Tag Archives: Abuse

‪#‎RedressForOurWomen‬ : From Street Harassment To Stripping To Sexual Assault

My country Kenya, keeps breaking my heart as it continuously proves just how hostile it is towards us, women. Earlier today, news broke on social media about a woman who was raped in a matatu. Someone took a video of the rape because it is more important to be the source of a viral video than it is to help a woman. The video has been making its rounds online. I haven’t watched it and will not be doing so because I cannot bring myself to see yet another woman be violated. I got chills reading a tweet describing what those sadistic so-called men did to the woman.  A man, who I assume watched the video, responded to that particular tweet with, “Why wasn’t she wearing underwear?” Seriously!? A woman was raped, people watched, others recorded it, and all some idiot is concerned about is underwear!? That’s when you know we live in a society that is heavily invested in rationalizing the violation of women.

These past few weeks we have seen videos of and heard about women being stripped naked because they were dressed “indecently.” One of the women was stripped because she simply asked that the man who bought eggs from her pay up. Yes, she did what our society teaches us women not to do – demand what belongs to her. The gang that stripped her jumped on the “indecently” dressed bandwagon of course because they knew what we all know, the morality police and victim blaming army would keep them safe.

When, we women and the men who openly stand with us, mobilized around #MyDressMyChoice, the foot soldiers of patriarchy claimed that we were advocating for “indecency.” Never mind that (in)decency is subjective. “They want to walk around naked,” they said. They insisted on missing the point of #MyDressMyChoice  and poured all their energy into rubbishing the efforts that women and select men were/are making towards advocating for women’s rights and putting an end to the violence meted out against us on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, the videos, social media and mainstream media commentary have proven what we, Kenyan women, have known all along – our men are our biggest threat. There are very few safe spaces for women in our country. We are surrounded by men who feel/think that they have the rights to a woman’s body.

I can’t count the number of times I have been harassed while walking around minding my own business. From the “smile supuu, umeiva jo,” to the random men who grab my hand, and hold on tight all the while insisting on having a conversation. Of course refusing to respond almost always results in being verbally abused. Suddenly you go from being a “supuu” to “sura kama kiatu.” Because how dare a woman reject a man’s advances when she should be grateful for getting attention from said man!?

Street harassment is scary and cannot be explained away by saying “Oh don’t take it seriously. He is just complimenting you.” There have been many occasions when I have been soaked in fear, praying that a man doesn’t physically attack me, as I walked away from/ignored his catcalls. It’s not an experience that I would wish on anyone, yet women go through it daily.

Enough is enough. It is time to put an end to violence against women. No, you don’t have to think of the victim as your mother/wife/girlfriend/sister/daughter/aunt in order to fight for women’s rights. You fight because women are human beings who deserve to live free of fear and violence. Our value isn’t derived from our relationships with men. It is derived simply from being human beings.

We can no longer continue to be silent as women are being violated. We cannot continue to rationalize and explain away this violence. We can’t ignore it either. We must stand up and speak out against it. We must stop using culture and religion to condone the violence. We must stop victim blaming and shaming. We can’t afford to be complacent about women’s safety and security. We must protect women.

Kenyan men – why are you so hostile towards us? Before you say “not all men” first ask what you, “the good man,” are doing to protect women. If your answer is “nothing” then you are also part of the problem. As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” So do something. Don’t stand there and record a video as a woman is being violated, help her. Don’t keep quiet when your friend is busy catcalling women, call him out and let him know you won’t stand for it.

Select Kenyan women – do you not love yourself? Stop with the “I don’t condone “indecency” but blah blah,” “If only we girls dressed better…,” “We should teach our girl self-value…,” and “Let’s first have self-respect ladies…” Your respectability politics is not going to stop the violence and neither is it going to protect any of us from these brutal men. We all need to actively participate in ending violence against our own beings.

Religious types – what God do you serve? I know my God did not create me to be oppressed and violated, neither is it His intention for me to live in perpetual fear. Every time a woman is violated you come out swinging with your Bible and scripture quotes. “The Bible says this and that about being a good woman.” “Oh, even Adam and Eve had to cover up, why not you?” “Exposing yourself is not Christian-like.” “Your body is the temple…cover up.” Really, you need to stop with the selective Christianity.  Ask yourself, “What Would Jesus Do?” before you pelt bible verses at victims and turn a blind eye to injustice.

Mainstream media – what did women do to you? What are these “Is it right to strip a woman for being “indecent”?” discussions about? There are no two sides to these stories. There is no debate to be had about the safety of women. There is certainly no neutrality when it comes to this. As Desmond Tutu aptly put it, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Government – do you even care? Your silence is loud especially you, women representatives. What type of leaders are you? Argh. “For every moment we remain silent, we conspire against our women” ~ Nelson Mandela.

Social media scum and morality police – Yes you, Robert Alai types. Do us all a favor and jump off a cliff. The world could do without your brand of stupid.

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It is also the start of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. As far as I am concerned, we should work/fight/write/campaign/protest every day to prevent and end violence against women and girls globally.

