I Chose Silence

I Chose Silence

I Chose Silence

He was a rising Kwaito star. His callous nature and rugged looks evoked the kind of fear and enamour that was synonymous with guys from the township in those days. Some girls loved him but most loathed him. Their hatred and affection were badges of honour that he wore proudly.

I didn’t care much for him, although he was a persistent blowfly that I shooed away with each unwelcomed advance that he made. I had no regard for his “celebrity” or for any other because I’ve never subscribed to idol worship. Perhaps that’s what made me the perfect game to hunt. It was a power thing and still is; he had to put me in my place.

I was a teenager at a house party. I shouldn’t have been drinking but it was a season of experimenting in my life, and so I was. He seemed to have a knack for turning up at places where I would be. That evening was no different.  As usual, I paid no attention to him or his whereabouts throughout the night, but that became my biggest mistake. I didn’t notice that he’d followed me down the hall to the toilet, until it was too late.

I remember thinking, “Is this what I think it is? Is this guy seriously going to rape me?” as he shoved me and himself into a toilet that was big enough for only one person.

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About Mma-tshepo

Mma-tshepo Grobler has jumped out of planes, swam with sharks, and conquered the world’s tallest swing. Although adrenaline is her drug of choice, she’s an introvert who prefers pyjamas and books to idle chitchat. Mma-tshepo studied to be a journalist but has never pursued journalism as a career. She believes that writing is her real calling, and her words have been featured in Sawubona Magazine and TypeCast Literary Journal. Mma-tshepo is currently working on her debut novel, Another Country, which she plans to publish in December 2019.

A male friend heard the scuffle whilst passing the toilet. He stopped and knocked, asking what was going on. When the scuffle wouldn’t stop, he started to push the door with such power that it flung open. He looked bewildered and asked if I was okay. The celebrity said that it was all a joke, and I just walked away.

I have never felt the need to speak out about that night, but I now find myself questioning my silence.  I had faced an undeniable threat to my safety, and yet my subjective emotional response to this event was to not report it. I didn’t keep quiet out of fear. When I think back on my temperament as a teen, I believe that I kept quiet to make a statement.

I was incensed. This guy knew that he frightened a lot of girls my age with his thuggish advances, and he thrived off that. He attacked me with the aim of achieving the same because he had failed to illicit anything more from me through previous advances. He had attacked me to put me in my place, but he didn’t succeed. He failed to disempower me because I refused to cower and give him the satisfaction of conquest.

I’m much older now. I realise that my silence then was the best tool in my teenage shed of defence. But today, silence means death. There is no room for reticence where countless women suffer attacks similar to mine and worse, daily. Justice has a voice, and it grows louder every moment through movements of activism and solidarity like #MeToo. Maybe if there’d been movements like these when I was younger, I would have responded differently to that attempted disempowerment. I don’t know. What I do know is that silence kills, and that is why I am using my voice today.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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I Have Not Said Enough

I Have Not Said Enough

I Have Not Said Enough

I work as a journalist in South Africa, a country known as the rape capital of the world. Every afternoon I switch on my computer, make sure my WiFi is working, and begin to trawl the web for news stories about criminal cases that have reached the courts. It is unusual if I do not find a story about a man in court for raping a small girl, a small boy, his partner, or many women. We are trained as journalists to be impartial, to strive for accuracy, conciseness and fairness, and so I do my best to make sure I get the facts straight as I summarise the cases for Legalbrief Today. I do not put a spin on what makes me so wildly, blindly angry.

Cultivating detachment is one way of coping with the volume of human trauma I am made aware of daily. Trying to understand it is another. I know that these abusers have often been abused themselves, that they are angry and powerless in a society damaged by apartheid, and that – facing hopeless futures – they make themselves feel stronger by victimizing the vulnerable. But rationalizing rape and sexual assault is not completely possible. There is the residue which remains like the ‘thorn, heavier than lead’ that Mary Oliver spoke of in ‘Morning Poem’.

