Thursday, December 5, 2013

Bad Taste


Seeing the full page Nando’s SANRAL advert in my newspaper this morning, triggered a memory from two years ago. I was presenting a 16Days Awareness programme to my staff and we were discussing issues around respect and responsible sexual behaviour. A young married man put up his hand and said, and I quote verbatim, “But the girls make it so easy to get the sex. I just buy them chicken and they give me.”

 Laughter broke out and a chorus of fast food chicken supplier names were soon flying across the room;

 “KFC”

“Finger licking good”

“Nando’s”

“Is so good, so nice” said one fellow who stood up and actually did a pelvic thrust. Twerking as it is now known.

The reality of young girls having sex with married men in exchange for takeout chicken broke my heart into a million pieces.

 It was difficult getting that young father to understand how exploitive his actions were. Whether I managed to convince him that his actions were wrong remains unknown to me. But I tried because I believe education and prevention go hand in hand.

I wonder if Nando’s is aware that their product is used as a sexual exchange commodity in communities rife with sexual exploitation and violence. Is it their fault? Of course not. But ignorance is never an excuse. Perpetuating the belief that one is “entitled” to “go all the way” as they put it in their advert, when one buys dinner for another, is irresponsible and reckless in a country known as the rape capital of the world.

 Shame on you Nando’s! Your advert has left a bad taste in my mouth.

 

 

Monday, November 25, 2013

White Ribbons...


Awareness is more than wearing a ribbon.
 
Since the last 16 Days we have read and heard about some of the most horrific acts of violence committed against young girls in our country. Those pretty little white ribbons we all wore did Anene Booysen a whole lot of good. A few weeks before Anene died, the 16 year –old  Charmaine Mare was brutally raped, her arms and legs were cut off with a bolt cutter and her body was set alight. About 2 months after the death of Anene, 14 year-old Thandeka Madonsela was raped, disembowelled and murdered.

The level of gender-based violence in our country is a disgrace but only a fraction of the reality makes it into the press... and yet year in and year out we wear our pretty little white ribbons and hope for the best.
 
As a survivor of rape, when I was just six years old and sexual abuse between the ages of 9 and 16, I have decided it’s time to stand up and speak out. At the beginning of November I began setting my plan into motion. I have approached companies to present a free sexual abuse prevention and awareness programme to staff during the 16 Days of Awareness.
 
“No thanks, but good luck to you” was the response. “We are already involved in an awareness programme.” “What do you do?” I asked. “We buy our employees white ribbons,” was the reply.
 
I will not stop wearing my white ribbon and it warms my heart when I see others wearing their ribbon, but I will not be discouraged by the deafening silence that surrounds child sexual abuse in our country. I will continue trying to convince employees that awareness is more than just wearing a white ribbon.
 
I will not be discouraged, I will continue to speak out and try and break down the barriers of denial, shame and silence, while trying to educate society about child abuse and the effects it ultimately has on individuals, families and society as a whole.  
 
Story telling is an effective tool of persuasion to inform and change attitudes. By taking my story of survival and intertwining it with the facts about child abuse, I hope to impart enough knowledge to parents and caregivers so that they can keep children safe, or, at the very least, identify abuse at the very early stages.
 
We need adults to know the difference between “groomers” and “grabbers”. Adults also need to know the warning signs of possible sexual abuse, and they need to know the age-appropriate sexual behaviour of their children. Telling our children to be careful of strangers and not to allow anybody to touch their bodies is just not enough.
 
The statistics of child sexual abuse is scary. 60% of perpetrators are known to victims but are not family members e.g. family friends, neighbours, teachers, baby sitters etc. A further 30% of abusers are family members e.g. fathers/ stepfathers, brothers, uncles, cousins. A mere 10% of abuse perpetrators are strangers to the victim. These statistics, as well as understanding the grooming process, makes it clear why so few victims of abuse actually speak out.
 
Very few victims get help or learn how to deal with their anger, guilt, shame and hurt and we end up with generations of broken, angry, confused individuals who easily resort to violence and crime or other sorts of abuse, or they seek solace in alcohol or drug abuse.
 
If we have any hope of living in a country not known as the rape and child abuse capital of the world, then we need to start talking and listening and we need to move beyond the silence.
 
Wearing a white ribbon is no longer enough.

 

 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Raindancer

Recently circumstances have “pushed” me in the direction I felt strongly about. I am now taking the plunge to be a full time do-gooder. I want to serve others. I want to make a difference in a field I feel passionate about.

The trouble is it’s an area or topic nobody wants to talk about. I’m sure if I decided to fight for the rights of animal abuse I would have a whole lot of support... but child sexual abuse makes people cringe...  It makes them go into ostrich mode. If we don’t think about it or talk about it, it might just go away right? Not so.
The aftermath and fallout of a child having endured sexual abuse or any other kind of abuse will ultimately affect us all because it’s not just about sex... Have you ever wondered why there are so many people who are angry, nasty, promiscuous, bitter, and violent and who abuse alcohol and drugs? Go back to their childhood and you will discover why. Many a times they themselves may not have been abused, but they have a parent that was... and who never had the opportunity to “work through” their issues... and the vicious cycle continues.

