Tuesday 24 October 2017

These painfully precious days

 'These painfully precious days' 
In the dark of two nights ago my husband and I sat shivering on the bed, frozen with an unspeakable fear. We prayed, as we do, for peace to come not only to us but in this situation. When I fell asleep at last I could rest deeply despite the air trembling around me.

This has been a turbulent time for all of us. Our family has been plunged into a washing machine of change and tumbled inside out. All the old hidden stains of the past reappeared and we have been forced to look at ourselves and each other in completely new ways. And at the same time there has been an emergence of what I can only call The Heroic within us. That part of ourselves that only can appear in times of extreme distress and challenge. We find ourselves able to see clearer, free from doubt, to reach out and be radically truthful and equally compassionate . Insight and understanding follows, illuminating every situation as we breath through the stranglehold of fear and hold each others hands. 

In my marriage we have over the last 3 days come to a miraculous breakthrough. 21 years together is a long time. We have been at the juncture of a separation. These last 3 days have placed us into a crucible where all the shit of the past could be burned and burned  and burned some more, until it emerged... as gold.

I can only call it a miracle.

I have been able to see how I have unconsciously been pushing the 'male' away. Undermining his presence in very complex ways. Creating a field of rejection even as I kept the mask of everyday on. The #metoo disclosure of the rape I experienced a long time ago has allowed for a massive release of pain and unfinished stuff that has been growing stealthily like a tumour in these years. 

Yesterday as I sat on the floor amongst the group of 7 year olds I teach music and movement to on a Tuesday afternoon, I received the blessing of the children stroking my hair and embracing me with what can only be called radical tenderness. On the ground. Surrounded by the loving hands of children. 

Last night I rested completely in the arms of my comrade, my friend, my life partner and my husband with an all-pervading gratitude that I hope will infuse the days to come.

Monday 23 October 2017

The levels of rape that have been normalised in our society are damaging to the very fabric of sanity in our communities. The levels of silenced pain in our nation cannot continue without serious consequences.

Men who choose to rape women are seriously damaged. Women who are raped are confronted with death and forced to continue living with the memory of their humiliation being a constant experience. A society that laughs at this pathology is betraying its future. 

We have to find another way.

We have decided to formally offer Danny Jordaan an opportunity for a mediated restorative justice process that would be facilitated by Paul Verryn in consultation with experts in this field.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

#metoo one night in PE

The #metoo campaign on social media has affected me deeply. 
Not only the obvious paradigm of predominantly white middle-class profiles and the spill-out from the Hollywood sludge, but the millions of those who are not hash-tagging their wounds. The truly voiceless.

I have been an activist and campaigner for social justice most of my life. Being born a white South African in the apartheid years gave me a wonderful and terrible soul-field to meet the best and worst of humanity. A childhood fragmented with trauma in a land marked with violation and violence, I have pursued all through my life, the path toward healing. Not only for those around me, but myself.

I know the power of Truth-Speak, of bringing light to the unloved and shamed aspects of ourselves in order to heal.  Why then has it been so hard for me to talk of this? This event that happened almost 24 years ago, one night in a PE Hotel.

High and happy as the carpet toward our liberation was being rolled out, unexpectedly nominated to the ANC National Parliament, I was invited to sing at a dinner hosted by leading South African sports bodies and representative officials. As I recall, there were not many other women present. It was a successful performance and as I was leaving a man struck up conversation with me. He was pleasant and entertaining. Danny Jordaan. I accepted his invitation to join him for a drink at the bar, but said I needed to go up to my suite and change from my performance dress. 
He joined me in the lift and said he would wait for me. I felt a little uneasy as he entered my suite, but beckoned him into the lounge and asked him to wait there while I changed.
I entered my bedroom, closed the door and began to change. A few minutes later the door opened and he entered and without a word grabbed me and forced me onto the bed from behind. He overpowered me and painfully raped me. It must have been over in about 20 seconds although it felt like a lifetime.
He left immediately without saying a word.

I was in a state of complete shock and pain. Bewildered. Not sure what to do. I washed and left the hotel and began to walk. 
I reached the beach and sat there a very long time trying to process what had happened. The thought of going to the police felt intolerable. 
What would I say? 
Should I have screamed louder? 
Fought him off harder? 
Had I been complicit in some way? 
All these questions raged in my mind. 
I wept. As the night faded into a golden dawn, I became aware of a small group of white-clad Zionists  making their way along the shore. 4 women and a man, clad in their white starched robes with green sash. Some women in blue. I watched as they neared the shore and then one by one entered the water. The man took each of them into the waves. I watched as they disappeared and emerged again.
I found myself wading into the water close by.
'Come!' he called.
I went toward him. His smiling face like a god of the sea. The women moved all around me. Hands and arms they held me like a child. They pushed me beneath the waves and then lifted me again and again. It was like dying and being born at the same time. 
I know the baptism I received in the waves of the Indian Ocean, held by these great souls of Africa, was a sacred healing no trauma counselling nor police procedure could provide.
I walked back to the hotel in my wet clothes, hair dripping.

It was not easy meeting Jordaan in the breakfast area of the Hotel. He disappeared as soon as I arrived. I would see him at many political gatherings thereafter, in the corridors of the parliament, in our caucus. He would never meet me in the eye. Slide away as fast as possible.

Why am I disclosing now? 
Partly because we need to understand how hard it is to come forward and speak out. Even for those of us who can move mountains when it comes to activism, political and social engagement, cultural creation, performance on stages. It has been hard to come out with the truth. Why? 
Because somewhere there is a template of shame and wrong-doing, a thought that it was my 'fault'
And that I no longer need in my life. 
Survivors of abuse do not need to feel any shame, anymore.We are not to blame. We are not guilty of anything.

I want my sons, my partner, my male friends to be empowered in the language of sexuality. To know that you need to ask if it's OK? And ask again, just to be sure. 
To beware of objectifying. In this age where young people are exposed to not only the highly seductive objectification of sex online, but pornographic extremities are now becoming the norm.
My rapist used me as an object for his sad need for power and twisted gratification. I was not a person to him. Where men in leadership positions, from the Presidential Office down, political leaders, liberation fighters, headmasters, teachers, priests,sports captains, have all been entrusted with power, yet it is especially in these terrains that there is a concentrated and distorted culture of abuse. This needs to be changed. The abuse needs to stop!!!

A male South African friend whom I called today in the centre of the storm said:
'It is good you are doing this.
Help the brothers to heal.
Help the brother to heal.
Help us all to heal.'

I am not speaking out to get revenge on Danny Jordaan or a million South African men like him. I am doing this so we can help each other be courageous, speak out and begin to heal as we find we are not alone. I know there are many of us out there.