Trigger Warning: This article contains sensitive narration that may trigger one with similar experiences.
The #16DaysNotEnoughCampaign shares the personal experiences of women who have gone through subtle abuses like gaslighting, crazy-making, pathological lying, excuses, and hypocrisy which has been normalised in our societies. ACTIVATE! Supports the fight against gender-based violence. This is the raw experience of a woman in her own words.
(Writer wishes to remain anonymous)
I want to talk about the men who rape women, and then give them money in exchange for their silence. I want us to have a conversation about the mothers who support their sons in this act. I want us to talk about the fathers who bail their rapist sons out of prison, the uncles who alert and warn their rapist nephews when the police are looking for them. Let’s talk about the aunts who provide shelter to hide rapists in their homes. The homes where their 8 year old daughters stay. Let’s have a discussion about the sisters and brothers who convince an abused wife to drop the charged against their brother who hits her, and then rapes her every night. Let’s discuss the grandmothers who advise women to “keep holding on” or to “hang in there”. The mothers in law who expect women to put up with their abusive sons, they tell young wives to be patient. They expect women to play mother to the sons they babied well into adulthood. Can we talk about our grandfathers who are always ready to mediate and talk things out “the African way”.
In the fight against gender-based-violence or- as President Cyril Ramaphosa termed it- male perpetrated violence, it is important to consider the part we play in perpetuating it. You may think that the part you play is insignificant, but a drop in the ocean seems insignificant until it causes a ripple effect, and a change in the weather is not just one of those to a sailor. If you are a parent and you try to avoid jail time for your rapist sons by bribing the victims, you are teaching your son that it’s okay to go around raping other people’s daughters. What happens then, when he turns around and rapes your granddaughter? The quest to fight male perpetrated violence should override the need to protect our abusive brothers, uncles, sons and fathers. When you pay to bail out your abusive brother from jail, you are telling him that it is okay to go back home and treat his wife like a punching bag. And when you ask the abused wife to “go home to her husband and sort it out”, you are telling her that she deserves a beating. Is this the world you want for your daughters?
How is it that we can sit at home and call out abusive behavior from celebrities, but we fail to keep the people in our own homes in check? When you, as a parent cannot even check your own behavior. Our mothers stand as the biggest defenders of this patriarchy that is one of the root causes of oppressive behavior towards females. They stand as gate keepers by talking to their daughters as if being marriage is the most important thing in the world. Young women grow up thinking that if she does not get married, there is something wrong with her. Our parents, especially the female parents, have perfected patriarchy as we see it today. “Who will marry you if you behave like this?” They ask. Giving their daughters a message that their behavior and their worth will be measured by the existence of a suitor who will find her worthy.
Who calls out bad behavior in boys and men? I ask this question because our parents don’t. They congratulate young boys for impregnating multiple women at once. They pay for their sons to run to another province so that they will not get arrested. They raise sons who don’t know the first thing about respect, and then they expect him to bring home a well behaved wife.
The fight against male perpetrated violence begins at home. What use is marching to parliament in large numbers to ask the government to act, when we ourselves, will not take a stand against our own neighbors? Who are we crying out to, when we stand hand-in-hand with abusive husbands and, instead of looking them in the face to call them out on their behavior, we turn our backs on them and blame the government?
Male perpetrated violence is the responsibility of every man in South Africa. Doing right by the victim is the responsibility of everyone. We are not helping anyone when we try to protect our rapist and abusive sons by asking the victims to fix things “the African way”. The “African” way of fixing this is simply sweeping it under the carpet. I highly doubt that this is the true “African way”, but that’s a story for another day. Today, we play our part and we stand loud and firm, against gender-based-violence. #16DaysOfActivism
ACTIVATE! is a network of young leaders equipped to drive change for the public good across South Africa. Connecting youth who have the skills, sense of self and spark to address tough challenges and initiate innovative and creative solutions that can reshape our society.
On social media:
Facebook: ACTIVATE! Change Drivers