I know that the personal is political, and it is not just as a concerned citizen that I am so bothered by the unravelling society I am witnessing. As a woman living in a patriarchy I too have felt devalued and wronged. As a daughter of a father who, while he never touched me, was too aware of me sexually, I know the terror that comes from feeling helpless. In a clumsy, unthought-out way I tried to write about that sense of exploitation and shock in my poetry collection, Conduit. In ‘Imago’, I write of the radio journalist I met ‘who speaks of being raped by a powerful man and how it felt when no one believed her’. In ‘Every Day’ I tell the story of a 14-year-old girl who was gang raped in Katlehong, trying to imagine how it might feel to have survived such violence. ‘Later, in dreams, maybe, they will come to her, /the faces of the men who feared her enough, /even after they fucked her, to imprint on her skin, /the small cigarette-shaped brands of those who feel powerless.’

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About Sarah

Sarah Frost is 45 years old and mother to a 14-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl. She works as an online editor for Juta Legalbrief in Durban, South Africa, and lectures News Writing part time at the Durban University of Technology. Sarah has been writing poetry since she was 19 years old. She has completed an MA in English Literature and a module in Creative Writing. Her debut collection, Conduit, was published by Modjaji in 2011. Last year, she participated in Joanne Fedler’s Author Awakening course, in which she was inspired to take herself seriously as a writer.

Sometimes it seems that rape and sexual abuse in South Africa, and globally, has become intrinsic. It is not going to stop any time soon. As the mother of a five-year-old girl, the question I grapple with now is how do I teach Ella Lucy that her body is a gift she can choose to give anybody should she so want, when the world I’ve brought her into believes her body is a reason for her to be distrusted, diminished and denied? Living in a distorted society makes for distorted identities – no easy answers.

In the poem for which my book is named, ‘Conduit’, I write of a woman walking alone, ‘wondering, in the shadows /how she will ever know /what it is she needs to say’. Seven years on, I have not said enough. At times, I blame this incapacity to write on doing two jobs and raising two children, but it is not the logistics of my life that have silenced me. Perhaps it is a profound doubt that what I say about the everyday sexism I see all around me will change anything.

But it is precisely this despair I must work against.

It is possible to find a way forward. Joining this conversation is just one way that I can make my words in ‘From the sea’ become true:

‘You, poet, alone, immobile, at your keyboard,
The night sighing, a stranger at your back.
You wrestle with the anger of the invisible,
Lay it down.
Stop picking at the scabs
That make you mute. Look around.
Poets shoal within reach,
Breaching the surface.’

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Mrs. Large is an elephant and the mother of Laura, Lester and baby who tries – without success - to have a bath with a tray of tea and some scones away from her children. Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy is the bedtime book I always choose to read to my kids when it...

Wednesday

Wednesday

Wednesday

My heart unsteady in my throat

I wake my son, curls and squinty eyes shield his face

Five more minutes becomes 10 or 15

Mornings sting for the strong-willed night owl

His shoulders stiff with ire

Wednesdays are heavy

He packs for his dad’s

I tread carefully

I hold my tongue

Any move triggers

Wednesdays are grenades

My sweet boy barbed in anger

We leave for school

He recoils from me

His head low, lips terse, eyes hard

He walks into school and does not look back

Wednesdays are goodbyes.

.

About Beth

Beth Rachel Horowitz believes touching one soul changes the landscape of the world and she aims to do this one heart at a time. Creative expression is her mode of transportation not her destination, kind of like her personal magic carpet. Emotion is her favorite language. Beth writes to connect with the raw vulnerability of the human experience. Single motherhood showers her life with layers of lessons, uncertainty, tears and even more laughter. She values the healing power in all forms of art and creates experiences to support, encourage and inspire others to find their vast potential. This passion is her new heart song.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Celebrity drag queen Ru Paul sings, ‘If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?’ Amen to this when it comes to the act of writing. All writing begins with self-compassion. To write, we have to own our voice and our right to write. I...

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The Last Time I Saw My Father

The Last Time I Saw My Father

The Last Time I Saw My Father

I am who I am because of my father.

Early on, it was evident that we shared common interests – common connections.

He instilled in me a love of the theatre. I joined him on stage in amateur productions from the age of nine. Playing the lead role in high school plays was a highlight for me and a source of great pride for him. I have always attributed my acting ability to my father’s influence.

