17-year-old Anene Booysen’s injuries were beyond horrific. She was gang raped by two men and her stomach had been slit open down to her genitals. The South African native eventually died about six hours later in the hospital – after positively identifying one of her attackers. Two men, Jonathan Davids (23) who is reported to be Booysen’s ex-boyfriend and a family friend, and Johannes Kana (21), were both eventually charged with the gruesome acts of rape and murder.
According to several studies, a rape is said to be committed in South Africa every four minutes.
About 48 women are raped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo every hour according to the American Journal of Public Health.
The US Department of Justice claims that every two minutes, somewhere in America, someone is sexually assaulted.
Nearly one third of Ethiopian women have been physically forced by a partner to have sex against their will per a World Health Organization study.
Early on February 14, the world was shocked to find out that South African Olympic champion Oscar Pistorious had been charged with the heinous crime of murdering his statuesque girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. The attractive 30-year-old law graduate turned model was brutally killed in Oscar’s home in South Africa. When the news first broke, it appeared to be a case of mistaken identity but as the details emerged, the tragic tale slowly became a case of unthinkable murder. Adding to insult to injury, allegations are emerging that Reeva was shot four times with wounds to her head, chest and arm through the bathroom door. It seems that she was hiding.
How far we fall from grace.
You may remember that Oscar was listed in 2012 by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential in the world, he is currently on the cover of GQ South Africa and was sponsored by powerhouse brands such as Nike. You may know him as a worldwide phenomena who captured the hearts of everyone around the globe at the London Olympics with this unshakable spirit. So how is that the public at large didn’t know about his history of domestic violence? Why is that we are now hearing about how in 2009, Oscar spent a night in police custody when he was arrested on charges of assaulting a 19-year-old woman in the same house as the one in which Reeva died?
According to the Associated Press, the paraplegic athlete had recently been involved in incidents which included “allegations of a domestic nature.” It seems that police had been called to Oscar’s house in the past, and there were reports from neighbors of shouting and screaming from the house before Reema’s untimely death.
If you are not upset and angry by now, let me hit you with this little bit of news. One out of three women on the planet will be beaten or raped in their lifetime according to the United Nations.
In an ironic twist, the now deceased 30-year-old was set to speak at a local university on Thursday about the empowerment of women. As a matter of fact, her last uploaded image on Instagram was in support of Anene Booysen -urging followers to stand up against violence against women. It is shocking that she not only died on Valentine’s Day, but coincidentally the very same day as the One Billion Rising campaign, aimed at raising awareness of the harsh violence realities faced by women and girls globally.
I am incredibly sorry that this happened to Reeva. Or Anene. Or 23-year-old Jyoti Singh Pandey, who was brutally gang raped in India just last month.
My worry is that by the end of this weekend this story will be old news. We know how the media cycle works. With the Oscars coming up, Beyonce’s documentary, drones in Africa, and other late breaking news – the life of Reeva and all the other uncounted but important faces will be all but a distant memory. Have we become numb to the atrocities committed against women? Why are we sitting by idly and encouraging this culture of violence against our sisters?
So who’s to blame here? We all are! If you are thinking “huh”? then you are the person that I am talking to.
We have all contributed to a culture in which abuse against women is common and in which our attitudes excuse or encourage violence. Do you remember how in 2009 when Chris Brown beat Rihanna into a pulp many assumed that she was to blame for starting the fight? Or how about when late last year, Swaziland introduced a new law aimed at preventing rape: making it illegal for women to wear miniskirts, low-rise jeans and midriff-bearing tops? Or when the lawyer representing three of the men accused of the gang rape in India blamed the victim, saying “respected” women in India are not raped?
What has happened to our sense of Ubuntu? The Nguni word meaning – ‘I am what I am because of who we all are.’ Where is our spirit of togetherness? If one woman suffers, then we all suffer.
There must be a shift in how we discuss abuse against women. It’s not enough to ban women from wearing certain clothing or teaching them how to defend themselves. Yes, we can talk ad nauseam about the gun culture that exists worldwide. But what I am most concerned about is the conversation about how men fit into this picture. Shouldn’t we be educating them about the perils of harming their female counterparts? Aside from educating men, how about safe-guarding our women legally, emotionally and spiritually? Enough is enough. I have done my part in condoning abuse against women and inherently so have you. When does it stop?
Makho Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean born celebrity reporter and blogger based in New York City. You can follow her @MakhoNdlovu. To learn more about her, check out her personal blog Makho-Ndlovu.blogspot.com