The Strength in Silence ~ by Anonymous

When I tell people about escorting, I sometimes get told, “I don’t think I could do that.”  People often cite a reason that has to do with self-restraint.  They don’t feel that they could stand without engaging, or resist getting angry, or even resist hurting a protester.

Yes, it can take a lot of self-control and inner strength to hold back responses to the protesters.  They are very skilled in finding just the right words, just the right comments, to get escorts to respond.  The things that they say can range from surprising to absurd to infuriating.  It takes strength to not call out their illogical fallacies, to not voice a pro-choice perspective to counter their anti-choice perspective, or to not respond to a personal attack.

In addition to what we hear, we also see a lot of things that make it hard to stay quiet.  We see protesters harassing clients and their companions, we see protesters bringing young children with them to the sidewalk, and we see graphic visual displays mounted on posterboard.  The things we hear and the things we see can tap all the inner resources we have.  Sometimes it feels like an oddly adult version of the game that kids often play called “not touching you, not touching you!”  In this game, one child gets all up in another child’s face and taunts them, with the goal to get the other child to respond.

Silence can be exhausting.

I have also heard people express frustration at silence, and I think it is because they see it as a form of non-response.  Why not sing a peaceful song, to counter the endless “Ave Maria” from the protesters, or to drown out their yelling and preaching?  Why are we just STANDING there, why don’t we do something?  Why are we letting them get away with this?  Why are we doing nothing?

Silence can be frustrating.

But I have also come to realize that there is strength *in* silence.  This seemingly small shift in perspective has changed how I view my role on the sidewalk.  When I realized my silence on the sidewalk was empowering me to stand strong for clients, it suddenly became easier to keep my mouth shut and keep my stare distant.

I realized that as an escort, I am not standing on the sidewalk to represent my pro-choice values or any other values, nor am I there to provide a reality-check to protesters (as much as they may need one).  My job on the sidewalk is to provide space for clients to be empowered as they walk to the clinic doors.  Responding to protesters creates noise.  Singing, regardless of it being from protesters or escorts, creates noise.  By staying silent, the volume is kept down, providing a quieter environment for clients to walk through.

Silence is also strengthening to me when I am just standing on the front lines without any clients around.  The protesters want nothing more than to control the conversation, and they are astonishingly good at finding words that provoke angry and intense feelings.  Their goal is to engage, to start an argument, to raise both emotions and the general sidewalk volume.  But when I stay silent, I control the conversation.

Silence is not doing nothing.

Yelling at the protesters, holding up pro-choice signs, or engaging in our own chants might (on the surface) appear to be doing something, but not when I remember that my primary job on the sidewalk is to provide space for client empowerment. My job is to foster a sidewalk environment that is calm, peaceful, and quiet.

I cannot control what the protesters do.  But I can control my reactions to what they do.  And when I react by standing silent (instead of thinking about it as not reacting), I am doing my job.

Silence is an active choice that I make.

This shift in perspective doesn’t mean it is perfectly easy for me to stay silent.  I sometimes respond to the protesters in my mind.  It helps when I realize that their ranting would continue almost exactly the same if I said my response out loud (in other words, my responses would not change their dialogue!).  If something they say really gets on my nerves, I have found it helpful to lean over and whisper about it to another escort.  I also know that I always have the option to step away for as long as I need.  I do not want to imply that escorting is an easy walk in the park!

I also cannot speak for all escorts, as there are some escorts who are able to successfully talk to the protesters without voices and emotions escalating.  This is only my perspective. But for me, silence does not sap my strength.  Rather, I have found strength in silence.

15 thoughts on “The Strength in Silence ~ by Anonymous

  1. I could not keep silent when a young man asked me if we got paid for being escorts. I said “no” and then he really became obnoxious. I will do better next time.

    • Linda,

      Non-engagement is a goal, but since we are only human it is a goal not always attainable.

      Thanks,
      Servalbear

    • Linda – I think it’s easy for us to feel badly when we break silence (forgive me if I’m reading too much into your comment!). That’s an interesting point though, that sometimes it’s somehow easier to keep quiet when they are just ranting, but somehow more tempting to respond when it is a question like that. I think they go for questions like that for that very reason – they’re openers. Once the escort says “no”, then they’ve got their “in” to dig deeper and get louder.

      However, it is easy to play armchair quarterback and quite another thing to think through these scenarios on the sidewalk. 🙂 Sometimes I am tempted to respond but it helps when I remind myself that they are not trying to get information but rather to engage me in a fight and also…they can always Google it if they really want to know!

  2. I read thru all the archives here before coming to escort the first time. I made up my mind that was going to be my strategy too. My friends and family find it funny that I can keep my mouth shut anywhere. But they also know I am as stubborn as they come and if I have made up my mind not to talk to someone it is going to be so.

    • Exactly! Nothing they say can get me to talk. I think being silent does require a certain stubbornness, in a way.

  3. Best to treat the screaming, bullying and obnoxious “sidewalk counselors” like toddlers throwing a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. Ignore them!

    • Very true – their pouting, whining, and temper tantrums are quite reminiscent of toddlers. If only they realized this!

  4. I’m going to the clinic tomorrow morning. I’m terrified to walk through the crowd. But I’m so relieved to know that there are people like you guys here to help. Thank you so much.

    • Nervous in Louisville,

      We will be there tomorrow to walk you to the door. We are glad we can be there for you and other clients.

      Thanks,
      Servalbear

    • Nervous in Louisville – thank you for sharing, and thank you also for the kind words. As Servalbear said, the escorts will be there to help you tomorrow morning in whatever way you need.

      Wishing you strength and peace,
      -Anonymous

  5. Thank you for this perspective. This is a subject that has been discussed the past week in depth by the escorts at our clinic. I have found silence very empowering and do not reply even when the antis try to engage in an ordinary conversation. I have found that this really frustrates them. One of them Saturday said, “Aren you going to answer me?”
    The other thing mentioned was that the lack of singing and chanting helps keep a peaceful environment. It also allows me to take usable videos of the antis to provide to the authorities if needed..
    I so appreciate your posts which provide so much information and support in our escorting efforts.

    • Josie,

      I told the escort that wrote this it was clearly describing the learning arch I went through in escorting. They really explained clearly why non-engagement is the way to go. I don’t even answer when they say, “Good morning.” I used to when I started escorting, but found that is just an opening gambit to further conversation. We practice the 1,000 yard stare and walk away if their attempts at engagement become too aggressive.

      We are glad our blog helps in your escorting efforts.

      Thank you,
      Servalbear

    • Thank you, Josie (and thank you for your escorting work as well). I agree that the silence does frustrate them! So in a small way, it’s kind of satisfying to frustrate them through silence. That’s a good point about silence also helping with getting evidence videos if needed.

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