Now is the time to stand to­gether and say ‘enough’

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - Front page - AN­GELA DANIELS

When crime vi­ciously crashes into the very bas­tion of the mid­dle class – our child-friendly restau­rants – it is lit­tle sur­prise that the ca­coph­ony of rage is dis­pro­por­tion­ately louder.

Is it sur­pris­ing? No.

When a seven-year-old girl was al­legedly raped in the bath­room of a Pre­to­ria restau­rant, peo­ple from across the coun­try col­lec­tively rose, tak­ing to so­cial me­dia and then the courts in protest.

Make no mis­take, this rage is in no way un­jus­ti­fied. When we hear of a savage, sick paedophile – there is no other de­scrip­tion for a man who rapes a tiny child – we should all feel sear­ing rage.

But there was some­thing about this in­ci­dent that par­tic­u­larly struck a chord with many of us. It was where it hap­pened – at a fam­ily restau­rant.

It thus shat­tered the il­lu­sion of safety in typ­i­cally mid­dle-class spa­ces which are in­her­ently thought to be safer.

The re­al­ity is that the rape of women and chil­dren is so com­mon­place in our coun­try, in ar­eas thought to be rel­a­tively “safer” and es­pe­cially in those where cit­i­zens are more vul­ner­a­ble, be­cause of their poor cir­cum­stances.

If we ac­cept this, we must then ask if we, the mid­dle classes, protest enough and raise our voices when such bru­tal­ity oc­curs in spa­ces we may not nec­es­sar­ily iden­tify with.

If not, and I sub­mit that we do not, we must ask our­selves some se­ri­ous ques­tions – be­cause we have a far greater chance of ef­fect­ing change.

Does our anger stem from the fact that we can imag­ine our­selves in the very sit­u­a­tion in which the fam­ily at the Dros was so de­spi­ca­bly placed?

Are all the fathers bay­ing for the Dros sus­pect’s blood – men we hear from far too sel­dom when it comes to rape – do­ing so be­cause they can so eas­ily imag­ine that child to be theirs?

If so, we should take a step back and re­alise that the scourge of vi­o­lence, sex­ual de­prav­ity and as­sault per­vades ev­ery corner of our coun­try, ev­ery com­mu­nity, ev­ery race, ev­ery class.

What we also need to re­mem­ber is that the mid­dle class, those with the voice I speak of, can­not be silent when the vic­tim and place the crime takes place does not res­onate.

I would like to be­lieve we fight as hard for those whose cir­cum­stances we do not share.

I do not, how­ever, think we do.

If you do not be­lieve me, then per­haps look to an­other dis­turb­ing in­ci­dent that hap­pened just this week – an 11year-old who, in an eerily sim­i­lar man­ner, was al­legedly raped in an out­side toi­let in Delft in the Western Cape.

If you do not know about that case – and you may well not – I would urge you to look it up. The vis­ceral Dros out­rage is sim­ply not seen in that case.

And then in the case of the restau­rant at­tack, it was not long af­ter the ini­tial out­rage that we heard the sad echoes of our racist past – those who did not be­lieve a white man could com­mit rape and those who felt the per­pe­tra­tor’s race was more im­por­tant than the crime.

In a so­ci­ety like ours, so po­larised and in many ways still racist, that those con­ver­sa­tions are still had is un­der­stand­able.

And they should be had, but not in a man­ner that side­lines the vic­tim and places more at­ten­tion on the crim­i­nal.

We can­not fight against the most evil in our so­ci­ety if we do so only in the lit­tle pock­ets of so­ci­ety in which we live.

We can­not fight mon­sters if we only slay those whose crimes af­fect peo­ple with whom we iden­tify.

It will take a col­lec­tive – ev­ery man, wo­man and child in South Africa – to turn the tide on this sick­ness in our so­ci­ety.

It is now, not to­mor­row or the next day, that we need to stand in sol­i­dar­ity and say “enough is enough”.

It is now that we need to re­mem­ber that rape and abuse form no part of any­one’s cul­ture and that it is only those who are truly sick who would make ex­cuses based on back­ground or race.

It is now that we need to stand to­gether, no mat­ter what, be­cause as chilling as it might be to con­tem­plate, the next child it hap­pens to could be yours.

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