Protectors who harm: sexual abuse too often begins at home
The globe recently witnessed the power of social media activism when #MeToo was used to call out sexual assault and harassment. Nosipho Xakani, a member of the UFS Student Safety Forum, shares her thoughts on this movement against misogynistic behavior.
#MeToo: a hashtag and two words that formed a rally to denounce sexual assault and harassment has been used around the globe to call out misconduct and misogynistic behavior, especially in work spaces. I found it to be a commendable movement because it has been able to reach millions of people with different and difficult stories to tell about discrimination and abuse.
In a much as it has been criticized for having victims relive the trauma of sexual assault and harassment, it must be recognized for creating a platform for those who couldn’t speak out about their stories and those who have suffocated in spaces that oppressed them to a point of self-destruction.
I stand up and say #MeToo!
The thing about sexual abuse and harassment is that very often, it starts in our homes, the very places where we are meant to feel safe. In fact It is so hidden within our very own homes that we are taught to think of these terrible acts as “ok”, “normal”, “acceptable”. Until you realise that you have been abused sexually by the very person you relied on for protection and safety. Again I stand up and say #MeToo!
I have been raised in a society, and a home, that is so patriarchal that I felt the need to police females in the name of safety. Back then I did not realise how this structural violence gives men permission to continue treating women as objects. There are times I have said, “you cannot dress like that what will men say?” And yet the real issue is not with the way a girl or women chooses to dress but the way that men have been taught to think.
How is it that we have more laws and social norms that regulate women and their bodies, and yet men are not taught to treat us with respect? But that is a topic for another day.
I too have been in a position where I’ve yelled “No!” but it sounded like a “yes” to the perpetrator. I was in my fragile years. A lollipop was enough to shut me up. I would be so hesitant to stay at our neighbour’s house until mom comes back from work. It was not easy to utter the words explaining why I didn’t want to go. Where and how would I start? All the adults saw was a naughty child who didn’t like people. Now I am grown up, but I still cannot explain this feeling of hatred towards the opposite sex. But of course, it’s not just me.
I once witnessed a little girl who refused her mother to bath her from the waist down because she had been molested. I witnessed her cry with fear when she was asked to point him out because she was afraid that they would not believe her, and she may be beaten for such an accusations. Fortunately, her mother gave her the assurance that she would be protected no matter what. The perpetrator was pointed out as the same person who should have protected her.
There are too many women who can relate to the #MeToo campaign and are in need of healing.Some of us grew up with a #MeToo story. And all we can do is survived it, we grow used to it, or we don’t know how to report it. But today I stand up and say #MeToo with a concern. Has this movement reached the places where it is much needed?