A friend of mine was recently beaten up by her boyfriend. He left her with two broken teeth, a black eye and three broken fingers. Although, unfortunately, he didn’t actually leave her. He stayed. He apologized. He promised to change. And so, she stayed. She forgave. She believed.
If you’re on social media, chances are you’ve seen the recent #metoo and time’s up movements. Perhaps sparked by the revelation that Harvey Weinstein is a sexual predator and a world class jerk. Or, maybe, women have just had enough. World-famous female celebrities have come out screaming, no more! Time magazine named ‘the silence breakers’, representing people who came forward to report sexual misconduct, as Person of the Year. Women everywhere joined the #metoo movement, publicly announcing that they too have been victims of sexual harassment. And yet, despite all this going on in the media. Despite her #metoo, my friend stayed. And, I am ashamed to say, I judged her for this.
I judged her, even though, a long time ago, I stayed myself. Despite having been there, done that. I judged her. And so, I am forced to ask, if the #metoo movement is not making further victims of those that choose to stay? Those that have small children and nowhere to go. Those that are financially dependent on their abuser. Those that are afraid. Please, don’t get me wrong, I think the movement is great and it’s about fucking time, but it’s easier to say #metoo if you’re Taylor Swift. And, although I applaud her for this, I wonder if those of us who have stayed perhaps do not feel even more shame at our inability to say #metoo or time’s up.
I needed to get a restraining order once, because of a guy who wouldn’t leave me alone. He called at all times of night. He emailed my work, my friends and my family. He bribed policemen to badger me. The harassment was endless. In fact, the only thing worse was my powerlessness to do anything about it. I spent a day sitting in the magistrates court, having to explain my story over and over again. Made to feel guilty for things that I had done that had little relevance to the situation or his behavior. I then had to stand on the pavement for an hour as the court closed for lunch as my papers had not yet been processed. Only to be told that, because we lived in different cities, I would need to deliver the restraining order myself. The court system couldn’t be relied on. When I left to go home that day, I certainly didn’t feel like proclaiming #metoo from the rooftops. Instead, I went home and I cried and I hid under my duvet, lost and afraid. #Metoo is all very well, but it isn’t enough.
So where am I going with this? To be honest, I don’t really know. What I do know, however, is that in a world where rape has become a weapon of war and women are killed daily by their partners, a social media movement is just not going to cut it. In a time where a known sex offender is voted in as the leader of the free world, little girls go missing every day and many women have no access to electricity and education, let alone social media, time actually isn’t up.
We cannot allow a movement to further the shame of the very people it was created to help. A movement that is only accessible to the few. We have to take it one step further. We have to fight harder, scream louder and demand more, especially for those who aren’t in the position, regardless of the circumstances, to do it themselves. I can’t change the world, but I can call my friend and tell her that I don’t judge her for staying. That she is not alone. That I too have done the same. Perhaps that is the key. A slow building of confidence, leads to courage , which will help her to build the strength and resources to one day finally say, time’s up!
For information on how you can help or get help go to www. powa.co.za