in gratitude my brother. Thank you for joining us at WorldPulse to enrich our lives and support the work we do. We shall continue to support your work as well. We need more of our brothers here. Thank you brother Billy.

GAIL SAMANTHA HARRIS

My mother-in-law. Such an inspirational figure in my life. In her I see strength and wisdom. What a blessing it is to have her in my life. Your words resonates great power. Persons who read your writing will walk away knowing that they too can make changes in there lives. It is never to late to make a stand against abuse. Much love and admiration. Gail Agulhas

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Thank you my dearest daughter Gail. I have known you since your birth and have seen you grow and am truly grateful that you are sharing this planet with me. I watch you relate to your patients and family and the support you give to everyone, so tiredlessly. Thank you for your encouragement, dear Gail.

ALANZA
Jan 31
Jan 31

Aunt Monica you inspire me to be more and all that I am set out and called to be. To rise above my own fears and by this confidence to inspire others to do the same.
I have great admiration for you and stand in awe of your strength and wisdom . Woman of strength I salute you❤️

Monica Clarke-Bennett

And I salute you, Alanza for being the bright, sparkling woman you are and whom I have the good fortune to be able to call family. Thanks for joining World Pulse. I pray that we shall hear lots more from you, for the strength you have in your needs to be shared with others. Bless you Alanza!

emmerentia saffier
Jan 31
Jan 31

Aunty Monica, when I first met you, you looked at me and saw potential. Thank you for opening the door of opportunities. You are a women of strenght and a strong believer of nothing is impossible that there is no such thing as it cannot be done. Thank you for who you are and for the good work you are doing.

Monica Clarke-Bennett

My dearest Emmerentia how blessed I am that you walked into my life, and showed me how I could've been had I woken up to my own destiny of helping others when I was your age. How fortunate you are to see your path so clearly. Do fill in your profile here. This community needs you and has much to offer. Bless you Moekie.

fionamilligan
Jan 31
Jan 31

Powerful written experience - thank you for sharing, Monica. We at gold-youth are privileged to be partnering with you in your quest to love and empower the youth of our country.

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Dear Fiona

Nice to know you're in the World Pulse community here. I know that the wisdom and experience you bring from South Africa through GoldYouth is much needed around the world, and hope that you will become an active contributor here. Thanks you for your partnership with www.IProtectMeSouthAfrica.org. Together we are supporting our young people to be the fullest young people they can be. Blessings! Monica

Graham Chapman
Feb 01
Feb 01

Powerful words. Perhaps communities may have become closer during the Pandemic and may be more open to acting upon things. I do hope so.

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Dear brother Graham

I'm so pleased to meet you here at World Pulse and that you are bringing your wisdom and passion for to right the wrongs which are so intrinsic within human rights abuses. Please do complete your profile for you are an asset to this community! Thank you for your kind words, Graham. Respect

Lukey
Feb 01
Feb 01

Wow! Wow! Wow! I have to keep reading this- it is extraordinarily honest, beautiful upsetting , challenging.... There are so many levels and as always with you Monica with your thinking, honesty and challenge comes passion and love. Thank you. Lukey xx

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Dearest Lukey - thank you, thank YOU for showing me how to be a caring woman. I am very proud to be known to be your friend and sister. I shall never forget the lessons you taught me when I was an ignorant woman who spoke her pain out of turn and who never said the right things at the right time,. You were there, you, as head of a large inner borough social service, listened to me patiently and showed me how to speak, when to speak and when to shut up and wait for answers. Thank you for your understanding of me then and now, my dear Lukey.

Hello, Monica,

How are you? Welcome back to World Pulse! Wow, you are not just a survivor of abuse, you are a warrior...a warrior who writes! This poem clearly speaks of our silence as consent. As I read the poem, thoughts of childhood experiences came to memory, of how many of our neighbors silently watched and listened as we endured years of trauma. I wished someone was brave enough to say, "STOP!".

It's a powerful poem. It calls the readers to action. I recently learned that we need to find wisdom in identifying when to show kindness and when to stop being enablers. We can't be enablers of abuse.

You are so brave, resilient, and strong. I honor your journey. Thank you for sharing your story.

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Thank you very much for remembering me, Karen. I'm flattered. Thank you also for your very kind words.

I have now stood down as chair of my organisation www.IProtectMeSouthAfrica.org and have more time to donate to my own life. Writing is my passion, so I can use my pen to amplify my voice and those of others.

So I hope to be more active on WorldPulse from now on. Watch this space!

Here's a blessing to you from my ancestors, the Khoikhoi (First People of South Africa): "May you continue to do the work which do so well."

Your sister
Monica

You're welcome, dear Monica! Wow, amazing! Thank you for sharing the link of your organization. Yes, please keep writing because that is the gift you can empower more women and girls!

I look forward to reading more stories from you here. WOW, thank you for giving me a blessing from your ancestors. I receive them with delight and humility. May it be so. Thank you, dear!

Tamarack Verrall
Feb 05
Feb 05

Dear Monica,
My Elder Sister, How inspiring to read your words. What a gift World Pulse is, that it is possible to send love for the pain you endured, celebration for your escape, gratitude for all you have been doing. Not having the strength to act every time is painful, and knowing, not from your story but from the love of those who have had the good fortune to meet you and even work alongside you, who have responded here, I celebrate you, and all that you have done and are doing. We can only hope that the love you sent this young boy was somehow felt by him, and hope for him that he found freedom. It is a powerful call for us all to find a way to action. I am so glad to be connected with you here, and know we are working together.
In sisterhood,
Tam

Monica Clarke-Bennett

Dear Tam

I agree! World Pulse has been a place of golden gifts for me over many years. I need to write about it's magic. When I tell people they stand amazed. Not only has it helped the people at the other end of my conduit, but it has enriched my own life beyond my imagination.

Like you, I am proud to be associated here with you and all our sisters and brothers who are being nurtured here so as to continue to hold hands to leave the world a better place for our children.

Thanks for your encouraging words.

I am equally proud to be connected with you Tam!

Blessings
Monica