Men exist, therefore women and children are not safe
"I almost died."
If I had a penny for each time I have heard someone say this casually, as many of us do, I would afford drinks on an exotic island somewhere. So many of us use this phrase to highlight an incident that is nowhere near death. For example, if someone has just spent the day queuing at home affairs or the traffic department, it's normal for them to blurt out "Yho, I almost died." This phrase is so popular that someone even wrote a song about it, ngcishe ngafa!
I have been thinking about that saying a lot lately. How I, as a woman, can no longer take this saying lightly, or even use it jokingly. As a woman in SA, it would seem we are in a cat-and-mouse game where we are the mouse and death an ever-looming overeager, overzealous cat, ready for the chase.
"I almost died" has become more than a flippant saying, it has become a mood, an everyday constant shadow.
As a woman, every time you come across a man, every time you are alone with a man, every time you consider a man as a potential lover, it is potentially a literal "I almost died" moment.
I wish I could say that it is only the past week, or the past month that things have felt this heavy. But I honestly have no idea how we women have kept things together, living with the kind of anxiety we experience daily.
Over the past week, we have learnt that we can never again go out with our children to the family restaurants they love because men exist.
And what we know about what happens because men exist is that women and children are not safe. What kind of sick, twisted life is this if we can't let our children go to the bathroom by themselves?
The past year has felt like a big, dark, heavy cloak; it has been terrible on the psyche of women.
One of the things that we ask for, as women, is proper dialogue about what we go through. I'm not sure we were ever ready to know just how many women and children are violated by men. I for one was never ready for the soul-devouring lava that is the constant reporting of violence against women and children.
In this past year alone I have heard and seen some of the most cruel, most violent and torturous ends that men can go to inflict pain.
Every other day a missing child turns up dead, having been sexually assaulted, usually by a suspect that turns out to be known to the family. Every week, we hear reports of women killed, in the most violent ways, eyes gauged out, limbs decapitated, and brains splashed everywhere.
I had hope once. That men would be too scared of the shame of being reported. That men would stand up aggressively against the men who harm us. Instead, they are on social media arguing about the race of perpetrators as though these events are not immediate equalisers. Once again they centre themselves on the traumas that women endure.
I no longer have that hope. All I know is every time I come across a man and live to tell the tale, that tale is "I almost died".