I was seriously affected by the news of Aiia Maasarwe’s rape and murder. For days afterwards, I woke up crying. I found it hard to get out of bed. I even vividly dreamed of the scene that unfolded that night and woke up in paralysing grief.
All I could see in this world was twisted perverseness, and men who thrive in the depths of depravity. Though I am not one to shy away from confrontation or be especially concerned for my safety, I found myself looking over my shoulder as I left work during the nights. My eyesight and hearing were sharpened to a point that was unbearable whilst walking to my car alone. I couldn’t look any man in the eyes, and I refused to smile or nod politely at one when walking past – again, an unusual characteristic for me.
One night when driving home, I had my window down to enjoy the breeze on a particularly hot night. Coming to a stop at a red light, my car was slowing to a halt when I passed by very near to a man who was crossing the road from a tram stop. As I passed him, all I could think about was how easily he could reach in through my window and grab my throat, and how anyone witnessing would likely be too slow to react properly. So traumatising was this fear that I wound my windows up and spent the ride home uncomfortably warm. All I could think about, whenever I was walking to my car or picking out my clothes or scrolling through social media, was that there were more men vocally outraged about an advertisement that encouraged men to say no to violence, than there were men vocally outraged about what had happened to Aiia.
As a woman who has always tried to see the best in men, who has been raised, taught, coached and encouraged by good men, and who has always argued for men when they were being unfairly treated or accused, I was truly shaken to my core. I no longer believed in the goodness of men. If men were truly good, where were they now? Where are their voices now that something atrocious has happened? Why are they posting on social media about how unfair our society is on men, instead of owning up to what they have done? Where are the men who will go out of their way to protect me? And where are the men who understand that protection isn’t just physical, and that they need – right now – to speak up?
I am confident that the good men I know are horrified about what happened to Aiia. Yet out of all the men I know and see, especially on social media, only three went out of their way to pay true respect to her, and to declare that they hate what happened. Only one man went out of his way to ask me how I was feeling about her death. Only one man told me that he will walk to me my car if I don’t feel like walking alone. Only one man told me that he hates what happened.
And if you don’t hate what happened to Aiia, you condone it. And if you truly hate what happened to Aiia, you will be moved to action. To voice. You will say something. Anything.
If you think that nothing you could say will make any difference, I am telling you now that you are wrong. Men, I am pleading with you to SAY SOMETHING. Tell us how disgusting you find what happened. Tell us you will never condone what happened. Tell us you will protect us not just physically, but in the locker room, and in the bar when you’ve had a few to drink, and in the club when you see us repeatedly swatting a man’s hand away from us. Tell us you will stand up for us at the party when we are groped by a drunk man. Tell us you will never allow another man to disrespect us so atrociously. Tell us that you recognise that you have the responsibility, as the physically stronger humans, to prevent these horrendous, unspeakable acts from happening.
Because all I can think about when walking to my car is that some men are sick of hearing us ‘complain’ about rape and injustice. That some men are getting angry at women for being so vocal and opinionated about Aiia’s death and about the rape and abuse of women for centuries. That some men out there actually think that women deserve to be shown a lesson. Walking to my car at night, this is why I cannot look you in the eye. This is why I have started assuming the worst in men. This is why I have lost my faith in you, despite the amount of good men that I know and love, who have strived for equal rights and justice. Men, say something. Please. Because we are running out of reasons to trust you.
Without your voice, all we can hear is acceptance and apathy of the evil that took place; acceptance of the evil that took Aiia’s life. Please, please, say something.
Don’t Look Away – this wasn’t what I planned to call this piece of writing. But it came to me out of nowhere and I couldn’t think of a more fitting title. Women are forced to look at cases of violence, rape and murder against us – particularly perpetrated by men. We may try not to pay attention, try to brush it off, or even try not to care. But every story of these hateful acts leaves a mark – a bookmark, if you will – that we carry with us to work, to study, to parties, to church, to our car, on the streets, on public transport, and at night as we go to sleep. Reminders of what not to do, what to avoid, and who we can’t trust. Reminders not to fully trust even the men we trust with our lives, because that’s what we might end up paying for it. Reminders of the times we experienced the same things. Reminders of times we felt helpless, outraged and utterly hopeless.
We are forced to look at the horrors committed against women in our own lives, in our country, and worldwide. Men have the luxury of looking away. Men choose apathy simply because they can.
When we love someone, we choose to make their pain our pain, and their struggles our struggles. That is a mark of true love.
With every story and discovery of violence and hatred against women, we are left feeling alone and ultimately unloved by the men in our lives, because they have chosen convenience and comfort over our well-being. They have chosen apathy over us.
Men – all of you, regardless of how much you may have already worked for equality – I implore you, don’t remain silent; don’t look away.
I wrote the above article about a week and a half after Aiia Maasarwe was murdered. My reaction had been very drastic and completely unexpected. Every horrible thing that has been done or said to me by men (because I am a girl and/or woman) that I have tried to leave in the past – even those that I have forgiven – seemed to overwhelm and crush me. I experienced the depths of grief and despair over the death of a girl I had never known.
This piece was both a reflection of how I had been affected by the horrific crime and a desperate plea for men to be better. To take oppression, assault, abuse and disrespect against us more seriously; and not to do it silently. It might not be particularly profound, but what’s written above was the desperate crying out out of a hurt, angry, and utterly broken heart.