After the recent brutal murder of 21-year-old Stellenbosch student Hannah Cornelius, the Western Cape has been awakened to the reality of how prominent and close-to-home the issue of violence against women truly is.
The number of women murdered senselessly by a stranger, or victims of femicide and gender-based violence has been climbing since January, and friend of Hannah Cornelius, Jenna BeeBee, has started a trend that may just save another woman’s life.
More than 3 000 Stellenbosch University woman students are now in contact over Whatsapp through a group created for the use of women who may find themselves in an unsafe situation. GIRLS(ICE) was created by Jenna and encourages woman students to send a message to the group if they ever feel at risk, threatened or realize they’re being followed.
Women use the group as a fast and easy way to contact several people for help and to share emergency numbers, links to self-defence websites, advice on using pepper spray and more protective measures women can take in a situation where their life may be at risk.
The Whatsapp group provides a network of women to support one another and fight against violence in large numbers and it doesn’t have to be used only by students. The free messenger could work as a platform for women in their respective neighbourhoods, schools or workplaces.
It’s encouraged to use this easily accessible and affordable technology in order to keep the women around you safe and extend a helping hand to those who may need it. Make a group-chat with all of the women in your office, high school or neighbourhood and follow in Jenna’s footsteps in sharing help when it’s needed.
A NATIONAL CRISIS
Hannah Cornelius’ case is not the only one and murder is not always committed by a stranger. Women around South Africa have been victims of gender-based violence and femicide at the hands of their own boyfriends, at staggering numbers. Karabo Mokoena, a 22-year-old women, was murdered by her boyfriend Sandile Mantsoe in Johannesburg in April this year. Mantsoe stuffed her body into a bin, rolled it out and into his BMW. He picked up a tyre, acid and filled a container with petrol before necklacing and covering Karabo’s body with acid. She was burnt beyond recognition.
Following the arrest of her boyfriend and stories of their abusive relationship revealed, the hashtag #MenAreTrash sparked a national trend, mainly on Twitter, and created a sense of camaraderie amongst women online. Karabo was a victim of femicide and gender-based violence and she’s not just another statistic. Her experience in an abusive relationship is what inspired her dream of opening an NGO for children and abused women.
She showed her brother a picture of her bruised face earlier in the year and he told her to open a case against him. Apparently, when Karabo attempted to open a case against her boyfriend, the police officers at the station told her to “work it out” with him, because Mantsoe had already opened a case of assault against her, and they couldn’t be investigating counter-claims. Less than a month later she was murdered by her boyfriend.
Although there has been no new research and data on femicide and gender-based violence since 2009 , there’s been no significant decline in the number of women murdered at the hands of their partners.
“One out of every 20 women killed already had a protection order against their partner but because of police negligence, the women ended up dead; a death that could have been avoided. The major issue here is how the system has barriers that hinder women from reporting violence and when they do it is not taken seriously,” says gender activist and researcher Lisa Vetten.
Vetten says that the extreme type of brutality in these cases highlights the perpetrator’s way of thinking and state of mind, because it’s associated with a high degree of anger and hatred.
“You must understand that these people are people in a relationship which is characterised by intense emotions. So in such cases with excessive violence the perpetrator wants to do more than kill his partner but wants to annihilate, destroy and completely eradicate the woman.”
Many more women have been murdered by the hands of their partners or the average men you see on their way to work.
Know their names.
Franziska Blöchliger, 16. Franziska was raped and murdered in March 2016, in the Tokai Forest in Cape Town. Howard Oliver confessed and was convicted in May 2017.
Priska Schalk, 29. Priska was stabbed to death with numerous knives in February 2017. Her boyfriend was arrested for the murder.
Jeannette Cindi, 34. Jeannette was five months pregnant. She was raped, killed and burnt by five men in April 2017.
Stacha Arendse, 13. Stacha was raped and murdered in March 2017. 31-year-old Randy Tango was arrested.
Sthembile Mdluli, 37. Sthembile was murdered and her body hidden in April 2017. She was found days after being reported missing. Her male friend was arrested.
Akhona Njokana, 31. Akhona was shot dead in January 2017. Her ex-boyfriend is in custody.
Nicola Pienaar, 28. Nicola was murdered in January 2017 and buried in a shallow grave. Her boyfriend was arrested.
Iyapha Yamile, 6. Iyapha was murdered and stuffed in a plastic bag in April. Two men were arrested.
Lekita Moore, 18. Lekita was stabbed several times and left in a field in September 2016. Her friend Cameron Wilson is being charged for her murder.
Rene Roman, 13. Rene’s body was found with her hands and feet died, half naked in March 2017. 50-year-old Andrew Plaatjies has been accused of her murder.
There are women who make it out of abusive relationships too, and usually need to resort to Women’s Shelters for a place to call home and be able to get back on their feet.
Follow this link for a list of shelters for abused victims of violence in the Western Cape.
Photography Facebook, Instagram, Unsplash