Be your sister’s keeper

A young lady at a function I attended recently shared a heartbreaking experience. One that is so telling of how women suffer in the hands of men, but also telling of how women play a role in shaming fellow women while shielding our male counterparts. At the age of 42 and married with four children, Carol had never opened up to anyone about the evils that went on in her home. And when she did so towards the end of last year at a family gathering, her mother went on the defensive and this brought back nasty childhood memories.

She grew up with a step father and two half brothers and in the same home, there lived two other male relatives of her stepfather. She recalls vividly how these two men assaulted her as a young girl and when she tried to seek help from her mother, she was instead beaten and warned against telling lies. With nobody else to run to, the young girl was molested by the two male relatives until the time they moved out of home. When Carol’s mother punished her for talking about the molestation, she assumed no other older person or relative would listen or even believe her.

As she finished telling her story, the room was filled with sobs and evidently everyone present was touched. When a session came for open discussions, several people either shared their experiences or tales they had heard that proved a lot of women who raise children in second or third marriages tend to trust the man at the expense of the children. Many are comfortable sweeping under the carpet or not discussing at all what a stepfather or his relatives were doing to their biological daughter. One lady shared how her mother went as far as telling her to keep quiet and enjoy the experience after all it was not going to kill her. She went as far as asking the daughter why she wanted to ruin her parent’s marriage.

Once grown, a woman is surrounded by female friends and male colleagues and she would easily assume she is safe until one day when she gets raped and confides in a friend or colleague about the incident. Whereas they will sympathise with her, questions will be asked. ‘How well did you know that person? Why did you visit him alone? Why didn’t you scream? Are you sure you were not dressed provocatively?’

When a woman has experienced animosity in the hands of a man she thought she knew, or even a stranger, then they go to friends who ask all these questions and end up blaming her, she is left alone. This happens to a six-year-old and happens to a 26-year-old. With nobody believing a victim or empathising with them, it only serves to shut them up and keep a perpetrator on the loose. This does not reduce sexual assault cases, it increases them. And for women who want to protect their marriages, you don’t do so by sacrificing your daughter’s life.

Ladies, the enemy is not within us, he is out there.