What’s lurking in the shadows?: Athandiwe Saba

2013-04-23 10:00

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SA’s women live an odd paradox. We have some of the most progressive laws for advancement in the world, but often there is fear laced into the fabric of living. Public and private spaces can be constructed on fragile foundations where too often property, hate and sexual crimes are risky cocktails, constructing fragile foundations for life. Four City Press staff members share how they negotiate fear and the joy of living

"Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”

That is the prayer I say every time I walk down the street that leads to my house after work. It somewhat comforts me.

Most nights, the street lights don’t work, but I have never been afraid of the dark. I am afraid of the evil that has been lurking and manifesting itself in the hearts of the men who are supposed to protect us.

I have never been physically assaulted for the way I look or what I wear, and I can only thank the grace of God for that, because I read and write about stories of women tormented every day.

To this day, my mind refuses to understand why it happens, but I know it happens, hence I fear I will be a victim one day too.

I am a walker. I walk everywhere – from home to work, to the shopping centre. I walk in downtown Joburg. But during all those walks, I make it a point that I am as protected as possible.

If I need to change the streets I walk on, I will. If I need to change the clothes I wear, to lessen the chance of me being a victim, I will. I will do just about anything to never have to experience the trauma of being a victim.

When I pass any man, no matter his colour, a coldness settles in my stomach, acid pours into my mouth, and I stuff my hands deep into my pockets so the potential perpetrator doesn’t see my fear. Nowadays, it seems like a natural reflex action to be afraid of any man I don’t know.

The fear is so immediate that I never notice it until I have passed the man, and yet I will continue to look behind me just to make sure he isn’t following me.

In another time, in another age, these feelings would seem like utter paranoia, but this is South Africa 2013. This is my fear and it is real. Just ask each of those one-out-of-five women who have been sexually assaulted in the past hour.

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