I really just don’t know

From 25 November to 10 December is the 16 Days of Activism for Non violence against women and children. and by the very name it is a call to action, a call to do something, to change, to stand up and be counted, but I must admit to having no idea as to what we can do that will make a discernible difference.

“The pen is mightier than the sword” Edward Bulwer-Lytton

I love words they are my chosen medium for; dealing with issues in my life, communicating with others and hopefully in some small way challenging people to think. I truely believe that words and stories can bring about change, yet today I feel like the power in the words is gone and that all eloquence has left me. I am however determined to say something and I hope that collectively if we speak our words trigger thoughts which mean actions are examined and maybe one day changed. Reminds me of the Starfish Story

Sam Wilson on Women 24 wrote an article ‘Where are our men?’ she said every year they tell women’s stories and highlight the issues but not much changes so this time she was challenging the men. Many guys took great exception to the article and I was really quite shocked by some the comments. So many of the guys went no further than being defensive and taking what Sam said out of context. I must admit to be quite despondent after reading some of these comments. I felt like there was no hope for our society and that change would never happen.

In a discussion with a male friend about the article he asked me for my opinion on what I thought he should be doing and I must admit to being at a bit of a loss as to what to say. Besides the obvious of not standing for abuse if he ever had knowledge of it, but I guess most nice guys would do that, what other tangible thing could I suggest? The problem is that this is rarely something that happens where others can see it.  Men like to fix, they like to do, they don’t just like to talk and hope that it will affect change. We tell them to stand up and join the fight but we don’t give them the tools to do it.

Sam in response to a lot of the attacks she got for her article said:
@Camelthief There’s lots you can do. 1) A monthly stop order to Rape Crisis, POWA or any credible NGO that assists victims of violence. 2) Speak out whenever you hear of/see abuse happening. I know it’s not something often ‘bragged about around the braai’ (at least I fervently hope not)… but vigilance and attention does challenge the silence around domestic abuse. 3) Be a role model. Look to your own relationships; your own family and ask yourself… am I present enough in my child’s life? Am I providing an example of manhood that I am proud of? You can see from many of the comments above how badly even these simple steps are needed.I was kinda hoping other men would make suggestions…that didn’t involve abusing me.

I don’t have the answers but I think the call to action needs to have a few guidelines as to what we can all do. I know as a mother I hope to work from the ground up and teach my kids about respect and that this is paramount no matter their gender. I think that lumping all women with children, and other groups that need protecting in our society might make some view them as somehow vulnerable. It is easier to take advantage of something/someone who you have preconceived ideas about being vulnerable. I know that Andre has blogged about a similar thing before. I want both of my kids to feel they have a right to be respected and that they have to treat others with the same respect.

The sheer frustration of this blog has been looking at such an important topic, on in which we really need to pull together and yet at the same time not have a clue how to even start initiating the change I so long for in our society. I dream of a future where our sons and daughters do not face this issue in the pandemic levels that we do now. What I do know is that we have to be careful not to come across as attacking because we are not going to solve this problem if we get people’s backs up.  If we make all men feel like they are lumped together with the perpetrators I think we have failed them too. We have to leave our egos at the door and stop trying to say who’s fault it is and look at what it is we as a society are doing to perpetuate this problem and how we move forward to solve it.

I am really keen to hear if anyone else has some bright ideas.

And if you are interested some other people’s views and blogs
Andre: I’ve had an apostrophe
Scott: I have XY chromosomes, too.
Megan : 16 Days
Thought leaders Cows Makarovs and the dangers of Charming men

My part

I had a conversation with a friend recently who was questioning her own part in an abusive relationship and if it was her fault as her husband suggested. She was worried that if it was in deed all her fault then maybe she would just go on to do the same in another relationship.

It got me thinking about ownership of guilt and responsibility. I by no stretch of the imagination believe that I was blameless in my relationship falling apart, or that the fault should all be with my ex. It is quite a scary place to be on the other side of a relationship that has failed and try to see why. How did you land up there in the first place? Why did you stay? And was walking away the best thing?

Yes walking away for me has been the best thing. I have a weight lifted off my shoulders that I don’t think I even realized half the time was there. I actually look forward to life and to the future rather than wondering how I will survive another day. I know that my ex is bitter and thinks that I did not try to fix things and that it could have been different. The problem was that I knew it could not be, it was like I had woken up and saw myself again and knew that I could never go back and be that woman again. He could never give me what I needed. It hurts him I won’t try, he feels he has more insight and things could be different. I don’t, I have just move too far from where we were. I think basically we are just 2 totally different people.

I am an explosive, temperamental person, passionate. My reactions, thoughts and feelings are big. So when in a controlling relationship my instinct is to fight back, and I did fight. I was not passive. We were like a match and petrol. I think what I came to realize is that fighting did not often change the outcome and so it became about the fight and the constant trying to win for the sake of it, we were very destructive in each others lives.

It is not nice for anyone to live with constant animosity. I don’t blame him alone and take ownership of my part. I hope one day he can see we are better apart.

As for myself and the future, I want that love, the one that is all consuming, passionate, giddy, a little crazy but that love that I see in my sister and her husband, they bring out the best in each other. My sister is the best she can be with her wonderful man at her side – I want that.

Leaving

Very few people ever knew how deeply unhappy I was in my marriage. I never really spoke about it and when I did it was always with the resolve that it would get better. Few people ever see what it is like behind closed doors and that emotional neglect and abuse is hard to understand when the person in question is charming to others. So my decision to separate and stay in South Africa with the kids after we had come from the UK on holiday was quite a shock to most people.

I think a lot of people saw my decision as quite drastic and a lot said they were not going to take sides and hoped we could sort it out. But I knew I could never go back, I knew that all the promise to change in the world would not be enough. Once out, it was like the blinkers I had been wearing for ages, without even knowing it, were gone. I saw people and places differently. I was not under this negative cloud that covered my outlook with gloom. I could see our beautiful country South Africa for what it was and not just a crime ridden disaster to be run from, but an opportunity and a place to be involved and make a real difference. I think the biggest change was the way I saw myself, I can never be that person again.

I was terrified by the prospect of being alone, not something I like. But there is in fact no lonelier place than being in a relationship that destroys your spirit. So now I am alone again but not lonely. I have the most amazing friends and family that are getting me through, but they need a whole post of their own…