Before you start reading this let me say now that it’s a hodge podge of a post. I have so many thoughts in my head and I can’t seem to put it all down in a formatted way, but here goes…
Unless you’ve had your head under a rock, in a hole in the sand or tucked under a blanket you would have heard or read about the recent rape, mutilation and death of Anene Booysen. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that sexual violence is new to us. We deal with it every day but as a woman I was still reeling from the death of ‘India’s Daughter’. What made my blood run cold and quietly whisper “why?” was the absolute brutality of these attacks. It wasn’t ‘enough’ to rape? Where does such anger come from?
I’m not a social commentator and I’m not a therapist. I don’t pretend to know about our socio-economic situation and I often wonder whether some people are just born evil.
What I do know is that I, like too many other women, have experienced sexual abuse and violence. I know that we can campaign against rape and for women’s rights. We can educate boys and rehabilitate men. We can wear black and we can rise up. But there are also times I feel helpless.
And we can blame. We can blame single mom households. We can blame peer pressure, poverty, violent shows and movies. We can blame alcohol and drugs and gangsta rap. Blaming makes things easier to understand. Once we’ve understood it we’re able to rationalize it and move on.
And on Black Friday, in my own way, I’m making a stand. I’m one of the very few people in an office NOT wearing black because I refuse to fade into the blackground. I am a rape survivor. I am a survivor of sexual abuse and I refuse to be quiet about it. When asked why, as a woman, I’m not supporting Black Friday, I answer back, loudly “because I have been raped!”
I am taking responsibility. I am showing Emma that only she has the right to touch her vagina. And yes, that’s what we’re calling it. I figured if she knew her elbow from her earlobe then there’s no reason we should be calling it her ‘front bum’. No one, not me, not Mark, no one has the right to touch Emma in a way that makes her uncomfortable. So come bath time, we have a little show and wash. I show her how and she does it.
Even though we haven’t had too many sex talks yet (she hasn’t asked and I wouldn’t know where to start without being prompted by her) I’m encouraging honest and open conversations about everything and anything. I’m also letting Emma set her own boundaries. I noticed a while back I was encouraging forcing her to hug or kiss people ‘hello’. No more. If Emma can’t learn to trust her inner voice then I am failing as a mother, as a guardian, as her protector.
As far as Ben goes, we will allow him to feel. If he’s sad then so be it and when he’s angry or frustrated we’ll deal with those emotions. In our house, real men cry and hurt and feel sad. And if he’s shown that this is okay then he won’t need to ‘prove’ himself in years to come. Hopefully he’ll also know how to communicate what he’s experiencing and not misinterpret every emotion for anger or aggression.
These are small steps but I’m hoping they’ll make a difference in my children’s lives. Sadly ‘baddies’ in real life are not anything like the movies. They aren’t particularly unattractive or wear distasteful villain costumes. Rapists and sexual predators do not come with warnings or ‘beware’ signs and are, the majority of the time, not strangers. But if Mark and I can instill a strong sense of self in both Emma and Ben they will be better prepared to recognise situations and peoplefor what they are. If we let them know just how loved they are they will hopefully not have to look for affirmation elsewhere. If Mark and I are their safe place then hopefully they will always know they are listened to and believed.