A few months ago I went on a little holiday in Magaliesberg. It was a weekend break in December. It was gorgeous. Until I had to see him, again. The man who had felt entitled to my body all those years ago. I tweeted my shock and horror and pain from the feeling of my heart and guts being ripped out of my being. A while later I was contacted by Cosmopolitan SA and asked if I would be willing to share the story. I hesitated for a while and finally chose to do it. Continue to break the culture of silence. So I told the story. In neat words. 950 of them. You can read the story in the May issue of Cosmopolitan magazine. It was a painful and cathartic experience to share, and I hope it touches someone and gives them strength. I am healing. And finding my voice.
I am weak from the last week. I am frightened, I am angry, I feel hopeless and helpless. my soul is sore
Last week Sunday I spent most of the day reading newspapers and engaging topics and people on Twitter; this exercise usually involves a lot of diplomatic “fuck off” slinging, debating and arguing on various topics, preaching to the converted, choir like nodding in agreement with different people.
Then I read the City Press ed’s piece about Anene, the young girl who was brutally gang raped and murdered, written by Ferial Haffajee. The writer / journalist titled her editor’s piece “words fail us” and quite aptly, words did fail her. I was fuming because the piece read like yet another rape-apologist finding blame in everybody and everything BUT the perpetrators of the crime. It read, and still reads, like Anene’s upbringing could have saved her from being raped. As though if her guardians had given her a curfew or taken pictures of her she may have not become another victim to this violation. It made my skin crawl, my blood boil and broke my spirit. I and other people engaged Ferial on the piece, to which responses varied from dismissive to not seeing anything wrong with making such dangerous statements, in a national newspaper. Not that it would have been better is she only thought these things and never said them, it all adds to the popular “it was her fault” brigade of rape-apologists and victim blamers and shamers. I’m still so very angry about it.
While I wasted time over-intellectualising the rape pandemic to apologists it turns out my half-sister and my childhood were abducted by nine men, beaten, stabbed and gang-raped in my hometown, Umtata. I still have no words. My heart sank. This wasn’t something happening to ‘other people’, it was a tragedy visiting my family, again.
At the time, when my father didn’t have all the details because my grandmother who was dealing with my sister and friend wasn’t dealing very well and couldn’t pass on the information. In a way I was glad because I was already broken by just the ‘headline’. I cried that night. Cried for my family, for my people, my country. I prayed, with no hope. I asked a God I don’t know to protect my people. I begged a world I do not feel safe in to stop the pain. I haven’t yet decided if I think rapists should rehabilitated or removed from earth.
In the time that it has taken for me to type this so far, someone has been sexually assaulted.
On Monday a very close and wonderful friend of mine fell into a deep darkness after a long while of difficulty and in the hopelessness attempted suicide. I haven’t yet absorbed it and am only concentrating on making sure all love and strength is provided while healing happens. Suicide scares me.
Then came Valentine’s Day. The country, actually the world, was rocked by news of the death by gun shot suffered by Law Graduate and Model, Reeva Steenkamp. Someone’s child was killed. The circumstances of her death are being reported everywhere, with her alleged killer in court. A woman died at the hands of a lover, violently and unnaturally. Another woman was in fear for her life and ultimately died. On Saturday I viewed a few minutes of the reality show she featured in and saw a bit of her wonderful personality I read about. I especially loved this piece about her written by former FHM editor, author and all round wonderful guy, Hagen Engler here. Reeva seemed like a woman so full of life and a common thread in stories about her is how much she still had going for her. I cannot imagine what her family and friends are going through and my thoughts are with them. Human life has no price and as with rape, I don’t see any viable reason to kill someone. (I might retract that statement one day). I hope for justice for her and other women harmed by people they trust.
The media circus can continue without me on this particular mess, I just hope we don’t forget that someone’s child was killed. Someone’s friend is dead. A life has been taken and will only continue in memory.
