Conversations with myself: Has the world gone mad?

Depression and trauma are disconnective disorders. They do not improve in isolation. To fix them you have to be connected to others. Anonymous.

Since the brutal rape and disembowelment of a teenager recently and subsequent incidents of rape that have come to light, what have I been thinking? While most people have had knee-jerk reactions to finding solutions to rape i.e. castration, death penalty, to educate young men about sex, review childhood socialisation, anger management and conflict resolution skills for young people etc.

 I have done some more thinking around trying to understand the reasons behind the behaviour of the perpetrator. Can a rapist’s behaviour be explained – especially those who brutally disembowel or maim the victim? If so, what could be the possible reasons for such violent behaviour?

 Some people have suggested that:

  • Men felt emasculated because they could not fulfil the traditional role of breadwinner due to extreme poverty
  • Men are angry about the empowerment of women – angry that their jobs are being taken away by women
  • There a no male role models – most rapists are raised by single mothers or by their grandmothers
  • Substance abuse (drugs or alcohol) would not make a man rape but would make him more violent
  • Own childhood abuse

 Last weekend I attended a Trauma and Recovery workshop hosted by Families SA (Famsa) Western Cape, facilitated by the Transactional Analysis Association (TA Association) and presented by Joanna Beazley Richards – a registered trauma specialist from the Wealdon Insistute in the U.K. A profound statement made by Joanna has stuck in my head – she said: when it comes to trauma “the body remembers”. Joanna said it does not matter what the source or cause of the trauma is “the body remembers.” She also made reference to a book called “The Body Remembers” by Babette Rothschild which she encouraged us to read. This book speaks of how your body remembers trauma no matter how long ago it experienced the trauma or what the source or cause of the trauma was.

This got me thinking about the perpetrators of these extremely violent and brutal rapes. I started to wonder whether there could possibly be a connection between childhood trauma (such as detachment by parents) and adult psychopathology.

Now why would I think this? Allow me to generalise throughout this blog post. In most of the cases involving brutal, violent rape, the perpetrator would usually have come from very poor socio-economic circumstances, usually raised by a single mother or grandparent mostly because of an absent father who disappeared the minute he heard the mother was pregnant. Or maybe the father stayed but resented the fact the mother got pregnant and beat her everyday of her life since finding out that she was pregnant. Very often these children would have been subjected to neglect and/or sexual abuse (childhood trauma) which could cause them to develop deep-rooted feelings of helplessness escaping into a world of sexual fantasy which can provide refuge from reality. This fantasy could be fuelled by the child’s own experience of early (premature) exposure to sexual activity, combined with pornographic material (magazines and/or movies), and assuming these children have been exposed to deviant sexuality probably since infancy, it is through modelling and conditioning that they develop their own deviant sexual fantasies. Themes such as power and anger – rather than sexual gratification are central to these fantasies and are believed to be the underlying motivation for rapists to commit their crimes (Groth, Burgess and Holmstrom, 1977). 

Sexual sadism and other paraphilia can cause rapists to engage in bizarre sexual behaviour, such as mutilation, bondage etc. There is even a rapist type (anger-excitation) dedicated to the sadistic rapist in Hazelwood and Burgess’ Rapist- Typology (1987). This means that there COULD be a connection between childhood trauma and psychopathology, however, a closer examination of the facts would be necessary to reach a definite conclusion.  [Thanks to Alexander Becker (Psychologist) for the references and some of the wording used here.]

So how do we deal with correcting this deviant behaviour in a pro-active way rather than being reactive?

Our department of Basic Education has a wonderful curriculum on Sex Education for children from grade 3 to grade 12. The problem here is, those who rape have either dropped out of school or have not gone to school at all. Also, the department curriculum focuses on teaching girls and boys to keep their bodies safe, not to trust strangers, to avoid peer pressure and how peer pressure and the choices they make could affect their lives. What protection does this offer me from being brutally raped and murdered and how does it stop boys from becoming brutal rapists?

Some people have come up with wonderful solutions of what various sectors of society (including Government) can do about the scourge of rape but these are, again, reactive as opposed to proactive solutions. It also still does not stop brutal rapes and murders taking place.

How then do we stop the scourge sweeping through our country? We need to look at the parenting skills and socialising of our children but how do we do this when (again I’m going to generalise), most of these rapists and murderers come from single parent homes where the primary caregiver is usually using alcohol or drugs (or both), mostly unemployed or living off a social grant of some kind or earning so little money they can barely afford the necessities. They often live in squalor (overcrowded houses), sometimes even homeless. How do we teach them parenting skills (new ways of parenting)? Their way of parenting is the way they were raised and because it is the only way they know, they don’t see what the problem is.

Also, how do we approach these parents? We cannot just knock on their door or walk up to them and say “please come to our parenting classes or parenting workshop”. Can you just imagine what sort of reaction we would get? I’m sure the first knee-jerk reaction would be to get defensive (with a few superlatives thrown in for good measure).

