Nyaradzo Mashayamombe Speaking at Forum 2000 in The Czech Republic October 2017
Until you’ve been a victim of rape, physical violence, emotional trauma, then #metoo or #16DaysofActivism won’t mean anything to you. Until you’ve had a daughter sexually assaulted, a wife raped, a sister physically harassed or yourself felt unprotected, then you will want us to be silent. I’ve been exposed to emotional abuse as a child, I had near sexual abuse moments that play in my head that sometimes I wonder how it didn’t happen, at the hands of older relatives. I’ve suffered physical violence at the hands of those close to me as a result of the work that I do to speak out against GBV and holding especially men to contribute their own share in their families through either house work or productivity.
I’ve been asked questions like ‘are you married’ as a way of silencing me because most of women who are married are expected to keep quiet on Gender Based Violence (GBV). I’ve seen people side with perpetrators of violence in a painful way leaving you the victim questioning the worthiness of your own life. I’ve witnessed police asking women to go back home and address the GBV sending them right into the arms of the perpetrator and I’ve myself been asked by a male police officer to go and ‘deal with the issue since it regards a relative’. This is a simple example of the failure of justice system to protect victims of abuse simply because most times the male officers have biases, that they are also subjecting their own wives to the abuse and they’d rather sympathize with perpetrators. In all this as a Human Right Defender I’ve leant a couple of lessons;
1. The abused person has to look out for themselves most times as relatives simply take side of the perpetrator! They are going to play down your suffering and protect the perpetrator. My advise is as a victim whose being abused, have your own back, take action and go against everyone seeking to silence you because in their silencing, you are loosing your own self-confidence, your own self worth, you are inviting continued perpetration and you are making abusing you ok for everyone watching! Reporting doesn’t mean divorce in the case of those married, it means you are asking your partner to put boundaries, having him/her picked by the police and having some punishment helps them understand that you are a human being who is to be respected, valued and loved and that if they don’t see that for themselves then you will take steps to help them respect you. This is also for those violating for the first time, if the person is known for perpetual abuse or the second time, certainly take drastic measures like asking for protection order or asking that the person leaves the environment or house until they get help.
2. There is tremendous hostility for people especially women who suffer violence and try to seek justice. When I had this nasty experience, I was clear that I would not allow a person to go without some accountability, and taking steps ensured that I attracted amazing hostility and backlash. In that moment I leant that someone thought my life wasn’t worth that much as I thought I was worthy through the impunity they gave to the abusive person and hostility that followed because i’d taken action. However it became clear that I was the one responsible for respecting the life God gave me and that nobody had the right to rate my life lower than God means for it through being dehumanized by physical or any form of violence. I realized it was me who controlled that whether I would allow this to go unaddressed, I chose to address it and to deal with the hostility that followed.
3. The notion that victims of abuse especially women are unable to report abuse to get help became so vivid, because if they depend on that man to survive financially, or if they are a muroora (daughter in law) in that family then the whole family will ask her not to report and if she does she invites punishment, so that means for women one has to have a plan, to have economic empowerment so they can make choices and not depend on their abusers.
4. That when a person is physically stronger to abuse you, in the moment of abuse you can feel powerless. I personally felt a sense of being exposed, that the social system that was bound by the relationship contract had been broken and the only next thing that could protect me was the law. As I thought of my next steps being the law I felt some restoration already beginning. As the police arrived I saw my perpetrator feeling subdued and afraid of the police, that gave me back my power to realise that there is something that bring us all equal, thus the law. No wonder why justice in our traditional setups from time immemorial as African people was always there within the traditional courts that made someone pay cattle or have some form of punishment as restitution. The elders knew this was important. Our present day justice system has to work for victims to be restored or for them to begin their healing process. Even as I took steps inspite of opposition, I was happy I was putting myself first and this helped me.
During a #16Days of Activism to end GBV March in Harare 9 December Continue reading Getting Personal with Gender Based Violence(GBV)