File picture: Mariah Ashby/Unsplash
File picture: Mariah Ashby/Unsplash

16 days of activism: I am the husband of a survivor

Time of article published Dec 2, 2019

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I am the husband of a survivor. My wife endured years of abuse at the hands of her very first boyfriend. More than a decade later, she still carries the trauma of what he did. 

I am there to dry the tears, I am there to soothe when the rage erupts. I am there to hold on tight when she wants to take flight from this world. I am there always. But I have also been nowhere too. 

Trapped in the middle of privileged diplomacy and discomfort over the terrible things men do. I’m not one of “those guys” I kept telling myself. But the numbers keep rising. Every murder more horrific, every ordeal more traumatic. 

Still I am not one of those men. 

Then something shifted. A man raped and murdered a young girl. On the threshold of life. She carried dreams that died with her. She could have been my child. She is my child. My quietness wasn’t going to cut it anymore when I looked at the full of life images of yet another South African woman raped and murdered by a man. 

I am a man! We are all each other’s ambassadors whether we like it or not. But I am not that man. That line too wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Too many men are raping and killing women. 

As a father of two daughters and a husband, I can no longer stay silent. We call ourselves good guys and say we would never harm a hair on a woman’s head or a child. And we don’t. 

But the truth is that standing on the sidelines and distancing ourselves from the heinous actions of our brothers, fathers, friends and colleagues doesn’t make us any better. Saying “I am not that kind of man” doesn’t make you “not that kind of man”. Inaction makes us equally culpable and complicit. 

I pledge to do all I can to keep the women around me safe. If I see a man behaving strangely around a female, I will hang around at a safe distance (far enough so she doesn’t have to fear me) to make sure he never harms her. 

If I notice a man following a woman, I will follow him to make sure he never attacks her. If I suspect someone of being abusive, or know someone personally who is, I will do all I can to make him feel the discomfort and wrath of others around him. 

More than this, it’s the conversations that we as men are privy to and form part of where our buddies stereotype and sexualise women, and the demeaning jokes at which we laugh albeit uncomfortably. It’s time to call them out because it’s in these private circles that misogyny breeds from and can manifest into something abhorrently physical. 

I pledge to do what all good men should be doing … uniting and standing up to the monsters who taint us all with their cowardice conduct. 

Are you a good man? Will you pledge to protect women around you? 

Years ago, thousands of women had the guts to stand up against an abhorrent system that sought to dehumanise people. It’s time for men to stand up and reciprocate for all mothers, daughters, sisters who have died, for their families, for our own daughters, for every single woman ... it is our turn to say NO MORE! Friendships and family mean nothing when women are being killed. 

Stop hiding behind that feeble excuse. Stop pretending that it’s not that bad. Because it’s appallingly bad. 

A woman’s body is not our right. A woman’s life is not our right. All it takes for evil to prevail in this world is for good men to do nothing. Are you a good man? I pledge to be!  

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