I'm reeling. I'm angry. I'm heartsore. It has been a particularly bad week for women and children. Harvey Weinstein, Hollywood producer, stands accused of raping, and sexually assaulting many women in the movie industry. It takes one or two women to brave the cold face of rageful powerful men in large corporations and industries, to allow the many other women to begin chattering and sharing their stories. Just like they did with Bill Cosby.
The whispering network has always carried the story of Harvey Weinstein. Over the years his company paid out millions of dollars to shut women up. Which means that the men and women who worked for him and who facilitated the process of sexual assault by bringing women up to his hotel suites, where he was waiting for bright eyed innocent women, either naked or dressed only in a bathrobe, waiting downstairs to sign them on, and escort them out the building, knew and held silence .
And today the silence of men who surrounded him, who work in Hollywood, is the largest missing voice that I hear. No man is upstanding for these women. In their silence they align themselves with sexual assault and patriarchy.
And close to home my life is this week disrupted by more than the usual violence happening to women and children. I listen intently to the trial of Jason Rohde, who allegedly killed his intimate partner. His lover was once my estate agent! I shudder at the closeness of violence in our personal lives. I have a stomach that churns as I listen to testimony in the trial in which 118 psychiatric patients died as a result of the Esidimeni tragedy.
But then the news from Soweto arrives and my brain lights up, my body collapses as I cringe and tear at the injustice of this most violent of crimes: abuse of school children within the so called safety of the school, and the silence of those who knew. You see the themes repeating themselves, right? People in power, be they Harvey Weinstein or a 50 something-year-old man who has on a uniform and by virtue of this and his age, has a lot more power than the children he was employed to protect, surrenders to his low self esteem, or perhaps his sexual proclivity for young children, and abuses them in the most heinous manner.
87 young children between the ages of 6 and 14 were sexually violated. Once again, it took one or two brave young girls to tell mom/grandmom, to give the rest of the children permission to talk. Or perhaps it gave their moms/grandmoms the much needed courage to actually ask their children about their sexual safety.
Mostly, are you men ready yet to take on responsibility for your privilege, patriarchy and entitlement? Are you ready to man up and be an up stander and stop men who behave like dicks towards women and children?
What is equally revolting for me is that the principle and school knew about this and kept quiet and also discouraged pupils from talking about it or reporting it to their parents.Talk about adding trauma to trauma, this is what it looks like: Asking a child to hold such a big secret is sure to concretise her trauma.
Are we comfortably numb about abuse to women and children? I know this is not true. We are stuck in not knowing what to do about violence against women and children. Daily we are bombarded by facts of an incompetent and untrustworthy police and judicial system. No way do we believe we will be heard and justice will be done. What to do with your own abuse or abuse of someone you know? We remain silent.
I judge this not. There is a process a woman/child/man goes through soon after the abuse occurs: trauma begins and lingers in different forms, for life. The shame settles in and remains for life -- a constantly recurring question of "Maybe it was my fault." A recurring running though the abuse, a regret at not acting differently, of retracing the steps over and over again. Or a complete disassociation of memory. But the feelings of guilt and shame remain. And hold us silent.
Are we shocked enough to teach our children to talk to us as parents/caretakers/teachers about anything that feels personally uncomfortable and invasive? Mostly, are you men ready yet to take on responsibility for your privilege, patriarchy and entitlement? Are you ready to man up and be an up stander and stop men who behave like dicks towards women and children?
Are we ready to insist on comprehensive sexuality education in schools that include gender work, consent, critical thinking skills and building high enough self esteem, so when that pussy comes to get you in the boardroom or school ground, you can do what our Police Minister advises.