I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

I Dare You to Read This Without Taking Offence

Large change doesn’t come from clever, quick fixes; from smart, tense people; but from long conversations and silences among people who know different things and need to learn different things.
Anne Herbert

My son is over six foot. He wears a size 12 shoe. For all intents and purposes, he is a man. And that is not an easy identity these days. I have fought all my life for the rights of women in the face of what we used to call ‘the patriarchy’ and now goes by the name of ‘toxic masculinity’. And while it does a great job of identifying the impervious pollution of unconscious sexism and misogyny, I wonder what the impact on young men is, being thought of as part of a poisonous environment.

A while back, I was chatting with my son about one of his friends whose father left his wife after an affair.

‘It’s common,’ I said. ‘Lots of men cheat on their wives.’

‘Yeah, not real men,’ he said.

I like that about him – his clarity about what it means to be a man.

It’s an identity he’s been slowly forming through his teen years which has included him speaking up against racist comments (and taking a hit to the head for it) and becoming a vegetarian because he doesn’t want to cause suffering to animals. He’s been teased for his choices by his basketball team-mates, and still orders the falafel when everyone else is eating hamburgers. I find this ridiculously endearing because I know how much he used to love a good hamburger, and no-one would choose the falafel over the burger unless they are driven by something larger than appetite, more meaningful than instant gratification and sturdier than peer approval.

When my son shows signs of not being an asshole, I am proud. I don’t know if telling him this is patronizing, but it probably is. My feminist daughter thinks men get way too much praise for just being decent human beings, which is why the average guy generally thinks much more of himself than the average woman does. Of course, she’s right. She sees the world horizontally right now, but as a mother, I also see it vertically, and at times, even aerially. It’s a function of midlife – we get fly-vision.

I see the ‘and’ rather than the ‘or,’ and it’s with this perspective that I want to build a conversation around what it’s like for young men these days in the #metoo era. I’m talking about those who are outraged by violence, who would never, ever think about hitting or assaulting anyone (let alone a woman) and yet who are loaded with testosterone. I want to hear how it feels to be huge and hairy and sweaty and yet suffused with mindfulness and kindness (words that would make the average guy grimace given how enfeebling they sound).

I’m not making this a competition about who’s got it harder (we know women do), but I do want to speak for our sons, because no self-aware young man these days feels he has a right to have an opinion about anything anymore. I want to speak up for good men because there are many, and women need to remember our fight for safety and equality is not a fight against men.

.

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

I know half the folk who’re reading this will get pissed off, because everyone’s ready with their particular form of ‘offence-taking’ and opinion, and because these days social media lets us. And here’s the problem – offence-taking is a binary notion, where you’re right, so I must be wrong. But I’m a bit over all that, and I’d much rather we both just listen without anyone having to claim a victory. Rumi reminded us of the field beyond notions of wrongdoing and right doing, and that’s the venue for this dialogue.

Raising a son has given me a passport to a world I would never have had access to otherwise. I grew up with sisters, with an artist for a father. Until my son, I’d never watched a boy-sprout grow into a teen-wolf and then into man-form. I’ve been so committed to working for women’s voices that I have, at times, tuned out from understanding the harmonies that are necessary for us all to sing together.

No matter the righteousness of our intentions in one direction, we will always create collateral failures. This is the nature of all human endeavour, which ought to be the antidote to our hubris, and give us permission to change our minds. Our opinions, enthusiasms and devotions should shift as we grow in consciousness. This is what it means to become a true adult, something Toni Morrison calls a ‘difficult beauty.’

With my eye fixed on the longing to end all violence and to create a world where no one has a #metoo story, I also want to open up the dialogue, so we stop generalizing about ‘men’ and ‘women.’ We’re smarter than that and life is more complex than these blunt stereotypes. I want my understanding of suffering to include the quiet agony of young men who have committed suicide before anyone ever knew that macho-heart was breaking.

As a radical feminist in my youth, I want to say that I can’t imagine I was an easy mother for a boy to have. I was vehemently anti-violence which meant ‘no toy guns’ and ‘no violent video games.’ I had strict rules about how boys should behave, and my son stress-tested all of them. I read every book on parenting and then threw them all away. I regularly accepted my abject failure as a parent and resorted to praying when my strategies crumbled. It was only when I saw a therapist who told me to ‘untangle my story from my son’s story,’ that I began to understand that my form of parenting was a form of bullying itself, a way of castrating potential (anticipated) violence. This is a form of toxic expectation, just as bad as expecting our children to be gifted, heterosexual, religious or some other projection of our own unlived life or congested consciousness.

