Blow for women attacked at a club and social media

Mbuyiselo Botha Gender Imbizo
Mangosuthu University of Technology students protest outside the Durban regional court where Thabani Mzolo appeared for the murder of student Zolile Khumalo. /Thuli Dlamini
Mangosuthu University of Technology students protest outside the Durban regional court where Thabani Mzolo appeared for the murder of student Zolile Khumalo. /Thuli Dlamini

During the weekend, three young women took to social media to speak about an assault they experienced at a popular nightclub in Sandton - the perpetrator is allegedly a famous Isibaya actor.

According to the women's account of the events of the night in question, they were kicked to the floor and slapped, all because they asked the man not to take pictures of them.

To the women's dismay, instead of being supported and being shown empathy, they were met with a lot of backlash on social media.

Backlash that represents a microcosm of what many women go through when they report abuse in this country and the world over. These were some of the comments from Twitter users: "What did you do to him, tell the full story," "What if this is a ploy to tarnish this guy's name?"

One of the victims was left with a wound from the assault, she posted the image of the wound. One of the many negative responses to a picture of the wound was "this looks like an old iron scar".

The victim had to post before and after pictures from the same night, showing that the scar is new. After going through the trauma and physical assault, the victim has to do the work of proving that a wound is not old. This is the process that many victims have to go through.

Their word, pain and scars are not enough, victims are also tasked with the burden of going above and beyond to prove their case against public scrutiny. These young women were failed by those who were present as the abuse occurred, including the nightclub because it failed to intervene.

Instead, the young women spoke about how the nightclub's bouncers were laughing at them as they were being assaulted.

Frequent patrons of this particular nightclub spoke about how problematic the nightclub is. It is, according to frequenters, known for not protecting women. This culture is so entrenched in this nightclub that some women have chosen to never return to it.

In SA, where one in five women are victims of abuse, we still have people who would rather poke holes at the victim's story rather than rally behind them in ensuring they get justice.

The young women felt so attacked on social media that they later wrote an update where they said they wish they had never spoken out.

This is the grim reality of South Africa for many women. They would rather keep quiet than speak out because their stories will be doubted, the "astute" stature of the men will be brought up, they will be met by insensitive and inept police personnel, their sexual history will be scrutinised as a way to discredit their story.

Watching this play out on social media scared me for the prospects of our country and the fight against the scourge of women abuse.

Avid social media users are largely a younger and youthful cohort. They are exposed to a wealth of knowledge on abuse, patriarchy, issues such as victim-blaming and the consequences thereof.

However, they still hold these very archaic and problematic views when it comes to abuse. This cohort cannot claim ignorance.

The gruesome killing of Karabo Mokoena by her lover Sandile Mantsoe; Zolile Khumalo who was shot by her boyfriend at her university residence; Anene Booysen who was raped and killed by a man who volunteered to walk her home after a night out, are all cases that were blasted all over the news and social media. But South Africans do not learn a lesson.

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