victims have to perform victimhood to be believed
March 13, 2019
Patriarchy never wavers when it comes to placing the burden of proof on women, or victims of assault. In the case of domestic abuse, that is a dangerous presumption, giving abusers and their apologists the opportunity to delegitimize the victims, and instigating the often-fatal danger associated with leaving an such a relationship. If a victim returns to her abuser, the reaction is “there’s nothing more to be done”; and sh is killed by her abuser, then “she had it coming.” The problem with such claims is that accountability still never manages to find the assailant, because, once again, the burden lies on the abused.
When South African Gqom Queen Babes Wodumo (Bongekile Simelane) filmed the physical abuse inflicted on her by former boyfriend/manager Mampintsha (Mandla Maphumulo) via Instagram Live video, people still managed to blame Babes of being responsible for her own fate, because she chose to stay. This speaks to a larger culture of abuse-forgiveness that holds zero compassion for battered men and women whose lives have been turned into an ongoing fight for survival. These same people never took into account that Babes and Mampintsha started “dating” — or that he started grooming her, to be more accurate — when she was just 16. Babes is currently 24 years old, which likely means years of abuse, that was physical, emotional, financial and, potentially, sexual.
When Babes managed to finally leave the relationship and open an assault case, after the backlash garnered by the IG live video, Mampintsha did what abusers often do when caught: he twisted the narrative to paint Babes as an “unhinged alcoholic” from whom he had to defend himself. The story he weaved was fantastical and theatrically bizarre, going so far as to show up for his court appearance — after having evaded the police — in two orthopedic “moon” boots in an attempt to solidify his bogus story. Allegedly, Mampintsha even logged onto Babes’ iCloud and Instagram to log into her account and comment on his picture, trying to throw her claims into further disrepute. The fact that he had access to her social media accounts is proof that the abusive nature of the relationship was invasive and far-reaching.
Mampintsha supporters were more than happy to see this as an opportunity to jump to his defense. Mampintsha knows that he is operating in a culture quick to disregard the claims of victims of gender-based-violence — South Africa has the highest femicide rate on the planet — and after Babes went back to him after her abuse was initially exposed without her permission, it would be easy to paint a picture of her as a confused woman. Babes did not stand by though, going to Twitter to expose Mampintsha’s antics as the manipulation tactics they are.
On top of the onslaught the abuse victims have to endure in the court of public opinion, the onus is on them to perform their trauma in order to be believed. If they laugh, or are shown having a good time, then their claims are second-guessed or fully disregarded. That is the quiet violence they experience outside of an already violent relationship. Performing victimhood is a trap written and directed by the patriarchy, because it forces victims to relive their abuse just to be believed, leaving a small margin of behavior they can display in order to be taken seriously. It’s a dangerous precedent that is similar to the insistence that a victim of rape dress or act a certain way in order to be believed. It protects the abusers instead of the abused and we need to learn, as a society, how to do the exact opposite.
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