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An account of violence for Women's Day 2020


2018 Tutu Fellow Lynette Ntuli posted a thread on Twitter on International Women's Day 2020 that speaks directly to the reasons why the day is still needed. The powerful account highlights why Gender Based Violence (GBV) has no bounds: no age, demeanor, class, access, education, public standing, or colour will protect women from it. She says that for most women, it’s not a matter of if, but when it will affect them directly. It’s waiting at the supermarket, in the boardroom, in Direct Messages.

The thread begins in January 2020, when Lynette joined the legions of women in South Africa whose right to safety and justice had to be upheld by a court of law. Why? She did not respond to WhatsApp messages on her phone from a stranger.

 Lynette explains how difficult it is to report any form of violation as a woman in South Africa.  Without humour, she describes it as an extreme sport. While most people are enraged by GBV, few have any idea how to respond or be an effective ally. Lynette said that while the legal and police system is set up for victims to be able to report incidents in their personal capacity, only by taking great care with the process are they likely to obtain a win.  She said that by the time her court hearings began, she'd submitted a 76 page founding affidavit.  In court, the full onus of proof is on the person reporting the crime.  She described the court process as dehumanising and traumatic.  Victims must sit only metres from their abusers, without security.

In her case, ignoring some WhatsApp messages from a stranger led to a vicious campaign of escalating incidents ranging from aggression, stalking and public humiliation over a two-year period. Lynette's attacker had never crossed paths with her. She said he appeared 'normal' on the outside: a managerial job at the national power utility, drove a German car, had a suburban home, an MBA, and a large circle of like-minded friends. 

To make a case stick, the victim has to chronologically and specifically recall every single detail, movement, time span and landmark when they report the matter. Victims must be prepared to be violated again and again by the system and other people. When Lynette went to the police, it included a charge office interrogation that questioned how she had provoked her perpetrator. Why was a “pretty woman” like her not used to this type of attention?  Similarly, at the Magistrates court, the courts clerks office interrogation questioned the severity of the complaint. 

Lynette provided advice to other victims - answer your abusers calls and record them. The recording and service provider records will help prove the abuser called you, pinpoint their locations and yours, and provide additional evidence. Take screenshots of phone logs, injuries, clothes, locations, trips, times and messages. Every piece of data counts when the full onus of proof lies on the victim as the applicant, throughout the process.

After the entire process, a protection order and a suspended warrant of arrest was granted.  But Lynette said that only by exposing gender based violence to the light wherever it occurs, whether its the frozen foods section of the supermarket, at work, or via ones phone, can some healing begin and changes in a culture that too easily condones toxic masculinity.

You can read her full post at her personal website.

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Tuesday, 04 October 2022

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