Children and adults who have been sexually abused very seldom speak out about abuse. And the reasons are obvious. Most people are abused by people they know and trust. Studies on reported abuse cases show that:
  • An estimated 60% of perpetrators of sexual abuse are known to the child but are not family members, e.g., family friends, babysitters, childcare providers, neighbours.
  • About 30% of perpetrators are family members, e.g., fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins.
  • Just 10% of perpetrators are strangers to the child.
Sadly here in South Africa just a fraction of that 10% is reported in the media and for the most part the other is kept hush-hush for fear of a family scandal or because the adults don’t want to offend their neighbours or acquaintances. Adults always seem to choose self preservation above the wellbeing of children. Just look at the way some schools treat reports of teachers sexually abusing their learners. The reputation of the schools is much more important.


And the silence continues...

Silence however only serves to perpetuate the abuse. It is time we move “Beyond the Silence”...

Stories have always been a very effective tool of persuasion. They have been used to convey messages and influence behaviours since before the written word and I believe strongly that survivors should be telling their stories and offering hope to those who find themselves in seemingly hopeless situations.
 
I thread telling my story and my fight to move from victim to survivor to thriver with the facts about child abuse so that the audience are given the knowledge that can help them prevent the abuse of our children.
 
I have spent the past couple of years putting together a workshop and fact sheets and have presented this to groups of people. My aim however is to now do this fulltime. But if I want to make a difference at all I will need schools to buy into this and get the teachers and parents to attend. I need employers to get me to address their workers during working hours. I need NGO's working in the area of child services to see the benefits of joining me in a partnership and I need YOUR support please.
 
 My wish list:

·         Printing of fact sheets, brochures and business cards and stationary

·         A banner

·         Names and contacts of people I can approach about hosting a talk or workshop
 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Beyond the Silence



When women get together something special happens.
They share, they laugh, they learn, they grow.
They share their triumphs and their joys.
They laugh about their mistakes.
They celebrate the lessons learned.
Beyond the Silence
High Tea

with
Deborah Ho-Chung


WHAT:
Beyond the Silence - High Tea is a gathering of women having a tea-party while Deborah shares her personal story intertwined with the facts about child sexual abuse. In sharing her story Deborah hopes to help break down the barriers of denial, shame and silence that surrounds child abuse while facilitating dialogue that offers hope, educates and creates an awareness about how devastating child abuse can be. As parents it is our duty to learn how to protect our children.

WHERE:
TAG Hall,  Westlea Bowling Green,  Crn Fuel Rd and Hay Ave,  Coronationville

WHEN:
Saturday, 18th August 2012 at 14h30

COST:
Donations are welcome to help cover the costs.

BOOK NOW:
Seats are limited. Booking is essential.
Please email -  info@deborah.co.za to make sure you are on our guest list.


For more info please contact Deborah.

Pass it On
Please share this email with anyone who might benefit from it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Change



I love watching nature go about its thing.
The seasons seem to change so effortlessly.
Nothing resists the order of things.
A few weeks ago I took this picture of these beautiful leaves.
I had been watching them change colour and fall off for a while.
I knew if I did not take a picture soon I would miss out.
When I looked out of the window early this morning I saw that the tree was completely bare and I felt the icy cold of winter reach within my bones.
And yet I am reassured because I know my garden will sprout green leaves again and I look forward to it while enduring this cold and appreciating the beauty of my drab looking trees.



Things are so different in our lives though.
We don’t like change.
We worry about what we might lose.
We’ve all experienced a time in our lives when things were not going as planned.
But when we look back on our lives objectively we realise that things worked out even though it might not be exactly as we planned it.



Seeing our lives in this way may help us understand that being attached to what we believe to be secure or what we need can in fact limit us instead of opening us up to new possibilities. Sometimes holding on to something prevents us from enjoying everything we have been given.



And I live with the knowledge that what I so desire will come to being when I am ready to receive it. Just as I know for sure that bare tree will have green leaves again.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Winter Wonderings


Nature has a way of forcing us to toe the line.
Autumn is here and winter is fast approaching and I find myself
spending more time indoors curled up and covered up.


This usually leads me to becoming introspective.
It also gets me thinking about ways I can change my life and put my dreams into being.
And I find this exciting.
Autumn here in South Africa also happens to coincide with Easter.
A time of rebirth.
A time of second chances.


But then fear grabs a hold of me.
Self doubt steps in.
And the voice of my inner critic becomes louder.


And inevitably I end up hibernating the winter away.
Wasting time...
Or is it?