My musical taste was inspired by his choices – Beethoven, Gershwin, Rogers and Hammerstein. I learned early in life that I had musical talent and was encouraged to play instruments and sing in a variety of choirs. My capacity to find comfort in the strum of a guitar or escape into the world of song was due to his doggedness.

He knew the importance of a good education, having graduated from medical school later in life. A university degree was always going to be essential for my development. He showed me that with a goal, commitment and persistence, you can surprise even yourself with your achievements.

I followed in his military footsteps – he was an RAF pilot during the Second World War who suffered life-threatening injuries when his plane crash-landed in the Mediterranean Sea. He spent seven months in a Moroccan hospital. I became a Lieutenant in the Army Reserve, and I came to understand that finding a cause greater than self will give you a purposeful life. I also learned that through determination and resilience, you can overcome any of life’s physical and emotional scars.

Later, I became a helicopter pilot and felt the freedom that he would have known as the bonds of earth slipped away. I learned that, as a pilot, you have to be in control, that the fate of yourself and others lie in your hands. You have the power to shape your, and their, destiny.

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About Louise

Louise Ryan was born within the sound of the York Minster bells in 1958 and can trace her lineage back to William the Conqueror. She emigrated to Australia in 1967, landing in Melbourne on St Patrick’s Day. As a child, she thought all new arrivals were greeted by hordes of people, dressed in green and waving shamrocks. A studious child who loved to sing and act, she found the world of make-believe to be a safe, magical place. After finishing school, she auditioned for NIDA and is still waiting for them to call back. She had a successful career in human resources but recently decided there are more important things than climbing the corporate ladder. Louise is a writer who lives on the Sunshine Coast with her husband.

Looking back, I know that it was my father’s actions and his passions that lay the foundations for my future – for the woman I was to become. You might say that he was grooming me.

In fact, he ‘groomed’ me from the age of eight. From that time onwards, he and I shared a terrible secret. Sometimes it was a secret of the daylight – but mostly it was a secret of the dark. Night after night, year after year, the secret was persistently and consistently reinforced.

For all my childhood years, the secret was kept. And because of my expertise as a ‘secret keeper’, it continued its buried existence long into adulthood.

My acting talent became an essential skill and my capacity to find joy in creative pursuits, a catalyst for resilience. I possess a determination to succeed in the face of great adversity and a resolve to shape my own destiny…

Three years ago, on the final day of my treatment for breast cancer, and eighteen years after I had severed all contact with my father, I received a letter from him. It was not quite an apology, but it was an acknowledgment of what he had done. I agonized over how to respond and eventually I decided to go and visit him.

I sat at my father’s bedside, a grown woman, beyond his reach. He was a shrivelled old man in his nineties, at the end of his life. I did not come to forgive my father. But that is what I did.

It was the first time I had seen him in nearly two decades and the last time I would ever see him.

He died ten weeks later.

Now I am close to finishing my memoir, His Daughter Remembers, in which I finally grieve the loss of my childhood and celebrate the woman I became, in spite of my father.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

Oops! We could not locate your form.

Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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Mrs. Large is an elephant and the mother of Laura, Lester and baby who tries – without success - to have a bath with a tray of tea and some scones away from her children. Five Minutes Peace by Jill Murphy is the bedtime book I always choose to read to my kids when it...

For the Brave Ones

For the Brave Ones

For the Brave Ones

When I was asked to curate a series of blog posts for 16 days of activism against gender violence, I quickly discovered I was unprepared.

I had to approach these stories like a child on the shoreline of a cold, dark ocean. I was scared to rush into the immensity of the overwhelming swells – afraid of being swallowed by the waters I did not know, and those frothing waves with which I am all too well-acquainted.

I procrastinated for a time, certain of my eventual plunge, yet hesitant to wade into unfamiliar currents. I examined the benign components – the seashells and sand castles upon my sweep of deserted beach – as I organized the posts, updated my files, and standardized formatting. I dipped my toes in when I scanned the pieces for the consistent use of italics and quotation marks, and pulled them out again when words like “bruised” and “attacked” and “rape” lapped too frigidly at my mind.

