This violence thing …My last thought before drifting into sleep last night was this: More than 350 000 abuse cases in South Africa in 2015 only (dailymaverick). And more than half of them, shockingly, are boys.
Hours earlier, I went to see the documentary, titled Alison, which was co-produced and co-directed by the real living Alison, one of South Africa’s greatest stories of survival and just-going-on-with-life. (If you love documentaries, you need to get to theatres in Cape Town and Jozi to see a few of the spectacular documentaries shown annually.)
Alison, a young girl from PE, was abducted during the night of 18 December 1994. This was incidentally in the year when South Africa, our country which has always been tormented by division and polarized ideologies and beliefs, stunned ourselves and the world when we had had a peaceful election and became a democracy.
One of the many changes following the adoption of our Constitution in 1994 was that the death penalty was abolished. But last night, while I watched the film portraying this horrific story of Alison, I didn’t believe that it was a good idea to scrap the death sentence. The then Judge in the court case says in the documentary that the crime was so heinous that he wished he could have issued a death penalty. The men who were responsible, in fact became eligible for parole last year.
I am deeply angered by the statistics of violence against women and rape of people by others. (Of course, men also experience abuse and rape at the hands of others.) During the Q&A after the showing of the film, two journalists confirmed that only 7% of all rape cases that get reported and pursued (which is a drop in the bucket of the real number of incidents), are successful – that is when the rapist is found guilty and gets punished. In the other cases, police mess up the evidence, or the women are held co-responsible, or they are too fearful to ever tell anyone.
We are also watching the news story in the USA court playing out around the Stanford student who raped an unconscious girl after a party. This blonde, blue-eyed swimming champion was sentenced to 6 months only – 180 days – in prison; his father launched an vitriolic appeal to the judge stating that this is a very heavy sentence for his son’s “20 minutes of action”. What about his swimming history and records and future, the father asked?
In this story, I blame that father of the young man. The entitlement of patriarchy is what he was taught when he was raised. “You are entitled, you are exceptional, you are excused, you are my blonde boy, even when you rape an innocent, young girl whose drink you spiked to have fun with her.”
In Alison’s documentary, it is difficult for the audience to comprehend what had happened to this young woman just before Christmas, twenty years ago. Her neck was slashed 17 times, and she was stabbed with a knife 37 times. The court case afterwards must have been hell on this formerly happy-go-lucky, care-free girl. The examinations that she had to endure, cannot even be described.
In 2013, it was reported that six women are raped in South Africa every hour. In 2010, M&G reported that 37.4% of all men in Gauteng said that they have raped a woman … “the latest evidence in the country of a violent culture of patriarchy“. How is this even possible?
I cannot – I actually refuse to – believe that millions of young children were born only to be sexually abused before the age of 17.
We all need to sit down and talk about this. That’s what I think.
This needs to stop.