February 9, 2020
In October of 2018 I found myself on a quest for justice.
In South Africa, justice is rare. But it didn’t matter much to me. I went searching regardless. In South Africa, we can’t always count on a lawyer to make sure that justice will be served. In South Africa, we can’t count on the police to bring criminals to justice. If you search for justice in South Africa, you search alone. It’s a sad reality that many South Africans have to face daily.
I stood in the waiting area of the Magistrate’s Court, staring off into the abyss. A woman caught my eye. She went around to almost every person in the waiting room, searching for help. Some of the people were too preoccupied to even notice her and some of the people simply turned a blind eye. The woman needed help filling out her restraining order forms. She couldn’t read or write in English. When she reached me, I helped her fill in her forms. I dropped everything to listen with an open and compassionate mind to this lady’s story. I noticed that it took every ounce of her energy not to burst into tears while telling me the story. Although I couldn’t do much more than help her fill out her paperwork, I still helped.
Gender based violence is an epidemic in South Africa. We hear about these horrific crimes on the news, we read about them in the papers. We hear stories about girls who walked to school one morning and never came back. We hear stories about women who go to bed every night fearing that their partner will kill them in their sleep. And then we turn a blind eye.
We pretend like we haven’t witnessed domestic violence; we pretend like we didn’t see anything suspicious going on the second we’ve stepped out our front doors; we pretend like we haven’t seen children with bruises on their arms; we pretend like we haven’t heard a woman crying in a public bathroom stall. We pretend to simply know nothing.
We pretend, because we know that justice is unattainable.
Today I’d like to take a stand. I’d like to be a voice for the women in my country who have lost theirs. I’d like to take a stand for the children in my country who can’t put their feelings or experiences into words.
Most importantly, I’d like to raise awareness about this issue. South African men aren’t the only ones beating their wives. Some men across the world do this very same thing. It’s time for all of us to stop turning a blind eye and to start taking a stand.
Change starts with you.
Even the simplest act of kindness can make a difference. As a South African, I refuse to see any more women and children of my country fall through the cracks. I refuse to see any more women and children drown in the waves of violence. If the citizens of South Africa don’t take a stand to stop these horrific crimes, who will?
To all the women who can’t stand up for themselves: I am standing with you.
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