I want to take responsibility for my role in the world we have, to stop blaming others, and to unhook from my own tendency to slip into the victim-role when things are not going my way. I hope I can model this for my children so that they can both move forward in their lives looking for the ‘and’ rather than waving slogans.

I want the chance to speak to people who want to listen to what I know. And I want long conversations with people who know things I need to learn.

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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Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

Three Voices, Three Stories, Three Survivors

“My husband hit me.”

I saw the darkened bruises on the chestnut brown skin of her face, just under her right eye and asked, “Aayana, what happened?” anticipating the worst before she answered. It was the first time I had heard those words. I had watched my father verbally abuse my mother for eighteen years and had myself been pushed down onto the pavement, my elbow crashing against the cement. Berated. Humiliated. Shamed. But the spoken words – the admission – were surprisingly new to me.

I sat and listened to her story. It was 1988, in northwest Bangladesh. Aayana was our laundry woman. Twice a week she gathered our dirty laundry and hand-washed all our clothes and ironed everything. She liked to chat while she waited for the sun to do its magic. Her favorite topics were knitting and her daughter, Rehana, and granddaughter, an uncommon affection usually reserved for sons and grandsons. Aayana’s family lived in close quarters in a compound of one-room bamboo households that shared pour-flush latrines, a tube well-water supply, a smoky kitchen with two clay burners rising from the floor, and a bathing area in a corner by the well, protected from view by hanging jute sheets.

Her husband had come home late from a night of drinking tea with friends. Perhaps his dinner had grown cold by the time he arrived or he was irritated by something he had heard at the tea stall. Maybe the sales at his tiny market shop were poor. He was unhappy with himself, his life.

The neighbors heard and saw. Still, he hit her. But she found her resolve. She gathered her battered self and made him leave. From that day on, he slept in his cramped stuffy market stall; he would not touch her again, in intimacy of body or soul or physical violence.

Nearly thirty years later I was in the office of an organization in Myanmar that empowers women’s lives through community organizing and savings groups. We had just concluded a two-day trauma awareness training for a group of twenty-two women of diverse ethnic groups from villages in the violence-infested Rakhine state and informal housing settlements in Rangoon. We had shared stories of trauma: domestic violence, disaster events, sons arrested and jailed.  The director and training translator, Van Lizar, approached me. Listening to her story I recalled Aayana, and my own reveal from eight years earlier. The patterns were matching, like the cards of a child’s memory game. Across thousands of miles and three decades, three voices and three stories – the pain, emotional scars and wounds could be interchanged.

 

.About Sandra

Sandra hails from Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Drawn to international living and the non-profit sector by faith, others’ stories and curiosity, she has been a management professional in the sector for twenty years, most recently in Myanmar. She is the proud mother of two: a 5’2” Amazon daughter who is fierce, courageous, and has a wildly open and accepting heart and a son who is a young man of great strength who cultivates a deeply open, gentle and kind spirit. Having raised these two while living abundantly around the world, it is now time to write her first book.

There too was the shame that we had let this happen. The anxiety. The fear and self-doubt. An identical fallout was imprinted on Van Lizar, the Director of an organization leading thousands of village women towards self-empowerment; a woman trained in Law in Ireland. Myself, a holder of a Master’s degree and undergraduate cum laude. And Aayana, semi-literate, semi-fluent in three languages and poor by any standard.

But I also saw fire in the eyes and heard the laughter when we felt our own power, when we finished each other’s sentences. Our love for our sons and daughters was fierce. I witnessed the recognition of how far we had come since the day we said, “No more,” when we claimed for ourselves what we had facilitated in others.

Months later we talk about survival. We speak with a voice of courage, not fear. We have forgiven ourselves and him. We have not forgotten. We confess to having good memories of intimacy, of sex, of secret late-night talks and shared meals. We have supportive friends. We are less judgmental. We are becoming more disciplined in our lives. We fearlessly bear witness to nameless victims’ stories. Our spirituality, our faith and our understanding of our connection to a suffering world grows deeper.

I imagine seeing Aayana again and hearing that her story and journey has been the same. I want to tell her that my daughter’s name is Rehana, a chosen reminder of Ayana’s love for her own daughter and to teach mine to be self-empowered.

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.

Nobody Can Do This, But Me

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What Writers Can Learn from a Cake Mix

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Without Self-Compassion, Why Should Anyone Trust Us?

