Georgina Guedes

Searching for the turnaround

2013-02-15 15:15

Georgina Guedes

I'm wearing black today. Since the Black Friday initiative was announced, I knew I was going to, to show solidarity with the victims of rape and with those who are fighting against it.

I'm wearing black today because, even though it feels like an almost meaningless gesture against the problems and attitudes and contributing factors to rape, I want to do something, take part in something, add my voice to the cry that enough is enough.

What Anene showed us

It's been a tough couple of weeks to be a South African. Anene Booysen’s horrific rape drew our attention to the statistics we hear every day. Some people are angry that one woman's rape has the power to draw our attention, when so many suffer every hour.

I think that Anene's senseless death has been a powerful reminder of the faces behind the statistics. One woman or child is raped every four minutes. One in four women will be raped in their lifetime. Those statistics are enough to make us say, "Thank Goodness, not me," but the gruesome details of Anene's plight transported us - however unwillingly - to her side.

She is the face and embodiment of the scourge of rape and violence against women in South Africa. It is for her memory, and to fight the cause that we have adopted on her behalf that I am wearing black today.

Take action

But what can we really do? The point that keeps coming into my mind is trying to find some way of identifying with the motivations of the people who did this to her. The desire to do this, the conviction that your friends will think it’s a good enough idea that they go along with you, the knowledge that through your actions, you will take one life, but ruin your own as well, but you do it anyway.

How do any of these thoughts result in what happened? The only answer that anyone can come up with is that our society is broken. There are many people far cleverer than I who devote a lot of academic time to answering these questions and trying to think of solutions.

At the moment, I am grasping at every reference to a turnaround. A listener of Reddy Tlhabi’s show tweeted her to say that she had changed the way he viewed rape. “How did you feel? What exactly changed it?” I tweeted urgently in response. Nothing. I think I scared him off.

Ask the right questions

But these are the stories that we need. We can talk about “instilling respect for each other and human life”, but how do you do that if it’s not there? How do you appeal to someone’s better nature if the thing that they’re considering doing proves that they lack one in the first place.

So, given that I'm a journalist, this is what I am going to begin researching - the moment of epiphany, the turnaround, the reconsideration, or even the remorse, the realisation of a rapist that what he did was terribly wrong. And if we can find a way to communicate this or distribute it, perhaps we can touch the people for whom this kind of violence comes so easily.

I don't believe that I have happened upon a plan that will turn this thing around, but when everyone is scratching their heads and saying "What can we do?" this is the thing that I can think of.

I’ll report back anything I learn.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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