OPINION | Now is the time to stand together and say ‘enough’
When crime viciously crashes into the very bastion of the middle class – our child-friendly restaurants – it is little surprise that the cacophony of rage is disproportionately louder.
Is it surprising? No.
When a seven-year-old girl was allegedly raped in the bathroom of a Pretoria restaurant, people from across the country collectively rose, taking to social media and then the courts in protest.
Make no mistake, this rage is in no way unjustified. When we hear of a savage, sick paedophile – there is no other description for a man who rapes a tiny child – we should all feel searing rage.
But there was something about this incident that particularly struck a chord with many of us. It was where it happened – at a family restaurant.
It thus shattered the illusion of safety in typically middle-class spaces which are inherently thought to be safer.
The reality is that the rape of women and children is so commonplace in our country, in areas thought to be relatively “safer” and especially in those where citizens are more vulnerable, because of their poor circumstances.
If we accept this, we must then ask if we, the middle classes, protest enough and raise our voices when such brutality occurs in spaces we may not necessarily identify with.
If not, and I submit that we do not, we must ask ourselves some serious questions – because we have a far greater chance of effecting change.
Does our anger stem from the fact that we can imagine ourselves in the very situation in which the family at the Dros was so despicably placed?
Are all the fathers baying for the Dros suspect’s blood – men we hear from far too seldom when it comes to rape – doing so because they can so easily imagine that child to be theirs?
If so, we should take a step back and realise that the scourge of violence, sexual depravity and assault pervades every corner of our country, every community, every race, every class.
What we also need to remember is that the middle class, those with the voice I speak of, cannot be silent when the victim and place the crime takes place does not resonate.
I would like to believe we fight as hard for those whose circumstances we do not share.
I do not, however, think we do.
If you do not believe me, then perhaps look to another disturbing incident that happened just this week – an 11-year-old who, in an eerily similar manner, was allegedly raped in an outside toilet in Delft in the Western Cape.
If you do not know about that case – and you may well not – I would urge you to look it up. The visceral Dros outrage is simply not seen in that case.
And then in the case of the restaurant attack, it was not long after the initial outrage that we heard the sad echoes of our racist past – those who did not believe a white man could commit rape and those who felt the perpetrator’s race was more important than the crime.
In a society like ours, so polarised and in many ways still racist, that those conversations are still had is understandable.
And they should be had, but not in a manner that sidelines the victim and places more attention on the criminal.
We cannot fight against the most evil in our society if we do so only in the little pockets of society in which we live.
We cannot fight monsters if we only slay those whose crimes affect people with whom we identify.
It will take a collective – every man, woman and child in South Africa – to turn the tide on this sickness in our society.
It is now, not tomorrow or the next day, that we need to stand in solidarity and say “enough is enough”.
It is now that we need to remember that rape and abuse form no part of anyone’s culture and that it is only those who are truly sick who would make excuses based on background or race.
It is now that we need to stand together, no matter what, because as chilling as it might be to contemplate, the next child it happens to could be yours...