Giving any phenomenon a trivial metaphorical title is subject to its consequential pressures just as being a watchdog is as it was predetermined by my predecessors. What I watch is a unique cocktail of triumphs among humanity dashed with the vivid imagery of failures that echo broken systems. My watch must serve the role to expose the injustices of failed systems and institutions, yet forbids the inclusion of emotional attachment.
 
Why would I begin a piece of writing on the abuse of women and children with an analogy of my experience as a watchdog to and for humanity? Before I break this beast into pieces, the context of my views and analogy must hopefully inspire and evoke a deep sense of awakening in you.
 
Domestic violence is a complex social issue. A characteristic evident in humanity that for the most part, may not diminish without a revolutionary wand spiking the holistic existence of society with a cure for everything perceived unjust.
 
I was recently requested to publish the face of a man wanted for stabbing his pregnant ex- wife four times, boasting in his wrath by leaving his tool of her destruction lodged in her head. Surviving her attack, the young lady followed the necessary steps to ensure her safety. She turned to the law, to justice.
 
At this point in her journey, she may have survived every other form of abuse and the final beat may have almost killed her, but she’ll soon find out that her battle has only begun.
See she’ll have a case and the state will ensure relevant charges are in place, but with him still out there, she still fights on her own. I work in an area, confined in the borders of my designated working space, which has one of the highest logged domestic violence cases in the country. Coupled with the bloodline vixens who call themselves drug and alcohol addiction; poverty and marginalisation; deprivation and ill living quality, this dreadful social dragon burns the fibre of the basic fundamental structure in society, family.
 
Why has her battle only begun? Because her justice system will see to hundreds of cases just like hers, neglecting the complexity of her specific case. See, while this victim waits for justice to take its course, every living second is potentially her last.
 
Another victim I encountered during my discussions with soldiers in the dragon’s territory, said that she was turned away in a magistrate court, because her perpetrator was perceived with tremendous subjectivity and bias, as being without threat to her safety.
 
The legal framework that governs issues around women and child abuse and violence in homes is the Domestic Violence Act (1998). Our dear systems may be sufficient in placing laws down on paper, but as with many policies and frameworks in theory, accurate implementation in the hands of pressured professionals leaves room for inaccurate judgement.
The lives of our women and children are at the hands of speculation. A report done by the Institute of Criminology at Cape Town University involving a number of organisations which included JOASA (Judicial Offices Association of South Africa), taught me recently that our legal system is in fact battling to deal with cases of violence against women and children, effectively. Dozens of anonymous magistrates admitted to the challenges of exercising and implementing the act.
 
The fear in the eyes of a woman exploring all avenues for help, even from a journalist, is a look I will never forget. It is the desperation to get out and the shame of being in, that shakes every notion of objectivity and de-sensitivity you thought you had. A women who has patched her bruises and wiped her tears, has stepped onto a battlefield ready to fight with little or no armour. There are those victors who give hope to this social tragedy, but that hope is compromised by the death of others and the knowledge of those who remain silent and beaten. We must talk about this dragon, hiding only makes him stronger. He breeds off silence and fear, but in unity he will shake. While you engross yourself in the thrill of the festive holidays, take these 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children to vigorously practice empathy and awareness of this dragon scourging the fundamental fibres of our nation. Seek help from the systems in place if you are walking around in burns from his flames, inform and educate yourself and seek help from the hundreds of organisations with visions to lead you to full recovery and safety.
 
In silence, we will fall.

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