Let’s create awareness not only during Women’s Month, but always
She is someone’s daughter, she is someone’s sister, she is someone’s friend, she is someone’s child, SHE is possibly YOU – we read about it in the newspaper, we watch it on television. We see stories daily on our social media timelines. There are far too many girls and women that are victims of some sort of sexual abuse. It is not only their responsibility to say, “NO” to sexual abuse, but your’s and mine as well. Together, we can help and save another girl/woman from becoming another statistic of sexual abuse.
She’s the girl in primary school
There is a girl in class, too afraid to say anything to anyone. She doesn’t quite understand what he is doing but she knows that when he is close to her, it’s too close and she feels uncomfortable. He pretends to be checking her workbook, whilst he is standing behind her, placing his unshaven poky cheek against hers. She smells his breath too close for comfort as his hand caresses her thigh and he compliments her mathematical efforts as he walks away.She feels like someone has invaded her privacy. Who will believe her? Maybe she was overthinking. He was a Teacher after all.
She’s the girl in high school
She needed extra lessons. She sought the services of a tutor after school. He was older and supposed to be her tutor. She just turned 13 and he was 19. He could see that she had a crush on him and he used this to his advantage.
From exchanging gazes, to slowly kissing, he began to fondle her. She pushed his hand away, but he told her that she wanted this because she looked at him the way she did. He told her that she didn’t complain when they kissed. He told her that if she didn’t let him go on, he would tell everyone about the kisses they exchanged and their WhatsApp conversations.
She cried in silence as she shut her eyes tight and he had her way with her, with every lesson that her parents paid him for. He robbed her of her innocence. She felt dirty. She felt angry. She hated men because of him. He raped more than just her body.
She’s the new girl in the office
It was her first job. She was excited. She had no experience in the working world. As the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months, she became more comfortable in her role. One day, she found out that there may be retrenchments at work. Her manager told her that if she wanted to keep her job, she should be “nice” to him.
She didn’t know what he meant then, but it became more and more clear as he found opportunities to touch her when they were alone. He started texting her at night and sending her sexually inviting emails.
She tried to avoid him, but she could not. She felt indebted to him as he employed her. She didn’t want to lose her job as she supported her family, but she also didn’t enjoy the way he treated her. She feared going to work, wondering what he would do next.
She began to get sick and started to take sick leave. People noticed the change in her mood, but no one said or did anything. No one knew. She knew. Only she knew. She felt ugly. She thought it was her fault. She felt trapped; if she complained to HR, why would they believe her, when he was a well-respected employee who worked there for many years?
She soon suffered from depression. She had developed a sudden reflex – whenever men came too close. She was once confident, but she is now withdrawn. She suffers in silence.
She’s the Stepdaughter
She watched through the window as her mum left for work, working the night shift. She shivered at the thought of what was going to happen next. It had been going on for the past year. She was now 16 years old and her stepfather who was 39 years old, was drunk almost every night.
This time it hurt even more. She tried to tell her mum, but her mum was too tired and ignored her. This time it hurt even more. She didn’t get her period, which was two weeks past the due date. This time it hurt even more. She was pregnant. Maybe this time, her mum would listen to her.
She’s the Wife
He comes home late at night, long after his left work. He is moody. He is angry. It seems as if someone has upset him. He expects his food to be dished and left on the table upon his arrival, regardless of the time. He doesn’t want her to ask any questions. She’s a woman. He is the man of the house. It’s her job to cook and clean the house and take care of the kids…he included.
After he eats his supper, he signals her to the bedroom. She just lays there and succumbs to his every request. If she doesn’t, she knows what will happen. He’s done it before and she does not want the children to hear the consequences of her saying “NO”.
She lives with hatred within herself. As she has a shower, she cries. She’s a prisoner in her own house, which isn’t a home. She is a prisoner, in her own skin. She hates life, she hates him. She loves her children and she suffers in silence because she feels it’s the “motherly” thing to do.
Today someone committed suicide because she was raped, tomorrow, an innocent child’s body is found, also raped. When will it end? We see what we come across in the news, but what about the untold stories? What about the ones who are too afraid to come forward? Too afraid of victimisation. Too afraid that they will be exposed. Too afraid and too embarrassed. Too afraid that nothing will get done?
How did we get here, and will it ever end? Sexual harassment, sexual abuse, sexual assault, and rape are all sadly and devastatingly real. Sometimes it’s from the people you least expect. The ones that you think will be vocal and say something if something happened to them, may also be the ones who become withdrawn when something like this happens. The perpetrators are also often the people you would least expect to be guilty of doing such.
It is therefore important to talk about these things more often – you may never know who in the midst of your workplace or school may be experiencing this and may need a shoulder to lean on.
What can we do about Sexual Abuse?
- We can create more awareness
- We can seek help from organisations that deal with sexual abuse
- We can talk to someone we trust
- We can report it or have someone report it on our behalf
- We can anonymously send tip-offs to the respective channels to investigate where we suspect a case of sexual harassment/assault/rape, etc.
- Have discussions in schools and in the workplace and outline what is sexual harassment. Make a list of what’s acceptable and what is not – indicate what to watch out for
- Speak to our children to educate them about sexual abuse and make them aware of what is right and what is wrong – demonstrate if need be
- We CAN say NO to sexual abuse
Anyone who has experienced some sort of sexual harassment/assault will know that it isn’t something you easily talk about, however, it is important that you do speak to someone about it. If left unresolved, the trauma associated with such experiences may lead to other lifelong phycological/mental illnesses.
It is great that during Women’s Month, there is more emphasis on addressing such matters and striving to create more awareness around such topics that affect Women. It is also important that we keep the momentum in creating this awareness, by also focusing on it for the rest of the year as well – make it a part of life.
Even though this post is in the context of women, the same applies to boys and men – as we see and hear of more males being victims of such abuse in more recent times – or that we are aware of.
Every person, regardless of whether it’s a man or woman, deserves the right to be respected and to be treated with dignity and this means that no one, is allowed to touch them without their permission in ways that are seen as sexual advances.