6 minute read

Women’s Month | Victim of GBV speaks out about victim shaming and cyberbullying

By Investigative Team

“Women must be cared for all the time, not just on a special day or month."

After surviving an alleged violent kidnapping, a local woman has had to endure having her case and story belittled on social media as the trial continues. She cannot be named at this stage.

Recounting the incident, she said she didn’t realise at first what was happening because she trusted the man she was with.

“When I realised that this was really happening to me, I panicked and tried to get him to stop the vehicle, but that only made the situation worse as he was getting more aggressive and had already brandished a tazer and threatened me with it.”

I then realised the only way to prevent further harm to myself was to calm down and avoid provoking him further.

“I think in a situation like that it is important to remember that even though you want to fight back, it is wise to comply because you don’t really know what their intentions are and you don’t want to make things worse,” she said.

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She added that she feared the worst and did not think she was going to be found.

“I thought this was it for me. I thought I was not going to see any of my friends or family again. When I managed to get away, it was one of the best feelings ever,” said the victim.

She was found by SAPS members after the report of her kidnapping was circulated widely by local media.

Relieved at being reunited with her friends and family, she thought the nightmare was over and the only road ahead was her fight for justice.

She did not anticipate becoming a victim all over again after she started being victim-shamed on social media.

“My family kept me off social media because I had become the target of a so-called ‘influencer’ who knew nothing about me or what happened, but chose to victim shame me and made it seem like I had asked for it.”

I was already in such a state mentally after the ordeal I went through, the victim shaming and cyber bullying completely shattered me.

“No [victim] deserves to go through that. What was worse was that women were joining in the social-media bullying. I was advised not to comment or to make any contact with this influencer as I did not owe any explanation, although I had so much to say.

“I was furious! Imagine watching someone making videos and running your name through the mud and making memes about you and your ordeal and you can’t do anything [to defend yourself] out of fear of them using it against you and taking it out of context.”

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She said she had to go for counselling and has suffered with anxiety and depression ever since.

“My advice to anyone who has experienced this trauma is to just be patient with yourself. I am still on chronic medication. You are allowed to have good and bad days, and some days you will feel worse.

“You will feel like nothing has meaning anymore, but self-care and self-love is important. Do nice things for yourself; get your hair or nails done, it is those simple things that make you feel slightly better about yourself, especially when you feel you have no self-confidence left.

“[Recovery] is a long process and not an easy road, but as long as you have faith in yourself to overcome it, you will. Trust in yourself, you have survived.

“And you must remember that none of this is your fault and you did not ask for it. Surround yourself with a strong structure. Have people who you can turn to when you feel like you cannot go on. Don’t give up. Stay strong and don’t allow the abuser to see the effect they have left on you.

“I have to face my abuser every time I go to court and it takes every ounce of me strength just to show up, but I do it because I want justice, regardless of the smug face I have to look at each time.

“You cannot let them get the satisfaction of seeing you broken down because that’s what they want to see,” she said.

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She said that the issues women endure and GBV victims go through should not just be highlighted at certain times of the year, like Women’s month, as these issues are realities experienced daily.

Women must be cared for all the time, not just on a special day or month. Instead of just praising women on these special days, we have to raise more awareness on GBV and all the negative things women endure. It is disappointing that these continue.

“It is never okay to laugh or ridicule victims because of what they experienced. To those who think victim shaming is okay, you don’t know the impact you have with your single comment. You may think it is all funny and laugh, but if it were you on the other end, your opinion would be different.

“Some people don’t have that support structure to fall back on and you may be the reason that person ends up harming themselves or worse, because they read your comment and could not deal with what was being said.

“I urge people to think before commenting on a post [that lends itself to] victim shaming. If you do see such posts, don’t add to them, rather support the victim and send them your best wishes, because that’s what they need the most.

“Let the law do its job,” she said.

She said she is still working through her own trauma, but would love to help victims in the future.

In fact, I have given some thought to joining the SAPS for the sole purpose of helping women who have been through this.

“I hope my story helps someone out there. I would to thank the SAPS, and Capital Newspapers for their media coverage, and my family and friends who have been a constant pillar of strength to me.

“I also thank all my Facebook friends who stood by me during my tough times being victim-shamed. Even though I have never met any of you, I thank you for all your support.”

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As for influencers who use their platforms to victim shame and bully others, it is absolutely disappointing.

“Their apologies should be as loud as their disrespect. If you don’t post positivity, then you are not an influencer, you are just a bully with a following,” she said.