I was the first line of public sharing for these writers. Many of them had been dumped into the abyss as if abandoned suddenly in the middle of the ocean with no land, or even buoys, in sight. Some floated with loved ones; some gave themselves over to the tide for a time – a necessary preservation to find the energy to fight the breakers yet to come. Some are still struggling for breath against the seemingly endless cresting waves.

But every single one has found a way to offer respite to her capsized sisters. They are the life preserver.

They have been for me.

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About Jennifer

Jennifer wrote her first poem at the age of six, and she has been involved in the world of words as an editor, a blogger, and an article writer.  She is published in and shortlisted for a growing number of local, national, and international electronic and print publications, regularly reads at literary events, co-runs a writing group, and actively pursues educational opportunities to further develop her craft.  Most recently she had an essay, titled Bairnlorn, appear in the Globe & Mail, placed first in the My City, My Words poetry contest, and wrote and handcrafted two board books for her son.

In sharing their traumas, they gift others with community. By opening up about difficult details and thoughts, they chip away at the isolations of abnormality. And through their stories of survival, healing, and reclamation, they contribute their voices to a conversation that gains resonance and power every day.

They lend others their strength.

I have spent a lifetime downplaying my experiences with violence. Unless speaking with close friends I have generalized my encounters, usually minimizing what I have been through by dismissively remarking, “I’ve experienced every type of abuse.”

Let me be precise.

I have been raped. I have been inappropriately grabbed on the bus. I have been choked to the point of losing consciousness. I have been sexually assaulted by someone I knew. I have been verbally and emotionally scarred. I have been beaten. I have had a stranger expose himself to me in a park. I have been dragged by my hair. I have been stared at by a naked man in a public pool. I have been threatened by a boyfriend at knifepoint.

Now, let me be clear about who I am.

I am loving. I am funny. I am intelligent and adventurous and beautiful. I am passionate. I am resilient. I am inspirational, educated, and tenacious. I am an ethical, hopeful spirit whose thoughtful treatment of the world and people around her will be a legacy for my children.

We are NOT defined by what we have been through.

Such experiences shape us; they draw their lines upon our faces and carve caution into our hearts. It takes courage to share the difficult parts of our past with others, especially with strangers and particularly in a public forum. It is the reason these stories have been gathered here: to spark dialogue. In curating this series, I have been an eye-witness to the rising up of phoenixes.

Download Things Without a Name Free E-book

Joanne Fedler Media blog joins the global women’s campaign, the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, which starts from the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) up to Human Rights Day (10th December). We would love you to share these stories on social media (using the hashtags: #OrangeUrWorld #OrangeTheWorld #HearMeToo #EndVAW), with your girlfriends, mothers, daughters, friends and sisters.

During this period, Joanne Fedler’s book, Things Without a Name (10th Anniversary Edition), can be downloaded for FREE.

Things Without a Name by Joanne Fedler

Download Things Without a Name E-book

(Please check your email after clicking Submit for the download link)

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Things Without a Name
(10th Year Anniversary Edition)
by Joanne Fedler

Book Description:

At 34, Faith has given up on love. Her cleavage is disappointing, her best friend is clinically depressed and her younger sister is getting breast implants as an engagement present. She used to think about falling in love, but that was a long time ago. Having heard one too many love-gone-wrong stories from the other side of her desk, Faith is worn thin by her work as a legal counsellor in a women’s crisis centre. Then one night, an odd twist of fate brings her to a suburban veterinary clinic where she wrings out years of unshed tears. It is a night that will slowly change the way she sees herself and begin the unearthing of long-buried family secrets so she can forgive herself for something she doesn’t remember, but that has shaped her into the woman she is today. Faith will finally understand what she has always needed to know: that before you can save others, you have to save yourself.

Come and Join the Midlife Memoir Breakthrough

A Five-Day Live Event in Sydney with Joanne Fedler

In this hands-on, intimate workshop (an eclectic mix of teaching, instruction, writing exercises, meditations, ritual, sharing and other joyful activities), I will teach you how to take the material of your life – the moments that counted, no matter how shattering or modest – and weave them into a memoir that makes sense of it all.

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