 We could also start with those who have just started school and offer parenting skills classes from around grade 8 onwards but that excludes a whole bunch of children growing up and becoming parents in the meantime.

So what do we do? Mmmmmm . . . ???

Facebook (group) : Women Demand Dignity (WDD)

Conversations with myself: When a man loves a woman . . .

Calla Lily



In the country where I live, we have recently been shocked by the brutal rape and murder of a 17-year old young woman. What was so striking about this particular rape is the manner in which it was done. Newspapers reported that besides being gang raped, this woman had a broken bottle pushed into her vagina and left there, she was slit open with a knife from her throat all the way down to her vagina. Her internal organs were strewn around her outside her body in the sand. She had all her fingers broken and both her legs were broken. She was left to die where a security guard found her the next day. She was rushed to hospital (barely alive) transferred to two different hospitals in the process because those who turned her away just did not have the resources to deal with her kind of injuries. She finally died at the last hospital but not before she told her foster mother who violated her so brutally.

Some newspapers reported (maybe speculated?) that it was her boyfriend who she had just recently rejected. Was he a member of the gang or was he the leader of this particular group? Did he initiate and actually do her harm or did he instruct one of the other members of the gang to do it? We don’t know the full story at this stage because Police are still investigating.

In my conversation with myself I am asking the question: what could possibly have gone so wrong in the lives of these young men for them to inflict such gross brutality on a young woman – a woman they knew personally? Besides the one being her boyfriend (or ex boyfriend), the others were raised alongside her like brothers – she trusted each one of these men with her life. Why wouldn’t she? Her mother trusted them – why wouldn’t she?

Raping a woman is bad enough – if they really needed to kill her for fear of identification, why could they not just stab her or shoot her? Why disembowel her? Why push a broken bottle into her vagina, break all her fingers and both her legs?

They say a woman is like a teabag – you don’t know her strength until you put her in boiling water. I’ve broken more than one bone in my body (one at a time) and I know how painful it can be but I cannot even begin to imagine what this young girl must have endured for a whole night till the security guard found her and then while she was being transported from one hospital to another in search of some relief and assistance. According to news reports, this young lady endured all this pain and suffering until her mother found her at the hospital. After naming her rapists she told her mother she was tired and sore and she wants to sleep now. Her mother pulled the blanket over her body, she closed her eyes and died.

Would I have been able to last this long? I don’t know. I do have a high pain threshold, but high enough to endure this kind of violation? I don’t know – I really don’t know.

Coming back to my conversation with myself – I’m still asking the question, what could have gone wrong in the lives of these men to cause them to have to inflict such brutal harm to a woman? Where they abused, neglected or brutally assaulted (physically or emotionally) during their lifetimes? Was this a first offence for them or have they raped before? If they have raped before, was it as brutal? If not, why not? If yes, why? Why is it necessary to inflict this much pain and suffering on another human being? Did they leave the scene satisfied that their need was met? What was that need? How did they sleep that night? Was it a restful sleep? Did they have nightmares? Did they feel a sense of achievement?

This particular case has received a lot of media coverage – how do the perpetrators feel now that they are all over the news on TV and in the newspapers? Their names are known – it has been published. They are all in their early 20’s – I cannot believe that men so young can inflict so much harm.

The gang of 3 or 4 who raped and mutilated this woman (3 have been taken in for questioning so we don’t know if there are any still to be arrested at this stage) – are they part of a larger gang and this was part of their initiation? Was it a gang “dare”? Are they now seen as celebrities in gang-land? Are they heroes now?

The community is outraged – the whole of South Africa is outraged so the only people who would see them as heroes right now would be other gang members – though I still don’t see how that could be possible.

Was the brutality inflicted in an act of rage or severe jealousy? People with controlling behaviours/personalities would usually reason “if I can’t have you, nobody else will”. Was this the case here? Was he so deeply hurt by her rejection of him that he wanted to hurt her back because he could not MAKE her love him? Why did he find it so difficult to cope with rejection? What part did the other members of the gang play in all of this? Did they all take turns to rape her before she was so brutally disembowelled or did they just watch the boyfriend to all this to her?

The community wants to see the perpetrators punished. Everyone is calling for the death penalty to be reinstated. This will not happen. Others are calling for these men to be castrated but as we all know rape is about power and control and not about sex and castrating these men will not deal with their anger issues. It will, in fact, fuel the anger to be more brutal next time. Locking them up in a prison cell, in my mind, will not work either because, again, they will have the opportunity to only get more angry and frustrated and when they are finally released from prison, they will take that anger and frustration out on someone else – again more brutal and vicious than the last. So what is the solution? How do we stop this from happening again? How do we protect our women and children?

Mutilation is usually evidence of extreme anger, anger beyond control and gang rape is usually an expression of “punishment” – either the victim is being punished for something she did or did not do or the perpetrator is being “punished” by the gang leader for something he did or did not do.

Castration – the removal of the genitals – the penis is only one of many instruments used to perpetrate rape. If the man no longer has a penis, he will find another instrument to inflict pain, this could be a broken glass bottle, a broom stick, a tree branch etc. Removing the penis does not deal with the anger and frustration. In fact, it will only make the problem worse.

