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