This past weekend the newspapers carried five stories about women suffering untold violence at the hands of men. The violence isn’t only the physical type but brutal sexual assaults as well. The strangest thing, though, is that none of the men who allegedly committed these crimes are behind bars. They live among us. Even worse, we elect them to positions of power within society as though rewarding them for their crimes against women.
We love appearing as though we are doing something about this violence against women and children. After all, there is a government ministry dedicated to the plight of women, even though none of us can point at one major accomplishment of that department since it was established.
Our society has relegated cases of abuse against women to a level where it is normalised. Women have been socialised into being ashamed of raising the subject of their abuse because “family matters are not meant to be raised in public.” It is not unusual for woman who raise alarms to be asked the question: “But what did you do to provoke him?”
Two women have alleged that the most powerful man in SA football has sexually assaulted them. Both of them have opened rape cases against him and investigations are ongoing. But because we hate our women so much, that man was returned to his position of power this weekend. Elected unopposed. It is hardly surprising, though, because it’s not like it is the first time we have rewarded a man accused of sexual assault with a powerful position. We even elected one to be our president for two terms.
The embattled head of our tax collecting institution Tom Moyane allegedly kicked the teenage partner of his son kung-fu style. Although yet to appear in court for the alleged assault, this is a narrative that fits perfectly in our society that hates women. Our society will pursue Moyane vigorously for his other alleged misdemeanours but he will most probably never lose his powerful position for the violence he allegedly visited upon the teenage girl who bore him a grandson. As one caller into a radio station has already summed up our collective hate for women: “What was the teenage girl doing at Moyane’s house in the first place?”
We shame the victims into believing they are the cause of the violence that men perpetuate. Jennifer Ferguson, Danny Jordaan’s accuser, will find out just how much our society hates women if her case does get to court. She might even get told she invited the sexual assault because she let her attacker into her hotel room.
Our society shames women who report abuse so much that they would rather live with abuse for fear of the stigma this society attaches to those who dare speak out.
Until our society brings the country to a standstill when a Mduduzi Manana is re-elected onto the ruling party’s NEC and is allowed to continue as a public representative after being convicted of publicly assaulting women, we are not ready to do anything about our hate for the one half of humanity.
When society starts shaming abusive men, instead of further traumatising the abused women, we will be on our way to dealing with men’s headspace that continues to make them think it is okay to abuse women.