Tuesday, 9 January 2018

JENNIFER #wetoo  The Baxter Cape Town  4-7 April 2018.

The decision to make public the rape that happened to me more than 20 years ago and naming the perpetrator has had huge implications, not only for myself, but my family, friends and even the broader community of concerned South Africans.
I have been hurtled into a malaise that most victims (and I use that word deliberately) of sexual violence find themselves in. The word ‘malaise’ means sickness and South Africa is suffering from a national disease where sexual violence has become normalised.
The memory of Fezekile Kuzwayo ‘‘Khwezi’’ is painful for many of us. She still hovers in my mind. She suffered humiliation, degradation and insult during her trial as she fought and lost her battle for justice in the law courts in a travesty of justice that found President Zuma 'not guilty'. In a final betrayal, women who should have stood by her, instead burnt effigies outside the courtroom. 'Khwezi' was martyred because she dared speak her truth and seek justice against a figure that symbolises all-pervasive malaise of power: sexual, political and criminal. This abuse of power is being perpetuated downwards from those that hold the highest offices in our country, including my rapist. How do we begin to change the culture of sexual violence and violation when leadership is setting such contaminating examples of toxic sexual behaviour? This is one of the questions that has been pre-occupying my mind over these weeks.

The #metto campaign, started in 2006 has given a platform for survivors of sexual assault and rape to at last share their stories. Tarana Burke, founder of the movement, says it was originally envisaged as a space for conversations of support between survivors. With the disclosures around Harvey Weinstein from the pantheons of Hollywood, it leaped into so much more than just a moment in time. In Sweden nearly every sector of society, from the Swedish Church, the legal field, the medical, the sporting bodies, the parliamentary, the theatre community, the opera and classical world, media and the academic community have almost daily over the last two months come out with organised #metoo disclosures, sometimes with signatories of over 500 in each field. These disclosures have been treated with respect and in some cases there have been investigations and subsequent resignations. It has moved very fast. Feminist historians are referring #metoo as the biggest evolutionary momentum since women were given the vote. Women and men are having to make a paradigm shift where no longer will non-consensual sex be tolerated. Where no longer are men entitled to women’s bodies just because they think they have the power. We cannot afford to lose the momentum of this time despite the complexities of traditional and cultural practices of patriarchy that hold us back.

In the weeks that followed my disclosure, I have been consulting widely with legal and organisational experts working with gender-based violence in South Africa especially Centre for Applied Legal Studies, Lawyers for Human Rights and Centre for Women’s Legal Centre Western Cape as well as Rape Crises. I have journeyed the painful process of trauma counselling. Most importantly has been the process of self-reflection, meditation and prayer for guidance that I may come to the right decision as to what would be the right action to take would be, if any. 
Currently I am in the process of exploring the possibility of a legal route, in consultation with these significant legal organisations. It is hard work and it is taking time. I can only trust the process and at the same time need to take ownership of what is my truth, my choices and more importantly, my authority.

An amazing community of support has manifested around me. My family has walked nearly every step of the way with me. I have shared bitter-sweet communion with other women who have gone through even more traumatic experiences of sexual violence than me and emerged strong. The two other women survivors of my rapist’s sexual harassment and assault have agreed to come out under protected identity and even that might be negotiable with time. We have found a sense of shared sisterhood. A powerful constellation of women I have sat in circle with as we faced motherhood, battled with marriage and relaionships, shared disappointments, dreams and failures and comforted each other in our loss, wept and laughed and realised together...some of these women have taken on this journey in support of me. They have taken midnight calls, on the highways to Soweto and saying final farewells to the children as they fly away..these women have helped in ways I cannot being to number.  I am more than grateful to them. I have experienced the true grace of human kindness and generosity. They know who they are.

In my activism over the years I have always been committed to finding ways of countering the bad, the destructive, with something ‘other’. Something that is aligned with the creative spirit of following the natural 'flow' of things. The Chinese have a word for it: Wu Wei or in our everyday context, ‘Crises and Possibility.’ My mantra is that for every atrocity we have the opportunity to create an equal and opposite response of what is most humane, creative and most beautiful in us. Sometimes we can do it together. Sometimes it could be doing nothing but being still.

A few weeks ago I received a gift. The Concert Hall in The Baxter Theatre Cape Town is available to do a series of concerts from the 4-7th April. We need to cover the basic costs of the musicians’ honorarium, marketing, publicity etc.  A few emails later we had sound sponsored by Eastern Acoustics. An anonymous angelic donor is providing funds for air tickets and some of the essentials. The Baxter is assisting generously where they can. All the musicians and artists are giving of their time, energy and talent without expecting payment. These are indeed the ‘high unsung-souls’ of our society. My dear sisterhood of musicians are not only walking their talk, they are singing it!!
This work or ‘play’, this assertion of the creative, feels most appropriate and empowering for me right now. What else can we do with a sense of integrity, but to celebrate the dignity of our stories, of this story, together? 
In the days of Apartheid, it was the heart of music, songs, poetry, art that kept our hearts open and hope alive. The creation and sharing of that which beautifies and seeks to make our lives more bearable is an expression of our highest collective humanity, after all. 

