Vanessa Tedder wrote a book detailing how she was abused at the hands of a man she loved. Now read her open letter to men for 16 Days of Activism.
Another year, another 16 days of activism.
By the time you are done reading this, several more women (some of them your sisters and your mothers) would have become part of the staggering and sickening statistics of South Africa, beaten, raped or killed by their intimate partner, these women will count among those we as a community and country have failed dismally.
Even now as this tsunami of awakening sweeps through the globe, where women are slowly standing up and speaking their truth, the deafening silence from some quarters of our community is both an indictment and indication that one of the reasons this evil prevails is because "Good Men" are doing nothing.
When the #MenAreTrash campaign surfaced I was quick to take umbrage even though I have endured extreme violence and trauma at the hands of a former intimate partner. He was my first in every way. And he taught me sex was a commodity to be taken by force, he taught me that without him I was nothing, a slap if I wore a short skirt, a punch if I so much as smiled at another man.
Despite this violent love affair which spanned nearly six years before I finally plucked up the courage to walk away (and for those who make the disparaging comments about why it took me so long and that it’s my fault for having stayed, here is a sobering thought for you: at least I had the luxury of walking away and picking up the pieces of my life, some women lie in their cold graves never ever having found their courage, their children will grow up never knowing their mothers, parents who have had to bury their daughters hacked to death or burnt alive by their boyfriends… should I go on?
I felt not all men should be measured by the monsters who abuse women. No not all men are trash I declared, hating that my father and husband were being demonised in this way, hating that the good guys were getting a raw deal, much to the chagrin and contempt of some gender activists and even several men who were quick to stand up and berate their brothers for not doing enough in combatting this rot. How right they were. How wrong I was.
My memoir which details explicit and graphic accounts of the abuse I endured during my time at the SABC has ignited many women who have been emboldened to speak their truth.
But it has also brought the vermin crawling out of the dank holes they have been lying in, victim shaming me and even demanding I take the blame for getting abused.
But more than that is has also exposed the good men, those who have never raised a hand to a woman, but whose silence when their brothers, friends, sons and colleagues assault us with their fists or their words, allows the monsters to go unchallenged.
It is worrying. It is an indictment on all mankind when the good men stand back and do nothing. Say nothing. Whether you like it or not these monsters are your ambassadors and until such time you distance yourself from them, you will be counted among them.
Think I am talking nonsense? Out of the five thousand people on my Facebook account, it was only a handful of men who challenged a cyber troll who told me I should "take the blame" for what happened to me and that there were "two sides to the story”. Why were the others so quiet? Is this how you think perhaps? Because if you do, then surely the same reasoning must apply to the baby girl who is raped and disembowelled from the act, or the old granny who is beaten up, or the teenage girl who is sodomised and murdered? Is that what you as a man stand for?
Make no mistake women are leading this battle, we are on the frontlines but my brothers, we need you next to us.
This war is to ensure we leave a safer space for our daughters, they are your daughters too, an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, your mothers, your sisters, your wives and your daughters included, because this is South Africa, and a woman living here would be lucky so privileged if she managed to get through her life without ever experiencing violence and abuse.
Man up and stand up. We the women will tell the gory details of the pain we endure at the hands of our abusers in the hope of imbuing other women to find their own voice and to break free of the bonds of a fatal love affair, but we need you the good men to help us take out the trash!
And your silence and squeamishness aren’t going to cut it anymore! Nail your colours to the mast, state your position because thinking it privately within the confines of your own head isn’t going to save a life.
And most importantly, when confronted with even a suspicion of abuse it IS your business! ACT! Don’t let the trash rape us and violate us with their vitriol and don’t let them tarnish you with their diabolical brand of male supremacy and misogyny.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” - Edmund Burke