‘We Believe YOU’- On black silence, social media and abuse.

By Tanki

*Trigger Warning: Abuse*

The head of abuse once again rears its ugly head on social media with many using it as a space to harm others especially women. Many times I read and observe in fear, not shock but fear, shaken by stories told whilst being greatly triggered by the thoughts that follow. However, there are many times when the space is used to speak up about and against abuse. A space where those who lurk in the shadows can be brought to light.

The silence around abuse in black families

Abuse against women in South Africa has always been one of the things swept under a carpet. It is always dismissed as an act of violence that needs to be resolved within the small circles we keep, mostly the mothers and fathers the partners of the abusers. Some children grow up witnessing their mother getting a physical bashing from their fathers. Black families, I feel, are the ones who deal with this the most and often and one sees aunts and parents, grandparents called in for a meeting to mediate between partners and parents. People gather to discuss what your father did to your mother and it is most often one of those highly confusing periods of a child’s life that lives in abusive home. They are left out of the conversation whilst the back of their mind whispers: “something is going on here at home”.

Imagine this for a short minute: You are around 10 years old and your father picked you up from school, took you to McDonald’s and bought you your favourite ice-cream treat. You get home and run to your mother to share this lovely treat and the first thing you see is a bruised face. When you ask what happened, your mother will dismiss your question with “I had an accident” you go back to your ice-cream, sad at your mother’s ‘accident’ but easily dismissive of it because in your hand you have a treat.

Imagine this happening again, and again, and again and realising eventually that ice-cream, might have been a distraction to what was happening. Realising that every time you got ice-cream, your grandparents would be at your house that following weekend. Realising that most of your childhood, your mother was going through the worst of times under the cloaked presentation of a happy home, but always had a strong smile on her face for you.

Black children experience these things and their conditioning to silence is the reason so many have a complex approach to communicating and opening up.

You spend your childhood witnessing these ‘accidents; but the first time you see your father beat your mother is the first time everything makes sense. The first time you experience a cold shiver drift through your body, the first time you feel the shock.

From there on out, nothing is ever the same, but you have no one to tell this to and most often, the adults around you seem to be on the side of the one who you once viewed as a loving, protective father.

Black children experience these things and their conditioning to silence is the reason so many have a complex approach to communicating and opening up. We see these things happen before our eyes and we grow up to look the other way, some of us end up in these situations and like your mother, you feel leaving is not the option, some of us do not grow up with such violence around us yet the moment we experience it, we stay with the hopes that this person we have come to love as a partner will change, will stop, and eventually we realise, within such a being lives a dark beast that feeds off of your pain, tears and hurt, in silence we try to fix what cannot be fixed, we stay and hope, but in truth we are breaking.

What would I tell that 10-year-old child today? Would I say ‘it gets better’, would I say, ‘there will come a time where you can openly voice out your experiences and someone will listen and believe you’…?

We are broken. 

Social media for speaking out

The dawn of social media has however opened many dialogues around abuse, rape culture, homophobia and a slew of other social topics that us as black folk would always shy away from. What were once soft whispers, have now become a loud cacophony of voices, what was once taboo to utter has now become trending topics where communities across the world are engaging, these short scripts of painful experiences trigger each of us to speak up against any form of inhuman treatment, to speak up about rape culture, women and child abuse.

Social Media has become a healing tool.

Platforms created for other reasons becoming platforms that drive a change in human behaviour.  A holistic form of human development at the palm of your hands and at the tips of your fingers. Revolutions are being developed and led, movements are gaining momentum and women are speaking up and speaking out.

Growing up a certain way you learn to be silent, you learn that some stories are not yours to share, that the owners of these painful encounters must find their own voices and most often, even if they do find their voices, our sweet African society finds a way to say “what did you do to anger them so much?” We as a people find a way to blame the victim for her abusive experience, yet we always seem to say Speak OUT….

How are we to speak out, when we live among monsters?

We live amongst monsters that are well-educated and dressed in fitted suits . They speak our language, they cry when we cry, they sympathise when we hurt, they show love and light when you feel that there is none. Such is the beast that lives inside a human, prancing around us while their hands have touched the blood of a fellow sister. Not through aid but through harm. Such is a monster that presents himself to us with a smile while he leaves a fellow sister without a smile on her face back home.

How is this even human, how is this even real? How is such a creature living among us while he cloaks his darkness in yellow lights and voices over sonic waves. The world is threaded with tears shed at the hands of those we grow up being told are our protectors. The world is threaded with blood spats from the broken lips of sisters, mothers and aunts, blood spats that happen because, who you see as your partner in life leaves you stained and broken with hurt.

“We believe you, Yani, Lindiwe, Kim, Thobeka, Sibongile, Naledi, Lungi, Nthabi, Khwezi.”

I will never not believe a woman who speaks about abuse, who speaks of her experiences with those whom the small little world she shares with hold in high regard. Respected men who are celebrated by many, doing despicable things to those they claim to love are nothing but monsters among us and this week has been nothing but triggering to my core and the truth of it all is, “We believe you, Yani, Lindiwe, Kim, Thobeka, Sibongile, Naledi, Lungi, Nthabi, Khwezi.”

Your stories, some told on these public platforms, some told on pages of your diaries, some told over tea and scones, some told at 2AM in the morning because a monster has left you with no option but to run to your closest friend and finally open up about what you have been going through, WE BELIEVE YOU.

We believe you.

I believe you.

Note: Twitter @EhiEnabor was outed as an abuser here is what his abuse:

A Marie Claire piece was also written about it: When Men Use Wokeness as a Shield.

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