I really should stop drinking. I remember in school how the teachers always lamented about how alcohol could put girls in a vulnerable position and how I scoffed at this feeling invincible. I was young, naive and unworldly- seeing S.A for the greatest country on earth.
In my matric year, my parents were really over protective of me. Understandably since I was the first born and all, daddy’s little girl. They warned me to be hyper aware of what was going on around me and never put myself in a compromising position, especially since I was off to 2 weeks of sun, surf and sauce in Durban for Matric Vacation. I had finished 12 years of school and nothing could hold me back or prevent me from going to the university of my dreams, Rhodes University.
On my final night, we were drinking at the apartment, me and a group of friends. We decided to hit the club at the casino, ready for a really hot night of youthful debauchery. It was as we left, or maybe later that things pretty much went south. I arrived at the club, and we ordered another round of drinks. The next thing I knew, I was waking up in the bathrooms. Thankfully alone. I hadn’t had a lot to drink, and I was confused at how out of sorts I was. This wasn’t a normal drunken stupor. My friends found me, saying that I had been gone for hours. When they found me I was shaking and crying and didn’t know where I was. They called my mother to come fetch me, and I couldn’t stop freaking out. It took hours to calm me down. I knew my drink had been spiked. Whether it was the guys who were making our drinks at the apartment or the bartender who served the first round at the club, I didn’t know. But knowing the end result doesn’t help when you cannot account for the hours before. Anything could have happened to me. Thankfully, nothing did.
In my first year I dated this amazing girl who drew me into the world of activism. It was so inspiring and life-changing to be able to make a difference, not only in my life but in other people’s lives too. At the same time, activism exhausted me, drained my soul and emotions on a daily basis. We were little people trying to fight a super power of patriarchy that had existed since Adam and Eve. But I had to keep pushing on, attempting to feel like I was making a difference. It was hard sitting in a room with my closest friends and realising that I was the only one who had no directly been affected by sexual violence. Morbid curiosity and slight egotism had me thinking: when was my turn?
Second year I joined the “feminist society”- Gender Action Project (GAP) to continue with making a difference. I also took part every year, for the past 4 years in the Silent Protest where I was taped to symbolically represent women who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak out due to fear of being persecuted. Even though I partook in this, I could never identify with the stereotype of the angry, man-hatting and bitter feminist. I nicknamed myself “The Happy Feminist”, believing that you could get through to more people through understanding and communicating and finding compromises rather than allowing hatred to segregate you from people who just wanted to understand.
I had the opportunity to speak to local Grahamstown men and educate them on the definition of what was considered rape. Many didn’t know that a drunken girl could not consent to sex. I taught them that it was better to “be safe than sorry”. Even mates when they were taking home a clearly intoxicated girl, I suggested that they shouldn’t sleep with her because she could wake up and accuse him, even though she consented the night before. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Me posing nude for an activism shoot
A few months ago, I was walking home late after a jam; it must have been about 5am. I’m normally the type to when drinking and I realise I’ve had enough, to just leave and head straight home immediately. My friend did suggest I wait for him to walk me home, but I wasn’t thinking clearly and besides, my apartment was only 2 streets away, I’d walked around many times alone at night in Gtown and felt safe and secure. It was on the street closest to my house that I felt strange, I nearly jumped out of my skin realising that there was a man walking right next to me. I was nervous but I have an irritating habit of being really friendly with strangers so I greeted him and chatted politely. He offered to walk me and I smartly denied, but I didn’t register that he kept walking with me. It was then that I realised that his hand was on my arm- either reaching for me or the strap of my hand bag. In fact, it was lingering on me in a manner that just didn’t seem right. My flight or fight mode kicked in and I jumped away from him and ran the short distance home. I guess I got lucky again.
I guess I didn’t learn my lesson from… I don’t know how many incidences. But a few months later- I was getting ready to move back to Joburg, work was done and now I could just celebrate with mates who were all leaving to join the job hunt with me. We drank and partied up a storm and at about midnight, decided to hit the club. I was unsteady but I was fine, I was safe, I was with my friends. It starts getting hazy but I remember just I was about to enter the club, I greeted a friend I knew and we had a chat. I blinked. I was in his car and we were driving somewhere. I blinked. He handed me a glass of wine and I was admiring his apartment. I blinked. I was on a bed and he was on top of me. I blinked again, and I was walking back into the club.
I think I’m scared to admit what I think I know. I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want to be angry. I almost sometimes don’t believe it happened. I’m not the girl who these things happen to. But, I think it did. But did it? Did I not entice him? Did I not consent? I don’t remember. Maybe it wasn’t his fault but mine.
In light of the “Stop Rape Now” campaigns spreading across South Africa, creating awareness of sexual violence, this story came to mind again- this memory which I had tried to hide. I’m going to continue to be active and campaign against sexual violence. I refuse to be victimised, and I know many women may have a story similar to mine. You are not alone, and nor do you have to be. So many women in this country are suffering, and it needs to come to an end. Men and women need to listen. They need to understand. Something must be done.