#stopraping has to start at home

18 February 2013 - 02:26 By Jackie May
Jackie May. File photo.
Jackie May. File photo.
Image: Times LIVE

If I am reading the subtext and hearing the small talk properly, it seems poor - probably black - men are getting flack for being rapists.

It is commonly understood, and confirmed in an opinion piece last week, that, with the high rate of poverty and unemployment, men continue to use women as "shock absorbers for their frustrations and emasculation".

In my experience, however, it hasn't been poor, emasculated men who are responsible for sexual abuse. Those strapping young men were white and from affluent families. For all I know, they are now successful family men. They weren't looking to rid themselves of frustration with their downtrodden lives. Nor were those fit jocks in any way emasculated.

Suggesting it is mostly the poor and unempowered implies we can all do something to stop rape by collectively trying to reduce unemployment.

Improving the lives of all South Africans will help the country in many ways, not least to alleviate the hardship of many lives, but will it stop rape?

I don't think so. Changing attitudes towards women and stopping men from feeling entitled to have their way with women and children requires a fundamental shift in gender relationships. And this starts at home.

In a 2009 South African Medical Research Council study, according to the Mail and Guardian, "men who raped saw both their fathers and mothers as being less kind than those who did not rape. Reports of parental absence were significantly higher among men who reported rape".

I don't know whether the white boys I had to fight off my body had absent parents, but this finding does say something about the power of parenting and families.

How we relate to our sons and daughters and with our partners, determines who our children grow up to be. What I tolerate as a woman from the men in my life will affect how my children understand relationships between men and women.

How my son understands being a man is determined by how I encourage him as a boy. What doesn't happen or does happen at home should be filled in and reinforced at school. Redi Tlhabi, in a column a week ago, brilliantly suggested we introduce classes at schools that deal with gender issues. And for now, I won't be using the #stoprape as a hashtag. I'll use #stopraping.

Rape will stop when men stop raping.