My first boyfriend in my first year at university pinned me down on his bed in his res room. He was smaller than me, I was a lithe, fit, almost-6-foot, 17-year old who thought she was invincible. In that moment, I realised that I wasn’t. I freaked out completely, he was horrified and let me go, apologising and comforting me. He was a nice guy. I was lucky. So, so many women weren’t so lucky, and still aren’t.
Some months later, it was a typical Friday night in Grahamstown in the early 90’s: meet up with friends at The Union, have a couple of drinks, amble down to The Vic for a bit of a dance. Except that that night stands out for me, because that night, as we stood in the queue at The Vic to pay our R5 entrance fee, I saw the burly bouncer aggressively pin a petite young girl in front of me against the wall, his hand around her neck. She had tried to dodge the admission fee.
I saw red at this show of violent, unnecessary bullying (not for the first, or last, time in my life) and promptly pushed forward, pushing said bouncer who, despite my being 6-foot, was much bigger than me, and bloody scary, and shouted at him to let her go. Luckily for me, my childhood friend, Hector, had just walked in behind me and got between me and the bully and told the bouncer in no uncertain terms that what he was doing was utterly despicable and completely unacceptable. Had he not have been there, I’d probably have been involved in a brawl, a one-sided one that I would’ve lost. And therin lies the rub. Had it not been for my male friend, coming to ‘save’ me, I’d have been in some serious danger. I am grateful for his being there, but I am still angry that he needed to be.
These were not isolated events, this was everyday, and my two (true) examples are tame compared to so many that were happening then and have happened since then, and continue happening. But it’s ALL of them that need to be stopped: from the lecturer ‘harmlessly’ looking down your top as he shows you how to focus the microscope, to the brute who takes you back to his room and rapes you. NONE of it is okay.
It’s been brushed over, ignored, placated, not believed. Women keep getting told ‘not to invite it’, ‘not to walk in the dark’, ‘not to wear short skirts’, or, or… STOP. It’s not okay to rape. Bottom line. Turn your eyes and anger to the rapists, turn your hearts to those raped.
That is why I am so proud of the brave young students of my Alma Mater, who are now standing up, saying no, demanding that attention is paid, support systems are established – proper support systems. They have been lacking in our universities forever, and it’s not okay. Rape culture is not okay. Not. Okay.
Rhodes #Chapter212, we’re standing behind you, every single step of the way.