The meme #wetoo lifts the personal into a collective awareness of our connectedness in our survival and asks for a new definition.  The name JENNIFER is everywoman. It is a name that could be anyone. It was the name that called me.
Last night, Barney Simon, my beloved late teacher and friend, came to me in a dream. He was so tender with me, making jokes as we always did, making tea, happy to see each other again. He had a gift for me; three pairs of small black and white photographs framed in old gold. Each one featured images of me as a young girl in Lartigue-like postures of innocent joy-in-action: one with me, falling, laughing, off a bicycle, another flying carelessly through the air and a third one me waiting with my sister, in a garden. The images are happy. A very different perspective of the memories of childhood I have often felt burdened by.
Each one of the frames was mirrored by another matching image, of my mother, as a young girl, in similar but slightly different time frames. She was mirrored in unexpected postures of joyful abandonment and creative care-freeness. These were not the memories I had chosen to hold,  neither of my mother nor my childhood, memories of the ordinary, everyday unremarkable but yet miraculous joy and innocence. One could call them ‘The Happy Dream.’
Barney had that way of working. He took the most shameful and terrifying aspects of your life-story and placed them in illuminated frames of golden narrative that blessed and made whole.
This is what I want more than anything: to be able to see and understand my life as perfectly designed in every moment, especially the mistakes and the failings.
This dream invites us to see the perfection in even the most violated of terrains. I believe that I, and that #wetoo ,are on the right road.

I am very proud and privileged to be able to announce that I will have beside me, on stage some of South Africa’s most powerful and gifted singer-songwriters based in Cape Town, as special guest artists. They are Zolani Mahola, Karen Zoid and Tina Schouw. Each of these women are renowned not only for their fine artistry but for their integrity, activism and social awareness.They are also as Dalai Lama would put it, role models of what it is to be a 'good person'. It is a blessing indeed to share the stage with them. On the stage I will also be co-creating music with some of Cape Town's most soulful and gifted musicians who have over the years contributed to numerous social awareness musical initiatives. Humble, talented and dedicated men who speak out for women.
They are
Ronan Skillen: percussion
Shaun Johannes: Bass
Mark Fransman: Piano/ Sax/ Guitar.

I bring to the South African stage for the first time, my son Gabriel, 21. He was born in Cape Town, raised in Joburg and Swaziland, and now is based in Sweden. He is a gifted composer and multi-instrumentalist and we have done many collaborative projects together.
My life and creative partner, my husband Anders Nyberg, will be musical director. He is one of Sweden’s most respected choral composers and conductors. He co-wrote the script for the Academy Award nominated ‘As it is in Heaven’ which ran for over a year in SA, and the choral concept explored in the film is based on his approach. He worked for the Anti-Apartheid Movement in Sweden and internationally in eighties. He lived in Cape Town in the eighties collaborating with various choirs in Langa, Khayalitsha and Gugulethu. He is well-loved by many who worked beside him then.

I hope with all my heart that these concerts will be a communion of healing and of heart-song so that even as we mourn the innocence that has been lost in this struggle for freedom, we can also rise with a matured vision for a better world that is born in the spaces we least expected to find it.

 #wetoo rise! sing!

Friday, 3 November 2017

My Thesis on the Unquantifiable Nature of Time

My Theses as to the Unquantifiable Nature of Time and the Healing Process after rape.

