Today has been triggering.
#menaretrash + #notallmen + #metoo + #aminext all came together as distinct and strong hashtags in divergent and competing camps in different combinations and with lines between them blurred. When all those hashtags first trended around whatever circumstances they were triggering enough so in combination they are just….!
Uyinene Mrwetyana (19) was brutally murdered on August 24, 2019 by a 42 year old guy who worked at the post office she went to look for a package from.
Just the above sentence could be the whole post, but I’m going to go into my feelings. Since yesterday I’ve been going through my twitter timeline and refreshing not just the outrage at this particular case and other recent missing stories, but personal accounts of women’s first and second hand experience with rape and murder. Honestly, it’s been addictively unhealthy for me. It’s kept my mind and heart racing interchangeably because ALL of the stories and the fears embedded in them for all the women coming forward are all too familiar. I felt and feel like such a coward for watching [so closely] the handle that started naming, picturing and shaming and warning others based on anonymous submissions from women who still live in fear of the vast array of men they experienced danger/rape/assault from. A part of me watched to see if there was someone I know in there for maybe vindication. That maybe something I experienced and haven’t been brave enough to face and expose could be done by someone much braver than I. I’ll tell you it hasn’t happened and as it has continued into today that need for some release has gotten stronger. Along with my fear. I took out a bottle of wine to review for my long abandoned wine blog, but that 2017 Du’Swaroo Tannat has become the crutch upon which I’m leaning on to write this. So many of the stories involved the perpetrators using alcohol to impair the women and many accounts talk about the woman not being sure what had happened and then either being afraid to report because they were unsure OR, if they DID report, being asked about their lucidity and recollection of events. So what am I doing sipping a glass of wine as I write all the way AROUND this topic that feels so personal and real? Numbing the pain. The pain of suppressed feelings, wonderings, doubts, certainties around what has happened to many women/myself. My heart is still racing and I’m typing through a tearwall in my eye, a runny nose because the pain is so real,
but I already know I’m not going to tell my story. What will it change for us personally? For the women who have come forward especially in a country whose gender based violence is as pandemic and documented globally as South Africa’s is? Everyone knows wussup. Women have BEEN coming forward since the beginning of the country.
As this story has, for lack of a better phrase, blown up and been hashtagged, there are SEVERAL concurrent stories of missing women, confirmed deaths, bodies, active abduction attempts, not to mention rapes, shootings, stabbings of [sometimes pregnant] women by men in their lives.
Many women have been through situations where they thought surely they were going to die in the hands of a man they knew and loved, speak less of complete strangers. When we were young we were all taught about stranger danger – which is legitimate and easy to determine and isolate, but somehow, conveniently for those who were teaching us, they forgot to mention the even more ominous opposite. It doesn’t even have a phrase to capture it. It is that ubiquitous. Something unable to be named. So how does it get acknowledged. And then solved?
I am currently feeling very hot, my heart is racing.
The other day I asked a friend of mine who I heard mention her story of rape in preparation for a press event how come she had never told me about it. She thought she had. She then told me. This whole phenomenon and universality of rape experience and culture is soooo omnipresent. We have the same story in some ways and not in others. As she told me I was miss #metoo. Her story ended and we moved on to the next topic. It matters, but what does it matter? We see all around us that they all mostly get away with it and they are the men in our lives. Mine died. Many die with the violation taking away any chance of closure or consequences for their actions. What a violation that itself being taken away is. It happened when I was so young and over an extended period of time. I remember as young as I was [and comfort myself now maybe] that it was not penetration, but also that it was VERY wrong. I never told anyone EVER. He died I think in my early teens when I was told that uncle z’bani z’bani (so and so) died. And thought so nothing can happen now anyway. I’ll just dead it. But these things never die. Only a small part of us dies and that part comes back to haunt us when things like what is happening on the internet with Uyinene rear their traumatizing head. When we are triggered. If we rationalize, in attempt to cope, in our head that it wasn’t so bad [because there wasn’t penetration], that he loved us and wanted us to himself, was the father of our child, was our father, was Papa in the house of the lord, that part that died doesn’t feel as dead. We feel [maybe] whole. Holding onto ourselves because in the storm and swirl of it all we ourselves are all we have.
I’m all I’ve had since it happened to me because I’ve kept it to myself. Some might argue that talking about it and telling others about it would have meant it wasn’t my burden to bear all along, but ultimately when it was happening, by design, it was only to me. Young and isolated and only to me. Just me and him. I knew him. He knew that. But he’s dead now and that is the only almost good in it all. I don’t even know the circumstances, but what it means is he can’t do it to me or anyone anymore. But if, as is usually the case, he did it to someone else and worse they kept silent OR spoke out, what would have changed about what he did? For many women, there is never any closure anyway EVEN IF and sometimes especially if they go to the authorities. Many women’s stories are their secret or their abuser died or walked away scot-free. Surely something can be done in many places where protections and legislation have been upgraded to more accurately address some of the ubiquitous aspects of what we are talking about, but South Africa is such a special case. For as long as I can remember anecdotally as a child to through research, statistics, documentaries, films, news etc. as an adult – what even gives? From primary school boys raping and maiming fellow primary school girls, grandmothers being gang raped, babies being sodomized, pregnant women being shot*, everyday trafficking and rape…every single week there is a trending missing woman overlapping with a body found. All of the women in me are tired.
“Wow hey this child gave me trouble. Took her forever to die” he told the police. Compared to what?
*I was in a relationship with someone who told me a story about someone he knew in SA getting his girlfriend pregnant and didn’t know what to do. I asked him what he had suggested and he said he told said friend that he should kill the girlfriend… my blood curdled, but the conversation continued in that familiar self preserving way that in the background we are wondering if we heard what we heard and also trying to rationalize it because OF COURSE we are in danger, but also not necessarily. Or at least not immediately. I asked him why he would suggest that (because I am a [single] mother) and he said he was just joking. That he was or wasn’t didn’t even matter. Everything about that statement was violent. I felt assaulted by it. I told him so and he thought I take everything too seriously. I take serious things seriously. But rape culture and its pervasiveness means violence against women [by men] is actually a joke.
I finished my wine. I guess I did tell it…partially.