This year's 16 Days campaign seems to be slipping by quietly, a little bit like death in the night – an apt metaphor for violence against women and children. In one sense the silence is almost forgivable. 2016 has been such an unbelievably shitty year, it's starting to become a bit difficult to focus on any one particular pile of crap. But then, this aired on Morrocan TV:
Read our coverage of the Moroccan television segment on how to hide signs of domestic abuse - blogs editor.
In case you didn't catch the general message there between all the Arabic, that is a video tutorial for women on how to use makeup to hide the bruises after being beaten. While it is completely understandable that women might want to cover up, the bigger issue is that it SHOULDN'T BE NECESSARY IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Do I sound angry? I'm sorry. Let me clarify. I AM angry. I alone know at least four women who have been victims of domestic violence, myself included. Chances are pretty good you know at least one as well, though you might not know it. Domestic violence is notoriously underreported and the trend is worsening. Low conviction rates make it even less likely that women will report. Between the high chance of acquittal and the extreme likelihood that her abuser/rapist is a close relative or friend, things don't look all that promising.
Oh no wait, that doesn't look too bad! A 69 percent conviction rate has got to mean something, right? NOPE. There were 43,195 reported rapes in 2014/15. That's not even accounting for all the other forms of domestic violence. Like, how do you even report emotional and psychological abuse? The South African government is very much aware that it exists and is indeed a recognised form of violence, but makes no mention of how to deal with it in their guidelines on what you can do if you have been abused.
Most women cover their abuse up, with makeup, with silence, with long absences from work and social gatherings. Some become so good at it that nobody even notices that something's not right. But domestic violence can and most often does have a profound effect on the victim, especially when it comes to mental health.
Children can suffer from a whole range of developmental and other problems, even if they just see a parent or family member being abused. I had this conversation a while ago with someone who told me about their adopted three-year-old bullying her twin sister. The one little girl had always seen her biological father beat her mother, while the other was never present. Anecdotal evidence, I know, but it hit me hard that at such a young age that girl had already been exposed to that experience. The good news is the girl has been removed from the situation and is now seeing a child psychologist. The bad news is that her story is far too common.
I'm tired of shutting up and staying silent. The silence in my past still haunts me. Let's do this thing, right, where we scream bloody murder in any way we can until this stops. Write, share articles on Facebook and Twitter, talk loudly, paint something angry, sign a petition if you must, scream in a field full of daisies if that helps you focus. Tell the women in your life that they deserve the best in life. Never blame someone for being in a relationship that is terrible for them. Listen, try to understand, read (good) articles on the internet about domestic violence and do what you can to help. And if you're reading this because you've got something you're not ready to talk about, I get it. Take your time, and when you're ready to fight, join the war against violence against women and children. 16 days isn't enough. This is a full-time job, and we need all the help we can get.