87000 - Day 9

The sun is on lockdown too. And the blue skies. It was another cold and wet day today and I can almost see the grass growing. I hope it doesn't grow too fast. I'm not confident that Ghaalieb will now the lawn again. Goodness knows I won't. The day went by in a jiffy for me. I participated in an online workshop. It was good to be in that kind of space, especially as a participant. I felt reconnected with my business goals and I felt affirmed that I am indeed growing in the direction of my heart's most sincere desire. I can't say for sure what the kids got up to. Ghaalieb either. Shortly after the workshop, I got stuck into supper. I prepared a 'deconstructed' burger jobbie. Sounds fancy. Really I didn't feel like the pallava of putting together everyone's burgers with their respective choice. So I empowered them to do it for themselves. Movies kept me occupied for the rest of the evening and on a WhatsApp chat, my cousin's shenanigans had me in stitches. I love the creativity that is blossoming as a result of the lockdown. Crochet, knitting, baking, crafts of all sorts...and short movie productions. I will leave two of his little productions here to sample. I wish I could leave them all, but bandwidth constrains me. Love that my niece was such a willing narrator and co-producer.

Another thing that had my attention was a startling number I picked up in the news. 87000.

The number of domestic violence reports from day 1 - day 7 of the lockdown. It's safe to say that whilst these are the reported numbers, they don't reflect actually domestic violence incidents. The actual numbers are typically 4 and even 5 times higher than reported. We also forget that these events are both witnessed and experienced by children. Frightened and impressionable children who learn the way life is in a container of violence. This is where they learn their own 'how-to' of the future. My first brush with domestic violence was when I volunteered at Nicro Nimro as a student. A respectable but obviously poor woman took her seat in front of me. I was partnered with a peer with a bit more experience than me. Neither of us were ready. She started speaking. She had a slur. But she couldn't be drunk. I knew what drunk and drugged looked like. She didn't look like that. She just looked weary. Worn down and tired. And expressionless. I had to ask her a few times to repeat herself. She was getting some maintenance money, but the boys were growing and the R600 she was receiving was'nt enough. She was there for assistance to get money from her husband for their two children. She was too frightened to go to the ordinary maintenance court route. Not for herself. For her sons. She explained why she spoke the way she did. Neither of us were ready. Her husband, father of her two children had taken up with a lady down the street. Without food in the house in a bleak, wet winter, she fretted for her children. She had been sweeping outside her house when she saw that her husband and the lady were braaing. She suggested to her two boys to pop in by their dad so that at least they could eat. That was before sunset. At sunset she was weaponised. Her husband marched into the marital home. He was upset that she had the temerity to disturb his braai by sending the kids there. Who the F did she think she was! We still were not ready. It's not that he hit her. He used her body to hit everything in the sparsely furnished little maisonette. He used her head to break each internal and external door in the house. He used her body to smash the ceramics in the bathroom. The bath, the basin, and the toilet. He used her face and the back of her head to smash each and every window pane in the small little house. When his rage abated, he threw her through a window from the inside of the house to the outside of the house. By this time she was no longer conscious. She was unaware of the violence that had also met each of her boys already by the time her hell had erupted. She discovered herself in hospital. Days had passed and her healing was underway. Her jaw was severely dislocated and broken. The injuries throughout her body was extensive and nerve damage was guaranteed. The scarring was severe. Some of her internal organs were so severely damaged that she continued to have blood in her urine for a number of weeks. That she was alive was astonishing. She had a file with her. No pictures. Just the record of the injuries. The violence that was perpetrated against her was diabolical. I had been in a severe accident as a child. I didn't have a fraction of her injuries. She was able to visit with her 2 boys. They too were hospitalized. Broken bones. Both of them. Cranial injuries as well. Both of them. What causes that kind of rage? It was 8 months since the assault. It wasn't her narrative that immobilised me. It was her narration. There was no emotion. No voice inflection. No sadness. No fearfulness. Nothing. Just tired resignation. She withdrew testimony at his criminal trial. With him in jail there would be no income. She was unable to work. The damage to her body was too extensive for domestic work. What else was there? "R600 is bietere as niks" [R600 is better than nothing] No emotion. Just tired resignation. My partner and I were shattered. We and I helped her as best as we could. We walked a path with her for a number of months. No positive results. We helped as best we could. I encountered her again, years later, again in the criminal justice system. She called me to defend her son in an assault matter. Both her sons became my clients over time. Both for violence. Both became addicts of every vice they could buy. Both died premature deaths. Domestic violence was a big part of my criminal practice. Legal Aid instructions came through the fax machine on a very regular basis. Powerless men who exacted power in the most destructive way imaginable on people more powerless than themselves. I remember another matter in which a man killed his wife publicly and tied her corpse to a light pole with her protection order attached to her. He did this the day after he was released on bail. His original arrest was for assaulting her. When I asked him why he did it, his answer was an easy 'wie dink sy wie is sy?' (Who does she think she is?) This is the violence that lives amongst us every day. Different parts of society play out the violence differently. But no parts escape it. It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. When that village is filled with rage fueled men, the violence will only increase in the next generation. Without parenting vulnerable children who are not our own, how do we change this dismal future? How do we protect our daughters? Without healing ourselves, how do we protect our boys? My head is swarming with dark thoughts. I have questions. I have no answers. I hope the weather will be better tomorrow. We need blue skies.

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