1. I do it now because there are no irrefutable laws of time.
2. I do it now because I believe in the power of truth, ownership of wrongdoing, dignity of confession, mercy of forgiveness, appeasement through reparation that serves toward the healing of a broken humanity
3. I do it now because I was not able to before.
4. I do it now because I choose to do it now, and it is my right to choose.
5. I do it now because time brings change and now I can feel empowered to disclose what shamed me into silence for years before.
6. I do it now because I speak for a million other women who have remained silent with their shame often for lifetimes. 
7. I do it now for my mother and grandmothers that came before me, my daughter and the daughters that come after me, for my sons, their sons and the ones that shall be born in generations to come.
8. I do it now because this is a moment in time where radical change for the greater good becomes possible and we are called to rise to it, to seize the moment, fearlessly.
10. I do it now because men in power have sexually abused and violated for too long setting toxic examples for our youth.
11. I do it now because I am not alone like I was when the rape happened.
12. I do it now because my family is standing by me.
13. I do it now because I am in the embrace of sisters who have also been violated.
14. I do it now because I am surrounded and supported by a vast community of those who have spent their lives struggling for justice, equality and a world free of exploitation and abuse of any form.
15. I do it now because I have voice and privilege that grants me the platform to speak out for the thousands of women and children and even men who have suffered the humiliation of rape who do not.
16. I do it now because it will make others brave to come out and speak their truth and thus challenge the oppressive culture of sexual abuse and violence in our world.
17. I do it now because I believe in the power of the ordinary woman and man to make a difference when they speak out with integrity and courage.
18. I do it now because I speak with the voice everywoman, having neither worldly accumulation of wealth nor power that could silence me.
19. I do it now because my heart will not allow me to do otherwise.
20. I do it now because I know as I am released and healed, so I heal the world around me.
21. I do it now within the loving arms of the ever-loving Creator Mother Father God, the power that is greater than us that which is our Shield, our Sword, our Comforter, our Guide, our Inspiration, our Song.
22.I do it now because the world is crying out more than ever for our collective courageous engagement and activism.
23.I do it now because of and with you.
24.I do it now because now... Now is the time.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Now we are three...

I have been in silence this last week waiting for a response to our formal outreach for mediation from Danny Jordaan. At this stage I am also speaking on behalf of another victim of Danny his sexual agression who has chosen to assume protected identity for her own safety. There is a third victim who has submitted her story of sexual harassment and a fourth, also of harassment, waiting in the wings. And we are sure there are even more who will feel courageous enough to share their painful experiences, under protected identity if necessary.

My initial disclosure of the rape was met with a massive outpouring of support from the cyber-community of men and women from South Africa and other parts of the world. These messages flowed not only from fellow artists, musicians, writers, poets, journalists, activists, NGO’s, respected leaders in the field of law, business and otherwise, but also from so many ’ordinary’ South Africans who are often living very close to the realities of sexual molestation and abuse. The most touching communications have come from men and women who themselves have been victims of rape and sexual assault and who are also trying to heal and find closure. In South Africa, my friend and sister-comrade has courageously shared her story with us. She has chosen to keep her identity protected. We have been held in profound expressions of love and support from our families despite the challenges that often accompany such disclosures. This has been a time of great sorrowing and at the same time, great healing for all of us.

The offer for mediation has been a sincere attempt to provide an opportunity for a dignified process of exchange that would be healing for both parties. Our first option has not been to enter the courts. We know only too well the emotionally and financially draining legal processes that can draw out over years on often mutually destructive paths towards questionable outcomes in the name of ’justice,’where neither party emerges victorious.

I have consistently stated that a lengthy legal process would not be my first choice of action. If Danny Jordaan maintains his innocence, then a mediated conversation would have been in his best interest. Despite our pro-active offer for mediation, the only response we have had so far has been from Advocate Mr Norman Arendse, who communicated via a mutual friend of my son’s father, asking him if he would be prepared to discuss me, ''off the record.'' (A copy of this exchange has been sent to Karima Brown of 702.)
This common strategy seeks to discredit and undermine the vicitm’s integrity as part of a smear campaign. The victim of the rape is shown to have ’loose morals’. This tactic is called ’slut-shaming.’
For the record I was in a long-term relationship with Ralph’s father and Ralph was a welcomed manifestation of love. Despite the fact that we separated, we have remained close friends over the years. Ralph was not the product of a one-night-stand.

My motives for coming out with the disclosure so long after the event have been examined by many.
All I can truly say is that I have not been ready up till now. My silence has been a form of suffering and shame, and I am so grateful to have let go of this burden in my life. It has affected me on so many levels it is beyond comprehension. My journey toward healing this painful experience can now truly begin and I am deepy thankful that somewhere I found the courage to speak the truth. But mostly, I am breathing in the journeys of other women who are also finding the courage within themselves to come forth with their stories of violation. We are helping not only ourelves to heal, but empowering our families, our communities, indeed our country to dare to start conversations that look at this terrible shame-based space of sexually distorted behaviour that is causing so much pain and injury in our communities.

When men that have been entrusted with power and leadership misuse it, using their penises as instruments of rage, as machine guns, on the people they work with, the children they fund, the women having to be in their environment, something needs to be done.
We have at the altar of the rape victim the martyrdom of Fezekile Kuzwayo ’Khwezi’. Her sacrifice is one of our great motivators.

I, and my sister-comrades are preparing for a course of action, the nature of which I will be disclosing in the near future.

