Women: listen to your inner voice and act

As #MeToo sets the stage for how things should be, rather than how they have been, I’m thinking of how, for so long, prevention of sexual assault has been aimed at women. Don’t walk there, don’t wear that, don’t go out alone, don’t stay in alone. Read the signs. Notice the behaviour. Tell them it’s not okay.

For far too long.

Too late we’re changing the discussion and placing the responsibility where it should lie: with the choices men make. Simple. Just don’t do it. Don’t make up excuses in your mind for why it is okay generally, or specifically, or just this once. Just stop cat-calling, leering, staring, touching, trying your luck, and forcing your will. Just stop.

That said, there is one more responsibility I do want to put on women: act on your gut and act fast. If you don’t listen to your Mentor Within, to your inner wisdom, you won’t be safe. And if you don’t act fast you’re more likely to be in danger. I have been listening to the themes that have emerged over the last few days in the media, and apart from the relief that the secrets are out, and the outrage that trusted men can behave this way, there is another theme that is emerging. Women just want it to stop, but they don’t want anyone hurt in the process.

This is one of the reasons for the silence. Yes, there’s humiliation, and the real fear of losing a contract or a job, or of breaking up the family, but more than anything there is a belief that people are essentially good and if we play fair, surely the men will too. But they won’t. Not these kinds of men. Not the men who are entitled, narcissistic conquerors. Not the men who really don’t care. They’ll sooner throw you under the bus than admit their behaviour, and they’re not about to stop unless they are forced to.

I remember when I was travelling many years back, aged 19. We were being taken back to where we were staying by a taxi driver. Half way to our residence the taxi driver stopped on the edge of a lake. I asked him why he was stopping, and he said in broken English that the car had trouble. I had heard this man speaking English earlier and it wasn’t nearly as broken as it was as he tried to give us a reason for stopping in this deserted spot. I could feel the hair standing up on the back of my neck and a rush of adrenalin, which I knew was there to keep me safe. “There’s nothing wrong with the car,” I told him, as he asked us to move to another car. But he insisted we had to change cars.

He was messing with the wrong woman. “We’ll go with that car, but you’re staying here. We’re not going with two men”, I said. “Also, the guys who put us in the taxi took your registration number and they know who you are. We told them your name. So one wrong move by your friend and you’ll both have a lot to account for. Now make sure he gets us there fast as we are being expected by our hosts and if we don’t arrive by 7pm they’ll be out looking for us.”

I could see his resolve crumble. Whatever he’d had planned was just a bit too inconvenient. He spoke to his friend in a language I couldn’t understand, and with a few nods, the friend took us swiftly back to where we were staying.

Throughout, my friend hadn’t said a word. Like three other occasions I can remember when I was with another woman in danger, if I had not acted fast, decisively and on the front foot who knows what would have happened?

Women won’t always be able to get out of dangerous situations but sometimes by making a scene we can avert atrocious behaviour. Far more often, though, women either panic and freeze or don’t want to draw attention or blame someone when they might be wrong.

At no other time is it more appropriate to “act now and ask forgiveness if you’re wrong”.

Just do it. Trust your gut, and act fast when there’s a threat. Don’t do it the nice way, don’t take your time about it, and don’t be scared to call it out and draw other people’s attention.

“Scream

So that one day

A hundred years from now

Another sister will not have to

Dry her tears wondering

Where in history

She lost her voice.”

Jasmin Kaur

 

Rosemary Shapiro-LiuRosemary Shapiro-Liu is the director of Triple Win Enterprises in Sydney, Australia, and the author of The Mentor Within. She is a facilitator, conference strategist and coach. In South Africa she was one of the National Directors of NICRO, and the national manager for Restorative Justice, and in Australia she works with thought leaders, social entrepreneurs and business authors. She is one of the founding contributors to Smallville.com.au for small business owners who think big.

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Stop the Bus! – Day 5 (Trip 2) – Understanding rape

Catherine having a talk about myths and stereotypes regarding rape

Catherine having a talk about myths and stereotypes regarding rape

Today we continued with the capacity building workshop from day 2. The main topic for discussion was understanding rape. Also the pathway through the Criminal Justice System, the legal definition of rape, the new law on Sexual Offences which was implemented in 2007 as well as myths and stereotypes regarding rape such as “all rapists are mentally ill” were addressed.

At around 14 am. some of the team members went to the Community Health Centre in Stanford where we met the operational manager. She informed us that the services for rape victims were poor in this area and the survivors were sent to the hospital in Hermanus. Moreover, this Centre does not do the forensic examination, but it is done by the police station. The only services they render to the victims are that they give them PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) which is an anti-HIV medical treatment, and this has to be taken within 72 hours after the rape in order to have its effect. Also they get offered medication for the side-effects of PEP at the Clinic.

After this very challenging and rewarding day the team closed the evening with having our debriefing and planning for the grand finale tomorrow.

Jemima giving an excellent presentation of victimization

Jemima giving an excellent presentation of victimization

Peliswa and Eleanor together with employees at the Stanford Clinic

Peliswa and Eleanor together with employees at the Stanford Clinic

Stop the Bus! Day 2 – Mixed Things

Making our mark at the Gansbaai Clinic.

The second day was overwhelming for most of the newcomers. We worked closely with the Gansbaai and neighbouring Masakhane community. Our visits included the Gansbaai Clinic, police station, petrol stations, abalone farm and Masakhane township. The Gansbaai police station has one of the best trauma rooms in the Western Cape, with certificates of approval adorning its walls. Statistics reveal that the HIV infection rate and teenage pregnancy rate in the area is very high. Both clinic staff and social workers expressed concern about their perception that rape is under reported in the area. Evelynne gave poignant talks and Ntuthu made an excellent job of delivering our message to the Xhosa people. Our experience of the community itself was that it is by and large governed by silence.

As a newcomer I’m still trying to make sense of things and I found myself confused, yet in high spirits. My time in the bus, alone with the team was filled with laughter and good memories. We danced outside the bus as the day came to a close, but fatigue hit us hard as soon as we arrived back at the guest house.

When I got into bed and the first opportunity for tranquillity arrived, I found that moment of silence with myself not tranquil, but uneasy, confused and filled with questions.

Evelynne educating a captive audience about trauma procedure.

Food for thought to community members.

The Masakhane community welcomed us into their homes.

Sizwe translating English to Xhosa during a session with a community member.

We gave out a lot of educational pamphlets at the clinic.

Evelynne talking to the Atlantic Abalone factory workers.

The factory workers listened intently.

Ntuthu with the Badisa community support group.

Ntuthu provided us with a lot of humour.

Evelynne and Lavona in the Masakhane township.