By now, I am sure everyone has heard of the violent and heartless rape of a woman called Anene Booysen. Anene is from a quaint little town called Bredasdorp in the Western Cape. Minutes after she was raped and subsequently died, the news spread like a wildfire across the country. The next day, everyone was livid about what happened and lobbying groups, activists, Facebook pages, politicians and the media started focussing their priorities and time on the bigger picture, i.e. rape, violence against women and abuse.
For once I was grateful for media coverage on the story. In some way, I feel that this exposure and visibility in the media was no different from the rhino killings that made headlines just a few months ago. The average Joe had a bumper sticker and t-shirt to create more awareness about the rhino killings and to show their support. This past Friday people were asked to wear black to raise awareness about rape and gender based violence.
Social media has impacted the way we communicate significantly. How do we make best use of these new social media tools to address, advocate and lobby for a specific issue? Lets take gender-based violence for example. Where exactly does it originate? What is the core issue? Is buying a t-shirt and bumper sticker really helping?
Do not get me wrong, I fully support legal rights of women and children and that all perpetrators of violence against women and children are prosecuted. But what if we take a step back and start at the beginning?
Many academics and researchers have found a close link between domestic violence and poverty, substance abuse, unemployment, lack of education and possessiveness. How do we address this? It is crucial to note that violence against women and children is not subject to a specific ethnicity, culture, background or religion. Although in some cases it might be driven more by one than the other.
When exactly do young boys and girls learn about their bodies, sex and how it all comes together? When do they learn that there are differences? At which stage of their education process do they learn how to communicate their frustration, anger, anxiety or conflicts to another person? Most importantly, during these teachings, what behaviour are we as adults displaying to these youngsters? Most of them look up to us and want to mirror how we act and what we do, because they respect us and that we are part of their lives.
Here is my two cents: If we develop programmes directed specifically at young boys and girls, teaching them the history and origin of violence. Doing so will stimulate the thought processes of youngsters and subsequently cause them to stop and think before they acting violent the next time. If we could teach them how to share their anger and frustrations without harming another person, there is a big chance it will become instilled in their value systems. And then in the value systems of their children.
We love and care for the children in our lives enough to ensure that their future is not violent and that we did everything in our power to prove them why.