The Anatomy of Silence: an anthology speaking out about being silenced

The Anatomy of Silence: An anthology speaking out about being silenced

A powerful, often uncomfortable and incredibly revealing anthology of experiences and essays about being silent or silenced about sexual violence

The idea for this anthology first came to editor Cyra Perry Dougherty late October of 2017, when she called out for essays on an impulsive Facebook post. The toxicity of the presidential campaign in the United States surrounding issues of sexual violence and the surge of #MeToo posts had her thinking about not just how to break our silences, but why the silences exist in the first place and how to get out of the predator/victim telling we see everywhere.

She explains, 'If we are going to put an end to sexual violence, we all need to realize how our words and actions or inactions contribute to a culture of silence that oppresses those who have been hurt and protects those who have hurt, which inevitably perpetuates a cycle of shame and violence. It was an impulsive move to think I could put together an anthology, and yet it seemed necessary to expand the conversation.'

Contributor Andrea Roach says she knows there's a power and healing in speaking your truth. That doesn't mean it's easy. In her own words, 'telling is a weird experience that's both empowering but also distressing when you anticipate the possible negative reactions. And all you do before you tell, and after you tell, is think about possible reactions.'

The first submission proposals for the book came through the initial Facebook post, which was shared widely and led to Red Press coming on board. There followed a round of solicitations, another open call coordinated with the publisher and then the incredibly difficult task of choosing the pieces that would comprise the book. Perrys says 'I was very aware of not wanting to create a brick wall of trauma stories, which meant I was always seeking diverse perspectives and looking for an analysis of silence and understanding of healing—as a writer and editor this was the most daunting task—there is not just one story when it comes to sexual violence and the reasons we're silent. There are so many more kinds of experiences than we could possibly capture in one anthology.'

Stephen Hicks was honoured to contribute and wanted to speak from a vantage point of growth and reflection. He said 'In the essay, I want to acknowledge the many great lessons I have learned from other black men while also recognizing how the traumas our fathers, grandfathers, brothers, and uncles faced affect us in a very real way. This plays out in how we treat others and ourselves.'

With such a raw and personal topic, the selection process – and having to 'reject' essays was incredibly difficult. Perry says 'my work outside of writing is in personal and spiritual development, and in that work, all stories and expressions are validated and all of them belong no matter how raw or undeveloped.' All stories could not be included and Perry worked to support and recognize all voices as best she could.

Why must we have these difficult conversations? Why should we put ourselves through them? Contributor Chelsea MacMillan says that 'just like the #metoo movement, contributing to this book felt empowering and connecting as my voice was lifted along with others. But, as healing as it is to share our stories, something that sometimes gets lost is the why we haven't been heard before.'

And that is exactly what this collection hopes to achieve. As Perry explains, 'I think if we understand the things that stop people from talking about sexual violence, we are less likely to continue to do those things and we are more likely to actually listen to the people all around us who need to be heard and supported as they seek healing… I want us to be asking: what does a culture that promotes connection, healing, and trust look like and how do we work to create it together?'

The Anatomy of Silence is published by Red Press and available from Fri 8 Mar.

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