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On Harassment, Discrimination and Violence Against Women

I was walking to the restroom of a club the other day when some random man grabbed my hand and tried to pull me towards him. Now, having experienced this before, I have mastered the art of getting my hand out of such men’s grips, serving them an ample portion of side eye, and walking away.  Having successfully dodged idiot numero uno, I proceeded to the restroom only to have another idiot plant himself in my way, and pat my waist and stomach like he was some TSA agent performing a security check. It happened so fast and the idiot disappeared into the dance floor just as my shocked self was about to say something. I got to the restroom wishing that a door would magically appear on its walls so that I didn’t have to go back the way I had come from. I legit thought of using the window as my exit after I was done.  And this happened, why!? Because I am a woman and there are men out there who think they can willy-nilly have their way with me.

Right before I made my scary and draining walk to the restroom, I had been having a conversation with my friend about the shootings in Isla Vista.  If you  haven’t heard by now, a 22-year-old man went on a shooting spree killing six people and injuring over a dozen others. He was angry at women for rejecting him, and blamed women for his loneliness, misery and unfulfilled desires. Read more herehere and here.

Our conversation was about the entitlement that men feel to women. Men roam this earth expecting and demanding that all women say yes to them, fulfill their every desire, sway to their every whim and bow at their feet.  Who made you the alpha and omega, men, who!?  Seriously! Rejection happens. It is part of life. Deal with it instead of resorting to verbal and physical violence, and harassment, among others.  Is it really that hard to accept someone’s no!? Is it really difficult for you to understand that someone is not interested in your advances!?

I remember this one time I was at a party. Some guy who I didn’t know, and was not interested in getting to know, decided that the best way to talk to me was by putting his face 0.47 inches from mine. I could literally see all the pores on his facial skin. I told him repeatedly to step back because he was in my personal space. The guy threw what can only be described as a tantrum. He started yelling at me and hurling insults. Then he started saying, “This girl is a witch.” Say what!? All because I told him to clear my personal space. Ala! Clearly, abusing me is the most appropriate way to get me to be interested in his existence. Needless to say, my friends and I exited that party.

Unfortunately, I have countless experiences similar to the ones above, as do all women. A Twitter conversation emerged after the Isla Vista shooting under the hashtag #YesAllWomen.  The conversation is about harassment, discrimination and violence against women. Before you start with the “not all men” defense, I suggest you read the tweets and understand what all women go through EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Then come back and let’s figure out how we can put an end to this because violence against women is everybody’s problem.

 

On Silencing Victims

Dr. Frank Njenga, possibly the most known psychiatrist in Kenya, wrote this piece on Tuesday that made me question his craft. A person wrote in seeking advice on whether she should tell people about being abused by a relative as a teenager. She is hesitant to talk about the abuse because the abuser is now a respected elder. You would expect a sensible response from Dr. Njenga but apparently that is asking way too much. He finds a way to make the victim seem worse than the perpetrator. I worry for the individuals he has had as clients over the years because, based on this piece, this doctor has no qualms about rubbing salt into people’s wounds.

Dr. Njenga attempts to use the Bible to disguise his victim bashing. He says that the person has a strong urge to tell the truth only because she is searching for freedom from guilt. Really? Freedom from guilt? Exactly what is this person guilty of? Does silence about an abuse one experienced make the person guilty? Is it not possible that their silence is their coping mechanism? Or maybe they weren’t ready to talk about it? Is it possible that they hoped their silence would somehow erase that memory? There are so many reasons why the person didn’t tell their truth before but for a psychiatrist to decide the victim is the guilty party is quite simply ridiculous.

The doctor references the biblical story of the adulterous woman which has no relevance whatsoever to this person’s experience. The reason he brought this story up is to point out that no human being is without sin. So because everyone is prone to sin then that means people should condone abuse? How does that even translate to sense in the doctor’s head? As if that’s not enough he proceeds to imply that the person is “sad, empty, hopeless and helpless” and therefore is using the truth to punish herself. What!? Not only that but also that she wants to speak out so as to “hurt the respected elder” and “bring shame and scandal to your husband, yourself and your children.” To what end though? The person was abused. How does telling that story bring shame and scandal to her husband and children? To say this is to imply that the victim should be ashamed and therefore keep the abuse to herself. Talk about promoting the culture of victim shaming that forces many to suffer in silence.

Dr. Njenga, storyteller that he is, brings up the case of a woman who was diagnosed with delusional disorder. Again, relevance? Unless the doctor is trying to suggest the person who wrote in has the same disorder. Pray do tell doctor, how can you diagnose a mental illness based on two  paragraphs a person wrote about their abuse and the truth? What gave her away? Was it her writing? Was it her choice of words? Or perhaps because she wants to talk about a truth that you think should not be told?

The doctor’s concluding advice – “…I would suggest you seek the opinion of a trusted friend, parent or spiritual counselor who would help you deal with the strong urge in a healthy way.” Really? What is the healthy way – since the doctor basically told the person to remain silent as summarized in his final comments – “The truth can sometimes be a double-edged sword. Take care”?

In his response, the doctor managed to – accuse the victim of harboring guilt, imply that she has ulterior motives, question her relationship with the truth, and urge her to remain silent and move on.

Victim blaming, shaming and silencing needs to end. It’s about time.

On that note, why did Nation Media Group editors allow this “advice” from Dr. Njenga to go to print? Surely you don’t need to be a psychiatrist to know that his response is inappropriate in every sense of the word. Last I checked, the media is in the business of, among others, giving voice to the voiceless, so why approve articles that perpetrate the very cultures that ensure continued silencing of voices?