I feel peaceful knowing that according to the stakes of power I have nothing to lose. I have accumlated neither wealth, wordly postion nor power. I have chosen to live a simple life focused mostly on my family, my creativity and my path of healing. I have consistently, throughout my life followed the inner-voice  that has led me to take actions which, when they occurred could have been seen to be either naive, or at the worst, foolish. However, with the insight of hindsight, I can always see how I have been guided by a fierce and uncompromising longing for truth even when the terrain seemed unclear and bewildering. The voice has never failed me. And the voice is now calling for me to act.

In the various conversations and counsel I have shared over the last 2 weeks, there is no doubt that#onenightinPE is part of a huge wave of #metoo that is sweeping not only though South Africa but the whole world. As victims (sic) of rape and sexaul assault we find ourselves now at this critical juncture in time, where the need to speak out the truth of sexual violations that have often festered for years hidden in our closets of shame is the non-negotiable terrain opening for our release.
At the same time, we are confronting the gaping hole between the legal options available to victims (sic) of rape and sexual assault and the moral imperative to speak our truth, come what may. We have now been provided a moment in time where the voices of millions of women are making themselves heard. The old frames of law are struggling to meet the current cry of moral ourtrage that is engulfing the world, and this included the voices of men and boys who have suffered the trauma of rape and abuse. The cycle of sexual abuse, assault and rape knows no colour, no creed, and no gender. It is the women, however, who have precipated an urgently uncompromising collective moral voice that is rising to speak-out, despite the centuries of hidden shame. Theirs is a clarion call for activism and protest in the form of couragoeus disclosure, for mutually supported protest, and at las, a long over-haul of a legal system that has not and is still not serving the most vulnerable vicitims of sexual crimes. Now, once again, it seem, we are being called to take up the sword of what one could call a righteous activism again.

I am grateful to have my husband Anders Nyberg at my side, as are my two beautiful sons Ralph and Gabriel, and Johanna, our daughter born with an extra-chromosome.
I am being sustained and supported by a powerful community of friends and supporters from various fields who are giving of their time, their resources and expertise in order to help this wave gain momentum. This cannot be my struggle alone. Patriarchical culture of and systemic corruption in SA is of such concern that the #metoo 'one night in PE' seems but a tiny eruption on the surface of a much bigger threat that is undermining the very heart of democratic rights and freedom so many fought and died for, and that so many seem to be giving up on in our beloved but troubled country.

May this small battle be part of the transformation of the toxic into the a healing tonic that we are all so desperately in need of.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

These painfully precious days

 'These painfully precious days' 
In the dark of two nights ago my husband and I sat shivering on the bed, frozen with an unspeakable fear. We prayed, as we do, for peace to come not only to us but in this situation. When I fell asleep at last I could rest deeply despite the air trembling around me.

This has been a turbulent time for all of us. Our family has been plunged into a washing machine of change and tumbled inside out. All the old hidden stains of the past reappeared and we have been forced to look at ourselves and each other in completely new ways. And at the same time there has been an emergence of what I can only call The Heroic within us. That part of ourselves that only can appear in times of extreme distress and challenge. We find ourselves able to see clearer, free from doubt, to reach out and be radically truthful and equally compassionate . Insight and understanding follows, illuminating every situation as we breath through the stranglehold of fear and hold each others hands. 

In my marriage we have over the last 3 days come to a miraculous breakthrough. 21 years together is a long time. We have been at the juncture of a separation. These last 3 days have placed us into a crucible where all the shit of the past could be burned and burned  and burned some more, until it emerged... as gold.

I can only call it a miracle.

I have been able to see how I have unconsciously been pushing the 'male' away. Undermining his presence in very complex ways. Creating a field of rejection even as I kept the mask of everyday on. The #metoo disclosure of the rape I experienced a long time ago has allowed for a massive release of pain and unfinished stuff that has been growing stealthily like a tumour in these years. 

Yesterday as I sat on the floor amongst the group of 7 year olds I teach music and movement to on a Tuesday afternoon, I received the blessing of the children stroking my hair and embracing me with what can only be called radical tenderness. On the ground. Surrounded by the loving hands of children. 

Last night I rested completely in the arms of my comrade, my friend, my life partner and my husband with an all-pervading gratitude that I hope will infuse the days to come.

Monday, 23 October 2017

The levels of rape that have been normalised in our society are damaging to the very fabric of sanity in our communities. The levels of silenced pain in our nation cannot continue without serious consequences.

Men who choose to rape women are seriously damaged. Women who are raped are confronted with death and forced to continue living with the memory of their humiliation being a constant experience. A society that laughs at this pathology is betraying its future. 

We have to find another way.

We have decided to formally offer Danny Jordaan an opportunity for a mediated restorative justice process that would be facilitated by Paul Verryn in consultation with experts in this field.