19. Nov, 2017

Children should be seen and not heard!

As children, there are many things in life that we have no control over. These things are within the power of others, to help or harm us.

“Children should be seen but not heard.” This saying has been around for a very long time.


“In the original form of this proverb, it was specifically young women who were expected to keep quiet. This opinion is recorded in the 15th-century collections of homilies written by an Augustinian clergyman called John Mirk in Mirk's Festial, circa 1450:

           “Hyt ys old Englysch sawe (saying or proverb): A mayde schuld

            be seen, but not herd. (a maid should be seen and not heard).

            Taken from: www.phrases.org.uk on 14/November 2017.

A couple more sayings…

Thackeray in Roundabout Papers (1860-63) still has: "Little boys should not loll on chairs...Little girls should be seen and not heard."

“In silence I must take my seat,...
I must not speak a useless word,
For children must be seen, not heard.“~B.W. Bellamy, Open Sesame, vol. 1, p. 167. (1915). Quoted as Table Rules for Little Folks.


In my generation 50’s-60’s, we were told, “not to speak unless spoken to,” “Go outside and play while the adults talk.” “Don’t be a tittle-tattle” etc.

We had no voice, as children.

As we move on into our teenage years, we have been conditioned, not to tell. Indeed, this gave power to those in our world. Even if we did try to tell when things went wrong, or someone was hurting us, we were dismissed, especially if the offender was known to our parents or those in authority over us.

A friend of mine told me her story and how she resolved it herself when others didn’t hear her cry for help. I print this with her permission…

“I was 15-16 years old, a member of a band, chorus, and other school activities. This required after-school pickups to get home, as there was no transportation system in a rural area. My sister and my neighbours helped me out greatly.

However, at one point, my sister's husband picked me up a few times and although he never touched me, he exposed his private parts in the car. I tried not to notice and prayed that nothing bad would happen. The first and second time, I just pretended not to notice; however, on the third time, I jumped out of the car when we arrived home and I was very upset. I was afraid something bad would happen if I didn’t say something. I told my mother first and she dismissed it. I told her again whilst my sister was present. They dismissed it as impossible. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to go to my school activities but I felt afraid. I was so upset that the same woman (my Mother,) who called me her "golden child,” or “miss goody two shoes,” would be dismissed so easily. I asked some other people I knew to take me to the different practices so that I never needed to depend on my sister and her husband again.

It tainted our familial relationships for many years. My biggest disappointment is with my mother, who saw how afraid I was, heard my fears and chose not to listen. She never took the time to investigate the truth.”

Child Sexual Abuse changes family life, it’s inconvenient and it challenges relationships that many of us fear losing should we be put in a position where we are forced to confront a person about a child’s fears; or indeed, revelations about another person’s behaviour toward our child. After a confrontation, we are put in an unpleasant situation where we have to deal with denial, lies, deceptions and finding the truth. There are so many losses and broken trust and maybe court cases. It’s by far, easier to not listen than to walk through the battleground of getting to the truth and then the years of restoration for a child.

Then, of course, there are people in organisations that have the power to not allow the truth to be heard.

This is my story when I was at the Good Shepherd Convent. There were terrible things going on, I was afraid and I sent a letter to my Social Worker.  There was a months delay after I wrote it because I believe, the nuns held onto it. I waited for help; it never came. What I got instead, was a dismissive letter back from the Social Worker; consequently, it never got resolved, I was never heard, even though I tried to tell…

“I was wondering if you could come and see me as it is important. At the moment I am feeling a bit upset about everything and I want to talk it over with you that is if you have the time to come and see me. I can’t really say what I have to tell you in a letter so please come and see me.”

Her response…

“I am sorry that there has been a delay in replying to your letter but it took a long time to reach me through some oversight.”

Sometimes, it is not safe to tell while we are children, and many times we don’t know whom to tell when we grow up. However, it’s okay to tell your story now; in fact, it’s vital to your healing to tell your story.  It’s in telling our story to someone that truly hears us, we are validated and our worth is restored… and the healing begins.

It’s safe, and private, to get in touch with a survivor group, where others are walking the healing journey; or likewise, talk to a professional to help unravel your story.