THE SUBTLE MENTAL AGONIES THAT WOMEN GO THROUGH AT THE HANDS OF THEIR INTIMATE PARTNERS

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. 

(Author wishes to remain anonymous)

Someone once explained the whole #MenAreTrash movement as follows, “Women are saying: stop abusing and killing us. Men are saying: not all of us.”

Can you see how disconnected this conversation is? Women are crying out for help, and men are simply defending themselves. Since 1991, more than 6,000 organizations from roughly 187 countries have participated in the 16 days of activism campaign. It is now 2019, 28 years later, and South African men have still not gotten the message. According to UN News, “a third of all women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, half of women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family, and violence perpetrated against women is as common a cause of death and incapacity for those of reproductive age, as cancer, and a greater cause of ill health than road accidents and malaria combined”. Men around the world still think that they can be exempt from taking responsibility for gender-based-violence. They’ve observed from a distance as women organised marches and took on the streets of social media screaming in agony, #MenAreTrash #EnoughIsEnough #AmINext. There has been a consistent counter argument from men, “Not all men”. Sure, this is true in exactly the same way that not all snakes are venomous or even bite, still we watch our back when we encounter a snake.

I want to focus on a particular type of snake… I mean, trash. I mean, abusive man. The type that hides behind religion. This species uses the church as a front. I come from a Christian background, so most of my examples- when I talk about religion- are going to be about Christianity. I want to tell you about the encounter I had with this type of man. He is smooth, he is respectful, he is respected and everyone worships the ground he walks on. In the eyes of his community, he can do no wrong. He’s the kind that would have a solid case in court if everything was reliant on character witnesses. I mean, you never stood a chance against this one. Even as you notice his abusive tendencies, you doubt yourself because it can’t be. Not him, maybe he didn’t realises.

His advances are elaborate, yet subtle. You can tell that you are being pursued, but he’s taking his time. He is so patient, he will do this for a year and more if he has to. He’s mastered the art of gaining respect and making sure that his opinion is important to. You even find yourself seeking counsel from him on certain issues, especially ones that include religion. So, now you have this man in your life. He’s your friend, but not quite. He could be a little more than that, but you’re not going to be forward about this. You allow yourself to be pursued, you let your guard down and you enjoy the attention. He notices, he’s been observing, obviously. So, he starts to lay down the law.

Traces of patriarchy start to seep through the cracks of your daily conversations. He’ll start by telling you how a real woman behaves. He gives you his opinion on how a respectable woman dresses, and how a married woman is not supposed to have friends. Staying indoors is extremely important for women, she needs to be respected if she is to find a husband. You think that this is harmless conversation, he knows that he is laying the law. This, in his mind, is the law that you will have to obey if he’s going to be doing you the favour of dating you. He reckons dating you and even considering marrying you is something you need to be grateful for, he’s a big deal, kaloku.

Before you even realise it, you are apologising for things that don’t make sense. It’s perfidy if you ask for his advice on something and you don’t use it. I once asked this man for advice on a colour of shoes, he liked the red pair better. I ended up buying the black one, he didn’t talk to me for an entire week. You see, I needed to apologise for not listening to him. As a woman, my job is not to think, my job is to listen to and do exactly as he has instructed. Even on matters where he is wrong, he’s never wrong, should I dare point out that he is wrong, my punishment is quick and it is sever.

We were talking about cars from Ford, at one point. Which one of the Ford cars had a technical problem that caused it to explode back in 2016? He was certain that it was the Eco Sport. Naturally, I correct him and tell him that it was the Ford Kuga. His response was, “Ndithe apha kuwe yi Eco Sport, sundiphikisa, ndiyayazi le nto ndithetha ngayo” (I told you that it is the Eco Sport, don’t contradict me, I know what I’m talking about). I obviously Googled the issue and I showed it to him. As soon as he realised that I was not going to let him win this debate, his attitude did a whole 360 on me. It was almost as if the curtain closed and the act was over. He just became silent. My job, when he becomes silent, is to apologise for two days. He doesn’t forgive me immediately, I need to think about what I’ve done.

This is the type of man who will get mad at you for being hurt by the hurtful things he says. The type who will ruin your whole day if you refuse him sex. Everything should be on his terms or not at all. If you fail to meet his ridiculous standards, you’ve failed as a woman. Many people don’t realise it, but this is abusive behaviour. This is violence of the emotions. This is violence that needs to be checked.

For as long as it takes to end gender based violence, I will stand firm in my position. #MenAreTrash and they need to take responsibility.

About ACTIVATE!

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:

Twitter: @ActivateZA

Facebook: ACTIVATE! Change Drivers

Website: www.activateleadership.co.za

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