Cycle of abuse starts long before we gain our scars

Ashton Botha, Colorado Park

Violence against women has become normalised that when another body is added to the statistics it is no shock to our communities.

Vulnerable communities like the Cape Flats suffer from the consequences of the ongoing femicide. What does this mean for our women, our children, and our future?

Many believe that gender-based violence only exists when there is something to account for it. You are only a survivor when you show your scars. Maybe you are one of the many who did not survive.

The cycle of abuse starts long before we gain our scars, long before we find the body.

As a child, we were always told that “if he hits you in class it’s because he likes you” and “your uncle is coming over, go put on something appropriate”.

We’ve watched our mothers be strong in an abusive relationship because they had nowhere else to go. As a woman from a young age, you are moulded to be the perfect daughter, the perfect wife. Your worth is placed in how well you cook and clean, but that doesn’t count as real work.

Be silent when you’re catcalled in the street because it’s safer. When you are being emotionally and mentally abused at least he is not beating you. Being a woman means losing the autonomy of your body: he shouldn’t have to ask for consent if he is your boyfriend. Being labelled angry and hormonal is part of the package.

You can take accountability for all his actions because you are a woman, you are strong. We are only strong because we must be. We are constantly surviving because there is no other choice.

In South Africa, 76% of men admitted to being the perpetrator of gender-based violence at some point in their lives. Why do we always place the responsibility of prevention on women when there is a clear structure of patriarchy that needs to be dismantled?

Women’s health, education, and social development are consistently threatened because of this cycle of abuse.

People say it’s not all men. But it is all women. All women fear for their safety, all women take precautions before leaving their homes, before taking public transport, before going to the shop, and all women suffer under the cycle of abuse. So, you are right it is not all men, but it is enough men.

Being complacent is not enough. Standing with your friends as they sexualise women’s bodies does not make you the better man. Men hold power to create change by taking accountability and holding others around them accountable.