“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.” This quote by William Faulkner is inspiring and yet challenging.
There are many people who have raised their voices and were silenced. The less “important” these people were, the quicker they were silenced. They became victims by acting against injustices.
The situation is even worse if these people were the victims in the first place. If they speak up against injustices, their genuine arguments and their voice of honesty and truth can easily be distorted by others and seen as a form of retribution or personal revenge.
That’s when advocacy is needed. Advocacy derives from the Latin word “advocare”, which can be translated to “call to aid” or “intercede”. The word ‘lawyer’ in Roman languages is based on this word and concept.
What is the difference between speaking up yourself and having someone else speak up for you?
The difference is huge.
When we think of legal arguments, the advocate would be seen as a person who knows the laws, who knows what is legally right or wrong, and who has ideally taken up the defence because they believe in the innocence of the victim. The arguments would be based on facts while, at the same time, knowing how to convince the jury or the judge.
When we think of supporting a victim outside of courts, the advocate could be anyone who knows how to create awareness for the victim’s situation and to support their journey towards justice. This kind of advocacy can be compassionate and even emotional.
The more personal the crime against a victim has been, the more difficult it is usually for them to speak up. If they then also have to fight against a powerful perpetrator, many victims don’t even try to speak up. They are afraid of gas-lighting, fearing that they would have to re-live the crime and take the risk of not being believed. The result would be a damaged reputation in addition to the harm that was suffered before. If the accusation had reached the public sphere, it is likely that the victim will be branded as ‘the one who accused X, but whose accusation was rejected’.
The silence doesn’t mean that the victim has overcome the crime. If a victim moves on with their life, that doesn’t mean that the crime is not haunting them still.
This raises another important issue. How shall the victim behave in order to be credible?
If the victim can’t cope with the trauma, they might fall into depression or mental illness and lead an ‘unsuccessful’ life in the public opinion. Would this person be taken seriously when they come up with an allegation years later? Some people might argue that the person speaks up because they have been unsuccessful in life (rather than acknowledging that they might have been unsuccessful due to the trauma) and is now trying to gain attention and/or money from the alleged perpetrator.
If the victim manages to live their lives as if nothing had ever happened to them, ignoring the reasons for nightmares, traumas, or broken relationships, society might consider them as a successful person. Would this person be taken seriously when they come up with an allegation years later? Some people would argue that the person didn’t look like a victim, has apparently never suffered and had a special vendetta against the alleged perpetrator – why else would they only speak up after many years?
Both scenarios are hopeless without an advocate, without a person who is at their side, fighting for justice.
Raising your voice against injustices requires courage. Raising your voice for someone else when you discover bullying at your workplace, can put you at risk of losing your own job or that you won’t be considered for a promotion you had worked for.
Being known as someone who speaks up, makes you unemployable for some employers.
Not everyone can openly act as advocate. If someone’s livelihood depends on a certain job that might be endangered, you can’t ask of them to speak up openly and risking their job.
If a person is in this situation, they need to be able to entrust any concerns to another advocate.
Yet, preventing any bullying immediately creates a healthy and productive environment. It is important to nip bullying in the bud.
I remember an older lady once saying to me: “The best thing about being retired and receiving a pension is that you can speak the truth. You can speak against injustices openly without risking your job or your reputation. Seniors have the power to speak up for justice.”
If we were all raising our voices for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice, this would certainly change the world. The more power we have, the more responsibility we have to change the world in a positive way.