fear lays softly on hands
Never crushed, broken or dropped
Our fear is a safer place than anything else we’ve got
There’s a dangerous equivocation and rhetoric that has existed when it comes to discussing rape–the dismissal and absolution of men who rape as being monsters.
While we would all like to believe that rape is always a crime of evil and malice–sometimes it is a crime of ignorance and insouciance. To call a rapist an animal or a monster is to absolve him of his responsibility not to rape. Animals and monsters can’t help who they are. We can’t be upset at a dog that licks our face against our will. It’s an animal. It has a sub-human understanding of self-restraint. It sets a dangerous cultural status quo if we call rapists animals.
In addition–it allows us to choose to dismiss and mistreat women who speak about having been raped by the men we know and love. If only animals rape then no-one we know personally could ever rape because we only associate with decent men. All of us. Yet, a small study conducted by the Medical Reaserch Council found that 37,4% of men in Gauteng admitted to having raped. 28% in the Eastern Cape. That means the chances are very high that each of us know at least one man who has raped before. And we are violently defending men who have raped simply because they LOOK/SEEM decent. And rapists can only ever be monsters?! Right.
Well the reality is that 75% of all sexual violence happens in the presence of (or is perpetrated by) someone known to the victim–possibly someone we, onlookers, could defend with our lives. It’s our brothers and fathers that rape. If rapists were so “other” about the way they carry themselves, we would have, long ago, unleashed a mob (of) justice on them. They would have been quickly eradicated from existence. At the very least, they would be shunned. No-one would fall in love with or marry them. Rape would be fairly uncommon. Alas, this is not the case. They fit right in. They are charming; awkward; slender; fat; confident. They drive BMWs; hatchbacks; station wagons. They are normal. That’s why we fall in love with them. That’s why they are guests at our dinner parties. That’s why we spend alone time with them. They aren’t scary at all. Until they are.
Besides that, what’s a real man? What disqualifies a grown up male from being a man? What are the societal rules or laws? How does excluding rapists from the group of real men, placing them in the subset of just “men” help? Or is it “fake men”? (fake is the antonym of real, right?). So men can rape. That’s allowed. But real men, no?
This rhetoric is harming the cause. It’s allowing us to wallow in our shit and happily chill, calling it something other than what it is. Real men DO rape. Wrap your mind around it. Only THEN can we start to find solutions–once we know the basics. Arm yourself. Knowledge is armour. (sometimes).
I repeat: Real men DO rape. (or, maybe just, men).
Today I broke down. All the stored energy from holding the pain in, from smiling and being a lady and from pretending it doesn’t still hurt that he raped me turned to tears. I wept for all the crazy jilted falsely-accusing lovers out there being told by the people that claim to care about them that they aren’t worthy to be held. I bawled for all the wonderful little girls who would never have their innocence heard because of the men who stole them–stole their very selves. My entire body heaved while tears ran down my cheeks because I remembered what I had learned in those moments–thandokuhle, no-one is in your corner. No-one knows or cares to know. So even when someone REALLY wants to love, I can’t see it. It’s safer to assume myself to be wrong.
I’m tired. Being kind is too much work. Being decent has no rewards. My smiles hurt. It should be easier when you accept your plight but it’s not. And I can’t. This can’t be happening to everyone I know.
Today I broke down because I’m simply too tired. I’ve been clawing for life for too long. And it hasn’t come. And I’m 5 minutes to giving up.
But how can I? Every moment that I use in keeping quiet, another girl is violated. Every time I take a break, many women/girls are raped. How does that not weigh on my conscience? How do I not have blood on my hands when I knew it would happen (as it does) and I kept silent–and then it happened? I may have the luxury of taking a break but that woman who has just been raped doesn’t. She will always have-just-been-raped. She can’t be un-raped for a few moments in her life a day. She doesn’t get breaks from the torment. I don’t know why, then, I deserve one as an activist.