Public and politician’s outrage saying “enough is enough” will not make the problem magically disappear. Standing on a podium or marching in a group is not going to make the rapist stand back and say “ooohh, I’m sooo scared, I better not to that again”. It’s like saying to a naughty child, “if you don’t stop being naughty . . . ‘’ Unless the child faces the consequences for his/her actions, the child will continue with the deviant behaviour. So too with the rapist – until he faces the consequences for his actions, he is not going to stop and the consequences must be fitting and appropriate in proportion to the crime committed.

I really wish someone out there can enlighten me – tell me where I can look for the theory or theories that will explain and give me logical answers to my questions because right now, right this minute, I really don’t understand the reasoning behind this senseless act of pure cruelty. That one human being can be this cruel towards another – especially that the victim was a defenceless female.

How I became a Disengaged Employee


I cannot believe how circumstances can make you do a complete 360 degree turnaround. Let me explain . . .

Ever since I entered the workplace way back in the early 80’s, I have always been the employee who:

• Punctuality – was never late for anything under any circumstances. I always left home an hour before I needed to be anywhere (even if it only took me 20 minutes to get there) to allow for unforeseen circumstances which might delay me reaching my destination.
• Attitude towards work – always a “can do”/ how can I help you? (with a genuine smile). No job was ever too big or too small and the position of the person in the company did not matter – from Cleaning lady to Managing Director – everyone was treated equally. I would go out of my way to help (even staying late or taking work home) – I never knew the words “it’s not my job”. I know what I know today because I never, ever said “it’s not my job”. I learnt a lot more in the workplace than any textbook could ever teach me. I carry the lessons I have learnt at each place of employment with me to this day.
• Service delivery – always gave 200 percent of myself no matter what the task. Always delivered on time every time, within budget (often coming in under budget).
• Customer service – the 7 years spent in the Insurance industry working for a one man Brokerage, I often spent up to 14 hours a day at the office (voluntarily – without additional remuneration) purely to deliver fast and efficient service to our clients because that is what I expected of myself – not because my “boss” told me to. In fact – he often threatened to take the office keys away from me to stop me coming in at 06:30 and leaving at 20:00 or thereabouts.

My current working conditions have deteriorated to the point where:

• Punctuality has flown out the window. I have reached the stage where I really don’t care whether I’m late for work or not. This really bothers me because it goes totally against the grain of who I am. I was not raised to be like this. I was raised in a home where you are punctual no matter what the cost. If it means that you have to leave home 2 hours before the time, so be it. That is what you will do. There is no excuse for being late – unless you died along the way, of course.
• Attitude towards work – I have now reached the stage where I’m no longer interested in helping anyone with anything. I come to work and do my job (to make sure that I deliver on my Key Performance Areas (KPA’s) as is expected of me) and that is it. I have become a clock-watcher. I cannot wait for 4pm each day to get out of the office as fast as I can. I live for my weekends and dread Mondays.
• Service delivery – I no longer give 200 percent of myself – in fact, I find it difficult to even give 100 percent of myself. I’m no longer interested in helping anyone with anything – if it’s not in my job description, I’m not doing it.
• Customer service – I don’t have external customers at present, but service to my internal customers has reached the point now where I do what I have to do and THAT’S IT!

Why, I ask myself have I turned into this monster? Is it maybe because . . .

• All my complaints to Management (even with solutions) has fallen on deaf ears?
• Most of my colleagues are not interested in doing more than the barest minimum in the workplace? They prefer to stand around chatting and having coffee than actually doing a full day’s work.
• On the rare occasions when I ask for assistance, everybody is too busy to assist me, does not know the answer to the questions I ask and cannot re-direct me?
A simple example: today I needed to use the photocopying machine for the first time (I have my own 3-in-1 printer/copier in my office and I was not present when all the staff was trained to use the photocopier in the shared space). Nobody was available to help me. The colleagues in the office did not know how to use the copier or were too busy to leave their desks to assist me and those who knew how were not in the building at the time. I am referring to Administrators, who has, as part of their normal daily routine, to make photocopies for their Managers – yet, they don’t know how to reduce the print size on the photocopier?

Is it because they really don’t know or is it just because I have asked? Am I being paranoid?

As recently as two days ago, I had to deliver on a job that was given to me at the 11th hour and was expected to perform miracles to get the job done. The job was done and delivered within the given timeframe (with a smile) – yet today, I ask for help and nobody is “able” to help me?

. . . and you wonder why I have disengaged from my workplace?

I have been fighting this disengagement for the last two years now because this is just not me. I have never disengaged from my workplace, like I have done over the last few months. This disengagement is causing major conflict within me but I’m tired of being the kind and courteous one – too kind to say “no”.

I am trying to get out but the current economic climate is not working in my favour right now so I’ve decided to bite the bullet and stick it out, however, I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

I am self-destructing and I don’t know how to save myself – stop me from falling!