Sibongile Mafu

Just another rape

2013-01-09 10:18

Sibongile Mafu

I apologise for walking at night by myself. I apologise for walking in broad daylight by myself. I apologise for walking with my friends at night. I apologise for walking with my friends in broad daylight. I apologise for being clothed. I apologise for showing some leg. I apologise for ignoring you when you catcall. It’s all my fault.

A story broke yesterday of a woman who was gang-raped on her way to register for her studies at the Tshwane University of Technology. Another rape story reported and filed away. We haven’t recovered from the horrific attack of the student in Delhi who was gang-raped in a bus and later died from her injuries. We haven’t recovered, and we shouldn’t recover. We need to be disturbed by it all. Every time. By every violation.

Quietly accepting

I’m becoming aware of the levels of disgust and outrage that permeate when a story about rape breaks. “It was an old lady, how could anyone do this to an old lady?” “It was a baby, what kind of sick monster could touch a baby?” But maybe it’s OK if it’s an attractive young woman as that’s not nearly as shocking. Maybe it’s OK that it was one rapist instead of five.

When people start to dissociate rape from sex then we can start having some honest discussions with ourselves and the people around us about what kind of society we’re living in. This is a society where women feel unsafe. This is a society where you’re more likely to be harmed than not. This is a society where you must just quietly accept that this is how things are.

Rapists as well as men who sexually harass women, or slut shame, or make inappropriate comments, feel like they’re entitled to women’s bodies, and do not see the force they use as “force” and therefore do not see anything wrong with their behaviour. Incidents are carelessly brushed aside because they happen too often and therefore we must just accept it.

Minimising women's experiences

Reactions that often come from people are the need for women to adjust their behaviour in order to avoid being victims of such crimes. Just tweak how you dress and don’t drink too much and you’ll maybe avoid being raped. No guarantees, however. We find that we have to constantly negotiate ourselves, how we move, how we interact with people and how we live in different spaces. We must change our behaviour in order to make another autonomous individual respect our space. Women must do everything in their power to control how men react to them, because that makes absolute sense.

And when we talk about how uncomfortable we are on the street, or when we talk about rape in this country we’re told that we talk about it too much. I think it’s quite the contrary. We don’t talk about it enough. The same people who continue to say that we exhaust the issue of rape are the ones who would stand by and watch a woman get raped - bystanders in important discussions and bystanders in the real world.

We cannot continue to minimise women’s experiences. The daily realities we face. We can’t all be wrong about this. This war is one that women cannot go at alone. 16 courteous days out of the year are not enough.

We must be just as horrified about one woman being raped as we are about 1 300 road traffic deaths. We need to be spurred into action by acts of rape just as we are about one famous cyclist’s death.

- Sibongile is a videographer, blogger and social media enthusiast who would be nothing without her thumbs. Follow her on Twitter: @SboshMafu.

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