Cause of Death: Silence

Today morning, I was woken up by the sound of screams and shouting, “Niuue! Niuue!”. A woman in the neighbourhood was being beaten by her husband and, because I have been transcribing mental health stories, I thought I was dreaming about a person having a psychotic break.

My mother told me I wasn’t dreaming because she asked me if I could hear the noise. A bit of me wondered if I had inadvertently gaslighted a woman I didn’t know by thinking her mad.

I remembered something that happened when I was a child. My mother had told me the story of a colleague who would come to work with bruises and say she had been hit by a door or a window. One day, she confronted her and told her, “Your husband is battering you. Don’t protect a perpetrator. Leave this man.”

At 10, with this story in mind, I spoke to a neighbour who I had heard being beaten at night. What happened to your eye, I asked. The tap hit me. Don’t lie, I told her, you were beaten by your husband. Then I said the very thing my mother had told her colleague.

I believe silence kills. The things my neighbour said this morning made clear the fact that this was not the first time it had happened. Because she spoke, neighbours intervened and she got to see a new day.

Silence kills. When you are going through a tough time in your life, scream, shout, at the top of your lungs. Not just in circumstances of domestic violence, but in instances of distress, of pain, of anguish.

Silence kills. We need to learn to lift the voices of our friends, our families, our neighbours. Because my neighbour spoke, and people showed up to hear her, she is alive. If someone comes to you, listen to them. Their silence may kill them.

Silence kills. Speak up and save a life.

Note: This post is part of #CuminWrites366, my year-long attempt to write a post a day. Find the rest over at

Questions, comments, suggestions or a way to break the silence? Send them to



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