Why don’t abuse vic­tims mat­ter to us?

CityPress - - Voices - Dumisane Lubisi voices@city­press.co.za

The pa­tri­archy di­vides and con­quers, and this un­der­mines the courage of women

Fri­day. The scene: Port El­iz­a­beth Mag­is­trates’ Court.

In­side, tel­e­van­ge­list Ti­mothy Omo­toso is ap­pear­ing on charges of hu­man traf­fick­ing af­ter a num­ber of women made al­le­ga­tions that the pas­tor had sex­u­ally abused them.

But the real scene to watch is out­side, where two groups are gath­ered. One is de­mand­ing that Omo­toso should not get bail be­cause of the al­leged crimes he com­mit­ted.

The other, made up mainly of women and mem­bers of his church, has come to de­fend the pas­tor.

The posters they hoist say it all: “Let them talk daddy, they know noth­ing”; “Tim Omo­toso my fa­ther”; “Omo­toso Na­tion Aisi­jiki”. This jar­ring show of sup­port for the op­pres­sor by the op­pressed has played it­self out be­fore.

Dur­ing the rape trail of then ANC deputy pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, ANC women led the march out­side the court. They la­belled the woman who laid the charges in­sult­ing names. Her suf­fer­ing was re­duced to noth­ing and her life ruined.

The sup­port­ers said the rape case was a sideshow, or­ches­trated by those who did not want Zuma to as­cend the pres­i­dency of the ANC – and the coun­try.

Zuma was later ac­quit­ted of the rape charge, while the vic­tim went into ex­ile. She later re­turned home. She died last year. Even in death, she is still only re­mem­bered as the woman who ac­cused Zuma of rape, and not even by her real name.

While the mer­its of Omo­toso’s case are still to be heard, crime sta­tis­tics show that women in South Africa are not safe, even at home.

One in four women is a vic­tim of abuse. Most are abused by those who pro­fess to love and pro­tect them.

So, while the women out­side the Port El­iz­a­beth court have the right to show sup­port for their “fa­ther”, we need to pon­der why there are no men and women out­side court with slo­gans of sup­port for his al­leged vic­tims.

And the women who show up to sup­port the ac­cused are the cheer­lead­ers of pa­tri­archy, be­liev­ing that, by sup­port­ing it, they can es­cape the worst of it. It is un­likely they can. We all need to ask why we are not out­side sup­port­ing the vic­tims of abuse, who have had the courage to fight back. In our ap­a­thy, we com­pound their vic­tim­hood.

In op­pos­ing woman abuse, we must recog­nise how the pa­tri­archy di­vides and con­quers, and how this un­der­mines the courage of many women, who be­come re­luc­tant to come for­ward. This is how rape and sex­ual as­sault re­main un­der­re­ported.

Every high-pro­file case of a pow­er­ful man that comes to court re­in­forces how much needs to be done to shift so­ci­ety’s sup­port to the brave ones who speak out.

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