19 October 2019
I last broached the sensitive topic of being domestic abuse and being stuck in the vicious cycle of victimhood and abuse. Today I am venturing into a discussion of abuse that is closer to home – sexual harassment, molestation and Rape, having experienced these diabolical delights. I was groped, seduced, inappropriately touched, raped and at the age of 6, molested by an adult male relative. I am a survivor and a victor. I refused and still refuse to be a victim of anyone or anything.
I experienced inappropriate behaviour towards me by school boys, varsity students, and older men from the age of six until my twenties. I am convinced that most women have at some point in their lives experienced inappropriate behaviour from males, whether it was sexist talk, inappropriate innuendos, unwanted physical advances or rape and violence.
Even in the 21st century, the archaic notion of masculine entitlement and superiority still permeates society, despite the evolution of laws which seek to level the playing field. Although in western countries women have been graciously given the right to vote as recently as a hundred years ago, the unwritten context that men have certain privileges over women still dominates the social ethos. If men make sexual advances and innuendos are still met with the unspoken acceptance that boys will be boys and there is no real harm in it. Its ok for men to make sexual advances because, well, women really want it. No really means yes.
The fact that men are physically stronger than women has been misinterpreted to mean that they are not only mentally superior, but have a right to dominate women. Taken a step further, it includes the right to objectify or have access to women at will. Although sexual harassment is increasingly being challenged at the workplace, in the social scene, it is far less common. It is difficult to accuse or hold someone to account if they are friends; friends of friends or family. The fear of causing social disruption, or being blamed or not believed is a strong deterrent against exposing harassers within a family or social circle. Women are often demonised for exposing such behaviour. Exposure of perpetrators in social and family circles is often considered a disruption of the social order and social family circles are more comfortable pretending that there is no problem in order to preserve the peace. The woman who dares to speak out is seen as disrupting the social order and is viewed as the culprit rather than the sufferer. She often feels like breaking the silence about what she endured would expose her to the silent scorn of others. This is by no means a generalisation of the behaviour of men and women, it is, however, a phenomenon that occurs with some men, who prey on women they find attractive and whom they probably feel they will not stand a chance with unless they force their way. Unfortunately, it is far more common than we care to admit. Such men feel that they have an innate right to take what they want and see women as the weaker sex, just waiting for a man to stake his claim. This has less to do with sex than with the desire to dominate and overpower. The extreme form of such domination is rape and violence against women. Any self-respecting man, will feel too ashamed to want to impose himself on someone who did not reciprocate his feelings. Self-respect is inevitably coupled with respect for others. The physical strength of a man enables him to physically protect the women and children in his care. This positive strength is only manifested if the man has the mental strength and tenacity to recognise that his physical strength gives him responsibility rather than power. Acceptance of that responsibility manifests in love, protectiveness and respect. Conversely, a man who feels powerless and like he is not worthy of love, may adversely manifest that powerlessness through domination and violence towards women. After all he is stronger and can exert his power over the woman. He most likely feels like no woman would want him because he is not lovable. He resentfully shows her who is boss and will show her his power, his prowess and his strength, none of which he actually believes he has. The woman represents his feelings of inadequacy, which is inevitably rooted deeply in his primary experiences, leaving him feeling that rumbling feeling of not being good enough…
What about child molestation abuse and rape? In such cases the extent of the man’s sense of inadequacy must be so intense that he chooses victims who cannot oppose him, or point a finger or even resist him in any meaningful way, because they are too young. My molester skilfully seduced my 6-year old damaged self, knowing exactly how to prey on my childish insecurities to win my trust. When he committed the physical acts on my little body, I hardly understood what was happening and my mind was in terrible turmoil owing to the snippets I had heard about the taboo of physical contact between male and female. I believed that kissing could make me pregnant and that this man may have impregnated me although he had not even breached my tiny little hymen. My view of men and the world was set. He on the other hand predated on young children. They would never talk. No-one would believe them. They’d think it was their fault. They would never tell anyone how inadequate he was. They would never know how weak and pathetic he felt, or how no-one could ever love him because he was not good enough. Because someone did this to him when he was young…
I never cared to understand what drove men to behave they did toward me. I was consumed by my fear of being controlled and abused and lashed out in a fury of aggression toward men of all ages, shapes and sizes. I saw women as needing protection and men as bullies, and it was my God-given right to aggress against them and put them in their place, wherever I encountered them, whether they were family, friends, class-mates or foes, I painted them all with same suspicious brush. Ironically, the abuse I received from these men who felt unloved and unworthy, made me feel unloved and unworthy and I became a bully of a different kind. I always thought I avoided the vicious circle of abuse, until I faced the uncomfortable truth that I had fallen into the psychological trap of verbally abusing men as a punishment for what they did to me. This negative cycle of violence and abuse threatens the fabric of our society. Next week in the final part, I examine what lies behind this phenomenon and how we can change this destructive path that destroys our communities.
With love always