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So, crime is geographically specific, huh?

21 December 2012, 08:13

I recently revealed in a mini ‘auto-twitography’ (auto-biography) one of my biggest, if not my biggest, fears – being kidnapped, trafficked, stolen from my family and/or being violated emotionally, physically and/or sexually. This brings me to an article I recently read by Zama Ndlovu, a review of Redi Thlabi’s Endings and Beginnings, in which Zama somewhat expresses this same fear, as a young girl living in the township. She goes on to express her relief at later moving to the (apparently) safe suburbs.

This sense of relief deeply troubles me, a young girl who has lived in the suburbs (the same one, in fact) for her whole life, because this suburb is not safe. Yes, it may be significantly safer than its neighbouring township, Olivenhoutbosch, however, it is far from being free of criminal activity, however petty.

The thought that a girl living in the suburbs would have different fears than those of a girl living in a township also troubles me, however slightly, in a country where the chance of a woman being raped is shockingly high. Such an article gives me the thought that women have the view that the chance of them being raped would be lower if they live in the suburbs, as opposed to if they lived in a township. I do not know how true this is, statistically speaking, although I do suspect such an opinion holds significant truth, however, I do suspect that the intensity of this universal fear of being assaulted cannot vary greatly according to geographical placement.

I, a young woman who has lived in the same suburb since birth, am afraid to take a walk in this apparently safe suburb. I am afraid to go for a run or cycle around the block, I am afraid to walk to the nearby shopping centre or to a friend’s house and, more importantly, I am afraid to do so in tight-fitting or short clothing or, for that matter, any clothing revealing my gender. I am afraid to leave the house carrying money, or a cell phone, or any item of value – for fear of being attacked by passerby’s violently demanding I give them a share of what I have. These fears are not in vain, as this has happened. I just wonder what will happen if, the next time, my attacker wants more than my cell phone, or my money, or the pin to my bankcard. What will happen the next time I resist and my attacker does not have the patience to entertain me. No, I have not been sexually assaulted, but a physical assault also leaves scars that are more than just skin-deep.

Ironically, as a young woman living in a substantially safe suburb, I feel more at ease walking to the local shop or to a friend’s house in the area in which my grandmother lives – a township – simply because, regardless of the time of day, there are always people around. This is somewhat reassuring as I have some faith that should I, or anyone else, be attacked, someone can do something to help. This is as opposed to being attacked in an empty street in the suburbs, where even the loudest cries for help can go unanswered.

As a young woman living in a suburb, I fully understand the universal fear and risk of being a woman in this country and in this world. I fully understand the feeling of discomfort when being approached by a man, one sometimes old enough to be my father. I understand what it is to be whistled at, hollered at, hooted at, and called pet names by unknown men, some who do so in the presence of their own children and partners. I too have experienced the uneasiness felt while being hit on by a man who chooses to remain oblivious to my age and silence, or simply uses it as reason to stick around. This is why it deeply troubles me to realize that people may think being a victim of physical or sexual assault is specific to people living in a specific area – when it is something that happens all over the country, all over the world and is feared by most, if not all women.

Such a mentality is one women cannot afford to have as it is detrimental to our unity in the fight against woman abuse. For as long as we think only some of us are affected, we can never really stand together as one to fight the potential of abuse happening to those that we think are not affected.

Please, excuse my ignorant ramblings.

Naledi Pooe

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