The epidemic of violence against women and children focussed our attention this past week with the abduction of 6-year-old Amy’Leigh de Jager, and the arrest of the man allegedly responsible for the brutal rape and killing of UCT student, Uyinene Mrwetyana.
Everyone has been eagerly following the developments of the marches against gender-based violence that were held in Cape Town. Many of us were left speechless as the full extent of the abuse of women and children hit home.
As can be expected, these topics dominated many discussions and social media was abuzz with updates, comments and opinions. Sharing stories about the issues that face our community is a good thing. Opening up and being honest about the realities affords us an opportunity to not only heal, but also to find new perspectives.
For this reason, we took the decision to turn our masthead (logo) for this week on its side to serve as a reminder to all of us that the struggle is real and that we, as a united community, need to change our perspective. It is so easy for us to say that what is happening is ‘typically South African’, ‘something that males do’ or that it is ‘strengthening our resolve to leave the country’.
As it happens, the abduction of Amy’Leigh was not a typical male or South African crime. A typical crime would be when the criminals steal the car, maybe with the child in it, or rape the child. Instead the suspected criminals were people the family knew and trusted. In the event of the murder of Uyinene, the suspect is a postman who is believed to have raped and killed her in the post office – a place where you would never expect such a heinous crime to take place.
What we have to take home from this is that criminals are individuals. They are not a faceless threat. They are not ‘how things are in South Africa’. Criminals get away with it precisely because we (and they) accept that this is how things are. The same goes for domestic violence. That man has no right to degrade, threaten, intimidate or attack you. Call him what he is – a criminal. Report his crimes to the police because that gives him a name. Let all of us stand up and say #IAmNotNext.