OPINION | GBV: No-one is out to get 'successful black men', women are the victims here

19 February 2021 - 11:00
Men from all walks of life and social standing have committed gender-based violence, including successful men. Stock photo.
Men from all walks of life and social standing have committed gender-based violence, including successful men. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Andriy Popov

“A black man cannot be successful without rape allegations in these modern times. [It's] saddening.”

“It's rampant my man. These days once a man becomes successful, he has offended everyone except few.”

These are some of the tweets, quoted word for word, by men who took part in the ongoing and often heated conversation about gender-based violence (GBV) on social media this week.

Scary, right? I wish I'd made this up, but I didn't.

GBV is again at the centre of conversations online, sparked by alleged incidents, some recent and others old, which have made the news.

It is unfortunate that as women, we continue to live in fear because some men feel entitled to our bodies.

But what is even more tragic is that there are men who disregard the actions of perpetrators and are reducing women's experiences to a smear campaign. This only compounds the many hills we need to climb to end gender-based violence in SA.

Not only do we still need to shout at the top of our lungs during protests and tweet endless hashtags in our attempt to educate about GBV, but we now also need to deal with men who hold the dangerous view that someone is out to get them, purely because of their success.

This is a blatant lie.

Men from all walks of life and social standing have committed gender-based violence, including successful men.

In fact, there are far too many “successful men” who have used their power and influence to abuse women. These men have the choice to use the same power for the benefit, and not the detriment of the women around them.

GBV is a pandemic and the fight against it should not be sabotaged by those who weaponise it by falsely accusing men of abuse. This is wrong and anyone found guilty of such must be held accountable.

This is, however, no reason for men to dodge accountability and disregard the plight of women.

The sentiment about “successful black men” being the victims speaks to, in part, the timing at which victims of GBV feel most empowered to call out their abusers.

Not all victims speak out immediately after the abuse has happened. Some wait years, only to be bullied, subjected to condescending questioning and called names.

Sadly, some women take their trauma to the grave.

It is unfair to dictate to women how and when they should react to abuse and timing should not invalidate their truth.

It also speaks to idolising members of society who are held in high esteem because of their accomplishments, and therefore “don't look like they would abuse a woman”. 

Men must understand that when they strip a woman of her dignity and decide that she is less deserving of respect by subjecting her to abuse, their actions might catch up with them - even if it takes a few years.

And when that time comes, it will have nothing to do with how successful the perpetrators have become.

Painting “successful black men” as victims is as problematic as saying “educated men don't rape”.

It is ignorant and it reinforces the idea that abusers have a particular look or standing in society.

Abusers are often men we know, men who raised us, and men we look up to. Their role in society should not exempt them from accountability, because they are not victims here - women are.