Last week we also found out that yet another person in power found it suitable to act selfishly and pilfer state funds; not for use to better the country through the portfolio in her care, but rather to beautify her office. This continue to fuel my anger. With Rape Crisis Organisation without funding, Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities (i.e. everyone the country doesn’t care about) Lulama Xingwana is reported to have spent R2.100 000.00 (that’s two point one million South African Randelas) redecorating her office. Was this necessary in a time that the people you are in charge of taking care of are in crisis? Really?
As you know, the website created to help break the culture of silence and offer survivors of rape and sexual abuse a safe place to share their story, I SAID NO, is up and running. On average we get about two or three stories a week. Last week, with the great help of media personalities Anele Mdoda through her radio show and Noeleen Maholwana-Sangqu through her tv show we received over 50 stories. This is obviously not something to celebrate. The fact is, rape and sexual abuse happens. Sandy Schultz and myself have created this website as a place to share and engage. Some people find healing, some people find support, some people just want to tell someone. the website is there for that. I guess we are starting somewhere. The heartbreaking part is having to read each and every horrifying post before publishing. Sometimes I tremble in pain for the people who share, I cry and want to crawl into a hole and escape this world. I feel helpless. Sometimes I don’t even want to read the posts, but I figure if someone had the strength to talk about it, the very least I can do is be there. Sometimes I reply with words of encouragement. Lately I have not been able to. It hurts so much. So very much. I wish we had a better resource list so that we could direct people to professional and specialised sources of help.
Friday, Twitter SA showed its disgusting side with a foul and utterly unnecessary trending topic titled “I Blame Apartheid for” – where a majority of white South African people had a jolly good time making Apartheid jokes. Do I need to explain why this is disgusting? Maybe when I can no longer smell the blood on my street where my uncle was beaten and abducted by Apartheid police, and later brutally murdered, I can tell you. Not now. Not when my country is still broken by the injustice and crime that was Apartheid Not while transformation and equality and economic freedom is still myth. Not while people live on less than R500 a month without toilets. Not while townships and squatter camps still exist. Not while we are not free as a people.
Last week, and almost every week in my beautiful country is threaded with the bile that is misogyny patriarchy, entitlement. disrespect and privilege.
Another week of a broken people. Hurt people hurting people.
I woke up in country filled with possibility, bloodied with pain.
In the time that it has taken for me to type this so far, someone has been sexually assaulted.
To quote Mandy Weiner – “South Africa repeatedly produces material that a best-selling crime writer could never conceptualise.”
Rape is in the news, on fingertips, tongues and screens and people are expressing their outrage and ‘shock’ and dismay and sadness.
A few days ago I saw my timeline filled with tweets about this and that and rape being wrong and that pledges must be signed, that marches must be organised, that we need to talk… then something in me saw red and I proceeded to tweet rant.
I am bored to death with talk. I am bored to death with marches that are convenient. I am bored to death with the tip toe-ing around the issue. I am bored to death with the diplomatic route. I am ready for us to really make a stand, make shit happen.
So here, are some of my tweets.
What ideas do you have as to making a real difference to make rape stop and while it happens, it be taken seriously and not just an issue that happens to ‘others’. If we can block roads for e-tolls, surely we can have a week of TOOLS DOWN, block roads, stop productivity and cripple the economy even if just for a day so that we and our government can take rape, counselling, prosecution and education seriously enough to do something IMMEDIATELY?
You, reading the headlines and stories in our newspapers about the daily violations
You, whose daughter has been violated
You, whose son has been violated
You, the one who has been raped or sexually abused
You, who knows someone (we all do)
You, the one who doesn’t know what to do, who to talk to, where to go
You, who has been let down by the system
You, who has not spoken out
I know you are hurting.
If you or someone you know want to share your story / see how other people are coping, there is a place
There is a place to find resources and help centres
There is a place to break the silence
|Image by Talitha Rabie of FrostedBerry Design|