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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I come from a family of Oh My Godders. In my family, everything was a potential calamity: a sore throat. An impending storm. A parking ticket. Being late. Being early. Now if you grow up in OMG-hood, you learn to panic. Without much provocation. Everything in life is...

Where Don’t You Want to Go – Go There

My friend Ilze, who is a gifted group facilitator, says, ‘You can only take others as deep as you have gone yourself.’ Writing is like facilitating – it’s leading people (your readers) into the places you’ve visited within. As writers, we’ve tacitly undertaken to our...

After Angie’s Example

After Angie’s Example

Angie was one of those girls who seemed to have it all. People enjoyed being around her. It wasn’t just because she was kind, it was that she exuded strength. But Angie got her strength the hard way.

On a warm summer evening, after all our exams were over and life seemed like it couldn’t be more perfect, Angie turned to me and started talking. “At these quiet times, I like to remind myself that life can change in a moment,” she said. Angie’s demeanour was calm, but I could tell by the way she fiddled with her hair that she was about to break the serenity I was feeling. Intently, I listened to her soft voice.

“One Saturday, I joined some friends on an evening out, and when an old friend invited me out for a night cap I agreed. I’d known him most of my life. He was a stand-up guy. You know the kind. The one even the teachers immediately warm to.” Angie sat very still for a moment and then she carried on. I think I knew it before she said it, but I waited and hoped I was wrong.

That night, Angie came home with something to hide.

“As he drove me home after everything happened that night my ‘friend’ didn’t even noticed me cringe as he bent forward and gave me a kiss on the cheek.” I watched the anguish on Angie’s face as her words painted a picture of her home-coming. She told me how she no longer felt safe as she closed the door to her apartment.

“I pulled off my red dress and flung it onto the floor right there in the hallway. I kicked off my crimson shoes, one by one. I had loved those shoes, but I knew I wouldn’t wear them again. I pulled of the scarlet scarf that I had thought was so trendy, woven into my hair at the beginning of the night.  My red, beaded necklace felt like it was choking me. I grabbed at it, and as it broke I felt satisfied as I heard the beads bounce on the floor. But when they lay still, they looked like droplets of blood.” While Angie stood in the scalding hot shower – scouring at her skin and double cleaning herself, berating herself, and wondering if she had been impregnated – she imagined that he slept contently.

 

.About Xanti

Xanti Bootcov was born in South Africa in the late ’60s. She enjoys travelling around the world, which is why she has lived in seven different countries. She believes in equality for all people. Xanti gave up on a single career path when it became necessary to choose between travel and career. After seeing the shadows and the light of abandonment and abuse, she adopted her two children. She has always been interested in understanding why people do what they do. This helped her when her experiences as an adoptive mother shaped her view on parenting. She’s been through earthquakes, a volcano erupting and a couple of fires. Currently, Xanti lives in Mauritius but continues to travel the world whenever possible. Visit her website www.xantibootcov.com or her Facebook page.

Angie and I sat in silence while I worked through what she had told me. She felt that she had become a cliché, a joke… a regret. She had gone out with a friend. She had no fear as the evening progressed. She had not worried that she would be unsafe.

But after that night, Angie had a secret she didn’t feel able to disclose. She didn’t think anyone would believe that she had said the word “no”. At quiet times, she would sometimes practice the word. No. NO. NO!

Angie couldn’t stop her own mind from blaming herself. She had willingly gone out, looking pretty. She’d put on some perfume and painted her lips. She smiled and laughed and enjoyed herself. She felt she was the accused, not him. As the months went by, Angie attempted to scrub her dirty shame away, and she played the night out again and again.

The entertaining evening out with friends had ended her innocence and left her with a cold reality she didn’t know how to process. She couldn’t understand why she had neither struggled nor screamed. In fact, she had played dead, her stiff body not moving at all. How could she believe she was not at fault? Her lack of compliance went unnoticed as he pulled himself on top of her. As he covered her mouth with his and held her down and as she shook her head – open eyed and tears flowing – he had ignored her small voice pleading to go home.

Until she told me her story, Angie had not fit the description that I held of someone who had “been through something”. Until then, I’d always loved horror movies, but after Angie I knew that no horror movie will ever be as scary to me as life can be.

She was still in one piece, but inside Angie had broken.

With the passing of time though, she was able to reframe her experience. Angie did what she could to cope, and when she was no longer able to look at herself in the mirror she went out looking for help. She was one of the lucky ones. She found a way to mend her shattered psyche and began to help others. That brought her strength back.

