Oreoluwa Fakorede: When did abuse become okay? [NEW VOICES]

We see it every day; in offices, on the streets, on the bus.
We hear it from the neighbour’s house, loud voices and the sound of blows carried on the wind.

 

We read about it in newspapers and online.
We have suffered it.
We have inflicted it.
Abuse, in several forms, has become a norm, a ‘fact of life’, just one other thing to live with in this exhausting country.
We’ve grown a thick skin to a bad thing and we all should be ashamed.
How did we get here?
The journey began when male colleagues first made and got away with sexist comments about a female colleague’s body.
It began when “Stop!” was first interpreted as “Stop it, I like it.”
It began when they got bold enough to touch her inappropriately and wave away her protests as “unfriendliness” and “unnecessary seriousness.”
“Can’t we play with you?”
It began when it became okay to call a junior employee an idiot because they made a mistake any human could have made.
It began when corrective slapping, a key element of master-apprentice relationships, was first called ‘training’.
“You should be grateful for this opportunity.”
It began when fathers first learned to beat their sons and daughters till they bled because “if you spare the rod, you’ll spoil the child.”
It began when the neighbours joined in the beating to help ‘raise the child properly’ and the parents thanked them for it.
It began when starving a child became an acceptable form of punishment.
“That will teach you not to disrespect your elders.”
It began when the help was treated as inferior because “that’s just the way it is.”
It began when sending a housemaid to school was seen as a privilege and not a right, and she “had better do the laundry before starting on her assignments.”
It began when, because they are “other people’s children,” they couldn’t eat with the family they serve.
“You should know your place.”
It began when society endorsed male entitlement (with “it doesn’t matter,” looking away and sweeping wrongdoing under the carpet).
It began when a man could lean against a woman appropriately on the bus, and when she protested, she was instantly called a prostitute.
It began when male drivers attacked female drivers verbally, asking them to “go and get a driver” because “women shouldn’t drive.”
It began when a woman got picked for a job over a more competent man because “the director is interested in her.”
It began when seeing a woman as a lot more than breasts, a butt, a vagina and cooking skills became something only ‘gentlemen’ and ‘feminists’ could pull off.
It began when a fool said, “A woman’s place is in the kitchen.”
It began when becoming a wife meant committing to a lifetime of waking up early to cook breakfast for a man whose mind cannot comprehend gratitude.
“Woman, this food is salty.”
It began when a man could hit his wife at will and not wind up in jail.
It began when a woman could hurl insults at her boyfriend and feel okay about it.
It began when someone had the guts to say that the rape victim “shouldn’t have been where they were when it happened.”
It began when we thought to attribute a rape to the victim’s ‘indecent dressing’.
It began when the victim’s statement was, by default, “far-fetched and inconsistent,” forgetting that while a rape is a crime against the body, it is also a crime against the mind and what good is a fractured mind?
“Who was there with you when it happened?”
It began when we could laugh at the pain of others and not feel inhuman.
It began with each one of us, when we lost our humanity and we started turning a blind eye to evil because “it’s not my business.”
It must end.
It must end with us or we’re doomed.

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