Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Archive for the tag “violence”

Domestic Violence: It All Starts With The Child

David Harrison, the Chief Executive Officer of The DG Murray Trust, shares how he believes we can break the cycle of violence in South Africa. And how we can get involved in the solution.

Photo Credit: horrigans via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: horrigans via Compfight cc

Do you remember that horrific picture in the Cape Times last year, of a terrified man kneeling in front of a crowd in Khayelitsha preparing to necklace him?  As if that scene wasn’t bad enough, the really bone-chilling stuff was happening behind him, where mothers stood holding the hands of their toddlers as they too watched a man screaming to death.  Those flames must have burnt into the psyche of those children.

We won’t break the cycle of violence in South Africa through a better justice system.  Yes, we desperately need that.  Without trust in the system, women and children won’t report abuse and perpetrators will do it again and again.  But a better system is not enough.  And we won’t break the cycle of violence through campaigns – important though they are in keeping the issue in the public consciousness.  We will only break the cycle of violence if we can stop it in the home, way before the man lifts his hand against his partner.  You see, it must start with the child.

In the past decade, scientists like Jack Shonkoff have shown the relationship between chronic stress in children and dysfunctional and dangerous adulthood.  “The active ingredient in the environment…”, says Shonkoff,  “is the quality of the relationships that children have with the important people in their lives. That’s what it’s all about.”  Where mothers are constantly moving from home to home looking for food or a bit of money; where fathers are absent or only around binge-drinking over the weekends; where children of three or four wander around on streets instead of being part of early learning centres – then societies turn on themselves, and turn violent.

So what can be done?

Let’s start by focusing more on the child – and let’s start with what WE can do.  The child psychologist Alice Miller describes the “essential role of an enlightened witness” in the lives of children.  People who can be there with the child – understand his or her hurt, even if they can’t take it away.  Miller’s view is that the role of a witness enables a child to unload the pain – externalise the anger and prevent it becoming bottled up in our very genes.  There are about 35 000 children born in the City of Cape Town each year who are at particular risk – whose lives will be stressful and insecure.  Will you reach out to just one of them and be their witness as they grow up?

We Are Not Afraid of God’s Face

Photo Credit: una cierta mirada via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: una cierta mirada via Compfight cc

In the wake of the horrific rape and murder of Anene Booysen, Nathalie Koenig chatted to the women at Sisters Incorporated to hear what they had to say about the abuse of women in this country.

I once asked God to show me His face. It was one of those repeated pleas – “Show me your face Lord. Showmeyourfaceshowmeyourface”. And He showed me the faces of some children I knew. Women I knew. Friends. Family members. Now looking at a snapped ID photo of Anene Booysen, I’m unsettled by the earnestness of her expression. And am asking again for God to show me His face. And I think that He is.

On 2 February, 17-Year old Anene Booysen was gang-raped and mutilated in Bredasdorp.  She died later in hospital, after identifying one of her attackers. (For the full story, click here)

Upon reading or hearing of Anene’s story, many of us may have been shocked or saddened, but how many of us would have responded with the thought “It could have been me”?

This was one woman’s response at Sisters Incorporated. Sisters Incorporated, one of Common Good’s partner organisations, is a shelter in Kenilworth that provides a place of safety and healing to vulnerable women. The residents of Sisters all have stories, as do countless other women in our city, and our nation.

Anene’s story is not one that stands alone.

Read more…

Why teaching a child to read is about so much more than A,B,C

Literacy programme volunteer, Anneke Jagau, gives us a glimpse into the life of the little boy she’s teaching to read every week. 

The school in Kewtown that I visit every Tuesday for the literacy programme is not very far away but it always feels as though I’m driving into a completely different world. Kewtown is one of the poorest areas in Athlone. Out the window of my car, I see rows of badly maintained houses, grey blocks of flats and deteriorated playgrounds. Even during ‘school hours’, many youngsters of school going age hang around on the streets and at the shops. Names of the different gangs are spray painted on the walls to indicate territory. Sadly, the police have very little presence in this area; the gangs often have the last word.

My heart breaks when I hear the stories of the children. They grow up in a world that exposes them to too much too young. The little seven-year-old boy who I always read with is a cute little chap but he finds it hard to concentrate. He is very restless. In his eyes you can read the pain and the sadness, caused by the things that have happened in his life. Last week, he was wearing a little bracelet which he told me proudly he’d made himself. I asked him how he’d done it and he said, “Oh, very easy, I made it from a condom. They are always behind our flat. They throw them their when they are done. I just washed it and burned the soft plastic. Do you like it?”

Read more…

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