These are truly some of the hardest words to say. Even my 2-year-old would rather give you a cuddle and do everything to show that he is sorry whilst vehemently refusing to say the words.
I have been listening and watching as the story of the Hollywood mogul and his predatory behaviour towards women unfolded in the news and social media. Most of these women, unfortunately, were approaching him in a professional capacity and thus felt they couldn’t really come clean about his disgusting behaviour. I also heard during the drawn-out campaign of the US elections, excerpts of Trump’s recordings about how he personally dealt with and “handled” women he found in his midst. I also recall how everyone’s beloved television dad, Mr Cosby, had similar allegations brought against him in a court of law although a few more women than those who eventually took him to court had reported on similar despicable behaviour. I then asked myself- when do boys learn these sorts of behaviours and what reinforces this to keep going? What makes them think that this is an appropriate way to interact with women? Who modelled this behaviour for them during their childhood? This thought took me back to my childhood as I will elaborate below.
I grew up in a middle-class home in a small corner of Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. I attended a private school if you could call it that, from primary right through to high school. As my friends and I reached adolescence, the topic of great interest naturally steered to dating and sex – who is with who, what they did when/how etc. I recall many Monday morning assemblies, hearing whispers from other classmates about what had gone on over the weekend whilst my nerdy self-had been home. There usually, (I hate to acknowledge it was a repetitive occurrence), was a story of how some girl was invited to a “party”, had her drink spiked or drunk too much only to woke up and find that she had been sexually assaulted by a few of the boys who happened to be at the party. This was colloquially called a “gang bang” session. From memory, there were some girls who seemed to be invited to these parties and have this sort of thing repeatedly occur to them without reporting it to the teachers let alone the police. Sometimes you would hear that some of the victims had to travel to South Africa to have some surgical termination of the resultant pregnancies as termination of pregnancy is illegal in Botswana. It just seemed like a thing that occurred, that most people heard about but never really reported or prevented. It just seemed like the Harvey Weinstein scandal, except in high school of course, where a lot of people would have known about his behaviour but chose to be quiet or were quiet due to circumstances only they understand. Now, this was one school of many and if this occurrence was extrapolated to all the schools in Gaborone/Botswana, there are a lot of people who have been hurt and much more who knew about it and kept quiet.
Well, I am here now to say I am sorry…
For my participation in the silence and the ongoing victimization of the victims, I would like to say I am sorry…
For not offering you a shoulder to cry on, I would like to say I am sorry
For not asking if you were okay, I would like to say I am sorry
Most of all, for being too young to understand how I could even try to help you, I would like to say I am sorry.
I understand that we are unable to change our past and that I was merely a child myself when this was occurring but still I say I am sorry. I recently read Lupita Nyongo’s recollection of her own experiences with Harvey Weinstein and how she regrets keeping quiet about it as maybe talking about it earlier would have prevented a few more people having to endure such behaviour. I hope that my career as a family physician, a privileged position in society, allows me to try and right my childhood wrongs and to empower women who may find themselves in such situations to report such behaviour and know that I will always have their backs. I hope that little boys and young men, through the exposure of these sadistic creatures, realise that each woman who is abused could be their mother/sister/aunt or daughter and that hopefully, this different perspective teaches them how to properly and respectfully treat women. I hope with time, we can live in a world where men don’t feel the need to sexually overpower women EVER! I also hope that women continue to speak up so that, we, in turn, make these guys VERY sorry for messing with us.