Have you ever screamed for help to the point where your voice trails off? Your throat dries up and instead of being as loud as you had hoped you only just whisper. You then take these huge sighs, exasperated, because you have no idea what to do with yourself.
No? Well, be glad you haven’t.
As for some of us that have, that feeling of helplessness and being on the verge of giving up, is exactly what it feels like to constantly scream against the rising violence happening to women in this country. Society just sort of gasps in shock at these crimes; “OMG, a woman was beheaded in Tlokweng” and then swiftly moves on to the next headline. “Oh No! A woman was raped and murdered in Jwaneng” and they are off to the next meme. I am not making up these horror stories for the theatrics of making a point. These are actual crimes that happened right here at home. In fact, there is more; of recent, a 27 year old woman in Mahalapye died from being stabbed several times with a sharp instrument, and another 31 year old woman in Matsiloje was stabbed to death on her neck twice with a sharp instrument. All that blood spilled and yet we just are reduced to casual reminders of how deeply decayed our society has become.
In 2017 alone, there was a record of 700 rapes reported by mid-year. Moreover, recent police statistics showed a staggering 40 women raped per week! It’s important to bear in mind that these terrifying numbers are only reported cases. Some of our Sisters stay silent because they are afraid of undergoing the scrutiny of “what they did to deserve it” along with other forms of treatments that suggest the blame lies solely with the victim. We keep taking a thousand steps back because on the other side of the spectrum are people that stand on this moral high ground with comments like “Well, what did she do to provoke him?” The reality is, when we fight this fight, it goes beyond the individual. It is about our fallen sisters, so their deaths are not in vain. It is about the upcoming generation, so they don’t have to plead and beg for their lives the way we do. It is about you, because no one is above the misfortune of a man deciding that you don’t deserve to see the light of another day. The faster we realise that this is a fight, only then we win in unity and the more we’ll make significant strides towards a safe environment for us as women.
Well, we are here now, and no amount of finger pointing is going to get us out of this one. The question is, how do we move forward? We need to start by creating an environment that’s conducive for victims of gender based violence and sexual assault to come forward and seek help. We can only do that if we shift from assigning blame to the victim and learn to listen to them without judgement or prejudice. Only if we listen will we be able to offer the means for some of our women to leave abusive relationships before it is too late, before social media explodes with yet another #RIP and chants of men are trash.
How about we become the “just and caring” nation we aspired to be. We also need to become proactive and address the problem from the root. Finding perpetrators and tightening laws are all good efforts but they are reactive solutions that only address the symptoms. If we continue acting only when blood is spilt we will always find ourselves in this vicious cycle of passing on the problems we inherited from one generation to the next. What will break this cycle is teaching our boys consent in the same breath we teach the young girls to be careful out there. We also have to make emotional intelligence an integral part of our curriculum because evidently, we have grown people unable to handle their emotions and resorting to irrational behaviour. Killing your partner and burying them inside your house for whatever twisted reason, is an instance of irrational behaviour. Again, this actually happened in Tlokweng sometime in July 2018
The stories are haunting I know, but we must tell them nonetheless. People need to be taught the importance of mental health, take corrective measures, and stop taking out their traumas on our sisters. Perhaps that’s when we will see a difference, a decline in violence against women and maybe even a decline in violence altogether.