I live less than a five minute drive away from where Franziska Blöchliger was raped and murdered. I drove past Tokai forest on the day that it happened. I saw security personnel gathered around the entrance near to where her body was found. By the following day it was in the news. As I watched the media frenzy unfold and the reactions from the womxn in my family, I noticed in myself, an absence of anger or distress or even empathy.
In the weeks following, residents of the surrounding suburbs tied bouquets of flowers along the fence near to where it happened. I have driven past the site many times but only recently decided to visit. I wanted to try and understand my own reaction to the news and I thought that paying a visit might help to bring me clarity.
[Mourners left hundreds of flowers at Tokai forest. Image source: The Good Things Guy ]
As I walked along the fence looking at the drooping flowers, it occurred to me that the public reaction to Franziska’s case is quite unique. She has not once been blamed or implicated in what happened to her. With most rape cases that receive a lot of public attention there is often something about the victim or what the victim was doing that is offered as an explanation as to why it happened to them. The reaction to Anene Booysen’s 2013 rape case is an example of this.
Feminist author Pumla Gqola writes in her book, “Rape: A South African Nightmare”, of the public’s reaction,
“sometimes callers to radio stations expressed a combination of shock and attempts to explain how such a thing could happen by slut-shaming and victim-blaming her. Her judgement was questioned by some who then quickly and condescendingly decided that her class standing meant that she did not know better.”
It takes a lot to be the perfect victim, and one must be to ensure public outrage that is free of victim blaming. The perfect victim must be white, cisgender, heterosexual, sober, must not be out after dark, must not be at a club/bar/party, must not be in a “dodgy” area and must not know their assailant. In light of this, I was able to understand my response. I do not trust the public’s reaction and I do not want to be a part of it. I cannot trust that there is any sincerity behind those bunches of flowers. Would they have been there if Franziska had not met all of the requirements of the perfect victim?
As I drove away I noticed a poster-sized picture of Sinoxolo Mafevuka’s face stuck on a tree. But the poster was torn so that most of her face was missing. And I wondered if Sinoxolo’s case would have received any attention at all if Franziska’s had not happened for it to be compared to.