As a woman I often feel vulnerable. I am a small person and, while I can be strong of mind, I know that my size puts me at a physical disadvantage. But Angie’s courage stays with me every day. Like bones that mend, Angie became stronger. She was proof to me that when something unexpected takes us down a dark path, we don’t have to let it define who we are.

I am stronger for having known a woman like Angie. Her example stays with me, and when I am feeling torn down, it lifts me back up into my own resilience.

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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Unlikely Saviour

Unlikely Saviour

It started
in an unlikely encounter
on the Durban beachfront
after he came back early
from one of his easy lays,
and suggested a walk
on the promenade.

The night sky
leaned in as
we spoke in that fraught
deeply subtexted way
of two people
igniting a fuse
between them.

Then – like in the movies –
the rain came

we ran for cover

under shelter
he hauled me
by his strong arms
like a net full of fish
into the boat of his chest
and he kissed me
his lips warm
our faces wet,
my heart thundering
like a stampede of wildebeest,
rupturing the line
between me and men forever,
marking me with
unsugared, unspiced
Desire.

.

About Joanne

Joanne Fedler is an internationally bestselling author of 10 books, writing mentor and publisher. In the past seven years, she’s facilitated 12 writing retreats all over the world, mentored hundreds of writers (both face to face and in her online writing courses), set up her own publishing company, Joanne Fedler Media, and published four debut authors (with many lined up to follow). She’s passionate about publishing midlife memoirs and knows how to help people succeed in reaching their goal to become a published author.

He steered me out
to where it was dark and deep
and I could no longer see
where I’d come from,
and on that ocean,
I threw off
the anchor
that stretched all the way
to the gas chambers
or the destruction of the First Temple,
or whenever it is Jews decide
our special genocide
make us Slaves to Our Suffering.
No longer
bitch to my birthright;
I broke the sacred covenant of
to only touch circumcised cock.

The sex led to love
or something close to it.
Enough for him to tell me
to take a message back
like a dove with an olive branch
but not so olivey
‘If he ever hits you again
or so much as lays a finger on you,
I’ll beat the shit out of him.’

I rowed my way
out of my childhood,
on a foreskinned boat,
with my first love –
who betrayed me –
but who also saved me
in that unlikely
way of a rough tough
gentle soul
who stood like Moses
with the Egyptians
bearing down
and parted that sea
so I could walk clean through it
and into a woman
no-one would
ever hit again.

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.

A Harvest of Hindsight: My top 10 insights about publishing for aspiring authors

My being here is actually not about me. It’s about you. My new book is about you – and your story. So I thought what would be the most helpful input I could give you, as an unpublished author at this point in your writing journey. Here are my top 10 insights or lessons that I’ve learned over the past 12 years as a published author. Things I wish I’d known. A harvest of hindsight in the hope that it will help you to get more quickly where you want to go.

On Returning to the Home I Grew Up In

We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there. ―Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon I sit and watch the sun come up over Johannesburg...

Not Pretty Enough

I was never a pretty girl. Not for want of trying or wishing. But there it was. I longed to be someone other people refer to as ‘adorable’ but there was always too much of me for it not to sound ironic. My father put it straight very early on. ‘You will never be a model, my darling,’ he said as if it truly did not matter.

Signs You Could Be a Writer

Signs You Could Be a Writer (No Matter What Your Day Job Is) ‘I’m not a writer,’ people often tell me. ‘But I’ve always wanted to write…’ You know, there was a time I also wasn't a writer. But I always knew I wanted to write. This longing then, could be, as Rilke put...

Bedrock

Virginia can’t say if she is claustrophobic herself. She’s never been this far inside a cave before. The little spelunking she did as a child along the coast of the Western Cape was hide-and-seek with bare-footed cousins, in sea-carved rocky alcoves.

What One Special Mother Did to Bring the World Alive for Her Blind Daughter

What sort of people do we want to be? What sort of people do we want to raise? The answer to both these questions came to me when Tanya Savva approached me with her children’s book, The Adventures of Kenzie-Moo. I created Little Wings Books, the children’s book...

This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

This Is Not the Story I Wanted to Write

This is not the story I was planning to write.

But sometimes the stories we don’t intend to tell are the ones that most need to be shared.

It begins with a typical night out: drinking and dancing at a club. Except the drink a guy handed me was spiked. I have no recollection of the rape but it happened. He knows it, and I know it and now so do you.

The following evening, after invasive tests and the collection of evidence at the hospital, I went to the police station to report the incident. The police woman berated me for having drunk an unsecured drink. She listened to my story and wrote it down in her words. This was my first, of many, misunderstood statements.