Maybe it’s a time for me to stop doing so much
A time for taking stock
A time to start focusing my limited energies on one thing at a time


What I do know is that I need to be my number one supporter.
I need to believe in myself.
Accept myself and ignore the voice of my inner critic.
I also need to understand that my mistakes have been opportunities for me to learn and grow.
And growing is life...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Keeping Hope Alive



I've been struggling these past few days...
Struggling to stay focused
Struggling to smile
Struggling to remember the good things in my life

It's just way too easy to have a pity party I find
And this frustrates me no end...
"you have so much to be thankful for"
I find myself saying over and over again
"look around you"
I say as I drive through a predominantly
coloured gang infested...
drug soaked township on my way to work

And it is exactly this dichotomy of my life that frustrates me
The poverty and hopelessness I see around me
leaves me inspired to share my message of hope
but it also drags me down into a dark pit of gloom and self-pity

When I see boys as young as twelve smoke and drink behind a wall
and little girls dance suggestively just a few meters away them
I know what the outcome is going to be
And I pray for those little girls to be able to hold onto their innocence
for just a few more years
just until someone...
a teacher... an older sister... or cousin...
comes along and tells them there is more to life
More to life than smoking
and drinking
and boys
and dancing
and sex

"The children don't want to listen to us"
say my staff at work.
I share my story
and that of my grandmother with them
I'm doing what I can... where I can
In the hope that they will share that message with their children
But apparently pretty words can't compete with the good feelings
drugs and alcohol and sex provide

And my frustration and impatience sends me tumbling into a
deep dark vacuum
What good was my suffering if I cant help others lead a better life?
What purpose did it serve?

I feel a therapy session coming on...

Thank goodness for my support system!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

I'm finished... and running out of time...

I’m so finished with the intolerance I encounter in my country...
I’m finished with us failing to listen to each other...
Let’s stop being defensive and sensitive about the actions of our previous government.
Let’s face it... we were born into a society that believed white skins were superior to black skins...
We had no choice in the matter and some of us benefited from that whether we bought into that ideology or not.
Let’s acknowledge that the shit happened and let’s listen to the stories being told...
But let us not flash that race card indiscriminately when we should in fact be discussing our prejudice and ignorance about each other’s cultures.
I’m so finished with us fleeing “racist” Cape Town instead of facing and challenging the racism head on.
Why wait until a twitter spat erupts to tell of our traumatic experiences?
Have we learnt nothing from the men and women who stood their ground and fought gallantly for our democratic freedom?

I’m so finished with us taking the easy way out that the cyber world offers us when it comes to our relationships.
I’m finished with being defriended on facebook and blocked on twitter because you feel uncomfortable about something I said.
I see way too many of us doing the exact same thing in relationships... a click on our keyboard is much easier than working at a relationship.
Relationships build communities... communities build a nation.
But with relationships come vulnerability... people get to see our imperfections.
And that scares us.
So we block and defriend people instead of taking the opportunity to embrace our vulnerabilities and grow.
In so doing we miss out on being able to truly engage in our lives, our relationships, our communities and our country from a place of authenticity and a feeling of worthiness.
Without a strong sense of worthiness we are unable to connect and experience a sense of belonging and this has a knock-on effect in all facets of our lives.
I’m finished with us feeling that we are not worthy of love, belonging and joy.

I’m so finished with the taboo that surrounds speaking up against woman and child abuse.
I’m finished with the deafening silence from all the good men in our country who said very little about those 56 272 women who reported being raped in our country last year.
And I’m even more finished with the fact that we have the highest reported cases of rape per capita in the whole wide world.
I’m finished with the publisher who told me that they cannot publish my book because they do not want to become known as the publisher who publishes books about abuse.
And even more...
I’m finished with myself for buying into the taboo and actually waiting for the 16 Days of Activism to roll around so that I can bang on my drum about the abuse that women and children endure in my country.

I’m so finished with being finished in 2012...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We need to slow down in order to keep up

Most of us tend to rush through our days at break-neck speed. We try and cram into our day as much as we can. Doing a lot makes us feel good. And then we find ourselves at the end of the year... looking back and wondering... was it worth it?


I have resolved to slow down this year. To make it about the quality of my life and not the quantity I manage to cram into each day.


And yes... I'm excited about 2012. I even found myself saying that I cannot wait for 2012 to be over so that I can sit back and be proud of myself and thank everybody who helped me reach my goals. But I also want to savour 2012... it's gonna be a good year... and like all good things I want it to linger. I want to take it all in... I want to savour each magic moment.

But old habits die hard... and I will have to relearn stuff I was taught by one of my "teachers" who helped me along this healing journey of mine. She taught me to start my day off with a clear mind.


I find that my mental chatter keeps me distanced from my inner awareness... All that chatter leaves me feeling confused and disorientated. By taking just a few minutes at the beginning of my day to turn within and let go of scattered thoughts... I immediately begin to feel more alert with a stronger sense of awareness of the possibilities and opportunities that present themselves for me to be all I am meant to be during my day.


And so.... on this first day of work in 2012... I hope you too can slow down and enjoy all you are meant to in this life we share.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It has been a while.

I have been inspired to start blogging again.
I will be back soon...
I promise!