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16 Days of Activism
For every woman and child violently abused, there's an abuser.
Parent24 Editor, Scott Dunlop
Remember former president Thabo Mbeki’s infamous comment, when asked if he knew anyone who is HIV positive: “Personally I don’t know anybody who has died of Aids. I really, honestly don’t”? Have you ever caught yourself thinking that you don't know anyone who is violent to women and children? I have foolishly thought that, but, the sad reality is, I have known women and children who have been abused, and I have known their abusers, too. I suspect many of you have, too.

Who are they?

The abusers aren’t behind bars inside prison walls, they’re sitting next to you at the work social, or helping to do the dishes at a family gathering. They aren’t living in fear of arrest, they’re picking up another six-pack of beer at the bottle store, or fixing the sprinkler system in the garden. They’re in front of us in the bank queue or tucking into a pizza at the Italian place. They’re fathers and husbands. Sometimes they are moms and wives. Your Facebook friends. He's the uncle with the bad jokes and the old Ford Capri up on bricks in his yard. She's the immaculate office worker with a defective impulse control. He's the bookkeeper squinting at his wife, controlling her with steely glances: People who seem to fit that maxim, the banality of evil, because they're ordinary people, like you and me.

She’ll go back to him. She has to. Because... because... he’ll leave her/kill her if she leaves/take her kids/get her fired/take her money/lie that he’s changed/promise he’s a new man/stop drinking or taking drugs/rob her of ten years they’ve spent together.

He’ll hit her again, because he’s immature/violent/addicted/incapable of adult communication/self-absorbed/full of self-loathing/insecure/a bully/grown up with violence/damaged.

I never meant for her to get hurt/I only wanted to discipline my own kids/I wasn't thinking/I was drunk/It was just a once-off mistake/It's just because I was raised that way/I was under stress.


What can be done?

You could be in a position to break the cycle. Perhaps a brave phone call to a trusted family member or a social worker could do it. You may have to go through the hell of testifying in court, with the perpetrator staring daggers at you. You could tell someone in your church or workplace. If you're the abuser, you could admit it. You could get help. Talking about it is just the beginning.

There are numbers you can call, anonymously.

There are volatile and emotional times ahead, with the holiday season coming up. Arguments based on little else other than alcohol abuse and misunderstandings could prompt violence. I’ve had to lay charges once against a man who kicked me in the head when I tried to stop him beating his girlfriend whose teeth he’d just bashed out. It terrified me, but I did it. She went back to him, eventually.

It’s important to support 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children- we can all do that in theory, but will we make those difficult calls when it comes down to it? I hope I have the guts to do just that. How about you?

Have you educated your kids about 16 Days of Activism?

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