Anna, the friend who was with me that evening, claimed in her statement that I looked “fine” and was “acting normal” when I left the club with him. What she neglected to include in her account was that she was drunk when I had left the club. The police felt that our statements clashed, but Anna was reluctant to change hers or to give another. So I went down to the station with the hopes of bettering my first statement, only to be met with yet another illiterate police officer who wrote “shower” instead of “bath” and refused to change it.

During the weeks that followed, I tried to gather as much evidence as I could to build a case. Anna had photographed us at the club – but I was later told that the images would not hold up as an identifier of the rapist. There was also video footage which had been kept at the club. Only the police were allowed to collect it. But they never did.

Despite this, I remained hopeful, especially when the police said there was enough evidence to make an arrest. I knew where the perpetrator lived. He had used my cellular to call Uber so his address was on my phone. Right from the start, I urged the police to follow up with the Uber driver. Two months after the incident, they phoned me and asked if I could get in touch with the driver. Surely the police would have a direct number? Furthermore, so much time had passed it was unlikely he would even remember that night.

.

About SC

SC has been dabbling in creative writing since she was an awkward 16-year-old waxing lyrical about love. After years of teaching creative writing skills to teenagers, she decided to hone in on her own and completed an honours degree. She hopes to write a memoir in the not-too-distant future.

Then came the evening of the arrest. I was to drive, with an ex-police officer, and identify the suspect so they could arrest him. It felt like one of the police investigation shows I so enjoy watching, except on this episode I was the “victim”. We sat in the car and waited… and waited for the rape investigation unit to arrive. I tried to breathe into my fear… the fear of seeing the perpetrator, the fear of him seeing me.

Four police vehicles and eight officers descended on his residence. When the gate opened, my lungs closed and my right leg started shaking uncontrollably. I dug my hand into the passenger seat until it cramped. The investigating officer assigned to my case came over. He wanted me to get out of the car and face the suspect for an accurate identification. Impossible.

Then I saw him standing on the porch, with his distinctive blonde mop of hair, wearing green track pants. Before he got into the unmarked police vehicle in front of us, he casually lit a cigarette.

It was surreal. I was only a few feet away from the perpetrator and a few more feet away from where he had raped me.

The next day, I gave another statement, detailing his appearance. The investigating officer said, “You’re making this very difficult for us. You were supposed to get out of the car last night.”

At the advice of my therapist, I wrote my story from beginning to tenuous end. Was it detailed enough? I wondered. Accurate? Would I be able to defend it in court?

The perpetrator was kept in a holding cell overnight, and after he was released I met with the magistrate who advised that the “first report” needed to be taken. This report had to be given by a friend at work, Tumi, who was the first person to whom I had relayed the events. I urged her to return the call and go to the police station. I even offered to go with her. She did neither.

Anna was asked to see the magistrate too so that she could corroborate all versions of the story. She later told me she was waiting for the police to call her back. And they never did.

All of this needed to happen before the magistrate could decide whether to proceed with the case. A few weeks later, I got the call from the magistrate to say that the case had been dropped. There was not enough evidence. It felt like a double betrayal: the police and the legal system, and the two friends I had trusted the most.

This is not the story I wanted to write, but it is MY story. Mine.

The process of seeking justice, though harrowing, was also strangely healing. And while my case never got to court, I fought with all of my might. In the midst of deep-seated fear, I found my resilience. And of that, I am proud.

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

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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.

Where Is My Writing Voice?

When I heard the question, “How do I find my writing voice?” I had this vision of searching my house. Looking behind the cushions on the couch, checking amongst the debris long forgotten in the back of my wardrobe, maybe even turning out the rubbish bin in my...

The Write Time

When is the right time to write? Or do anything for that matter?There are proverbs, quotes, and metaphors galore, to justify time management – be it an excuse to procrastinate, or a drive to be productive.To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose...

Are You Using Protection?

In my early twenties, I went on a self-defence course, where I learned how to puncture someone’s Adam’s apple with a key and to perfect the knee-to-groin move should such unfriendly gestures be called for. I swallowed little pills and purchased boxes of prophylactics...

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...

Can I Show You How to Begin?

Can I show you how to begin? Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go...

The Recipe for Becoming a Successfully Published Author

I often get asked how I became a published author. How did 600 000 copies of my books get sold? How come publishers now approach me to write books for them? I wish I had a recipe I could share like Jamie Oliver so that everyone out there could do the same. But life...