“It’s the esteem of the SELF B!*@H”

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It’s the esteem of the SELF B!*@H

Tyler Perry was on Oprah a while back, talking about his childhood and “the dead years” of his life.  He spoke of how his father used to abuse him physically, how he was molested by three different men (including one from church) and how a woman in lingerie locked him in her house and made him find the key inside her vagina.  He told Oprah (us) about how he spent his teens and most of his twenties trying to work through the maze of guilt, shame and confusion these situations had given him, a period he calls “the dark years” of his life and how he had to find a way to let go of all of that because it was not his to carry. While Tyler was talking, my friend and I began to discuss the nature of sexual abusers and the effects of abuse on one’s sexuality, especially if one is young.  The conversation took a turn for the tears when I said that abusers can usually tell who they can do these things to.  That they see something in their victims of choice that makes them soft targets, a weakness or insecurity of sorts.  I couldn’t really finish that sentence because I was trying to find a way of saying all this without classifying myself as one of those weak/insecure victims, but my dear friend finished the sentence for me: “they see something in you that let’s them know that they can do this to you.”

Hearing that was, in the words of Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City, “like taking a bullet”…in the chest.  Her words stung and left me quite paralysed. I realised that as much as I was saying this about other victims of sexual violations, I did not want to believe that I was also like “them” in any way.  That something in the way I had interacted with Thabiso and Akho (because sometimes rapists have names and beautiful faces and charming personalities) could have somehow led them to believe that they could do that to me. But I was.  And they did.  “The best thing parents can do for their children is to teach them to love themselves” because children who grow up loving themselves (truthfully), grow up knowing that they deserve better, carry themselves like they deserve better and ultimately, get better.  Sexual offenders (and any offenders for that matter) thrive on that doubt that some of us (yes, it still hurts) have.  Our insecurities are released when we say yes instead of walking away, when we smile instead of moving on… when we need the attention instead of knowing that we are so much better than that.  And these insecurities, in the presence of perversity, say: “Yes, you can do this to me”.

It’s been years since that night and even though there are moments when I find myself back on that futon, I genuinely thought that I was over it.  That I had healed…forgiven them even, but I haven’t. During that conversation (somewhere in between the tears) I realised that Thabiso and Akho still have a hold over me and that I have allowed that experience to shape so many of the fears and insecurities I have been carrying with me through my “dark years”.   Worse yet, I realised that I had some of these insecurities with me long before that night, and that they contributed to that night turning out the way it did.  The great and wise Mr Katt Williams once said, about women who blame men for their low self-esteems, “How the hell you gonna accuse me of fucking up your self-esteem?!  It’s the ESTEEM of the SELF bitch!” I know that it’s not the most eloquent of quotes to use, but it makes sense.  The truth is, something in me was damaged long before Thabiso and Akho came along.  And as painful as it is to admit to myself, that damage was probably one of the reasons why they knew that they could rape me and get away with it.  They could have chosen any one of the many young women at Newscafè that night, but they didn’t.  They chose me, because I was a soft target.  They saw that damage that I couldn’t even aknowledge to myself and they took advantage of it.  What they did was wrong and bazakuyixoxa noThixo wabo leyo (They will discuss it with their God), but as Phylicia Rash?d”s character says in For Coloured Girls: “You gonna have to take some responsibility in all’a this…Now how much of it you take is entirely up to you.”  And that hurts.  A lot!

In all these years, I have realised that I have not been entirely truthful with myself.  I have not been willing to admit that, honestly, I don’t love me.  Because if I did love me, truthfully, I would treat me with love.  I would protect me and defend me and cherish me.  I would be enough with me and there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind (stranger or friend) that this woman will not take any form abuse from anyone.  If I had been truthful with myself, I would have spent more time working on my self-esteem instead of fussing over the superficial confidences of walking upright and being well-presented.  (Not that those things are not important, mind you.  They are just symptoms of a far more important root: the “esteem of the self”)  In truth, had I loved myself enough, I would not have been a soft target.  This isn’t to say that bad things don’t happen to people who love themselves, or that I deserved what those shit-heads did to me, or that Tyler Perry was to blame for all that happened to him.  It just means that I would have realised my own strength a lot sooner.   I wouldn’t have needed that attention and would therefore probably left with my cousin instead of telling her I’d meet up with her a bit later.  And that maybe … just maybe, I wouldn’t have been raped that night.

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“It’s the esteem of the SELF B!*@H”, 10.0 out of 10 based on 5 ratings
  • erato

    well written dear…it is very clear that growth has taken place because awareness is where it starts and…ends

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  • I’ve been putting off commenting on this piece coz i guess i had to digest that i had actually written and sent it out first. But now that I have, i think it’s important to say that I fear a lot of people may have missed the point. From the e-mails, fb messages and responses i got, I feel like a lot of people focused on the persinality rather than the message. And that saddens me.

    In writing this, I was seeking to be courageous, I just wanted to tell the truth. And the only way I could tell that truth (without coming off as judgmental) was by sharing my own story. The essence of what I’m trying to share is far greater than I (or my courage) could ever be. So please search for that essance and read THAT.

    That being said though, thank you for recieveing my truth (me) with such warmth and love. You make it eaiser to release the secrets of my words into the worlds.

    Bless

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  • Ms Gantsho, your piece is so insightful in more ways than one. As much as I desire to recite an epic to that regard, the crux of your piece saddens me dearly. I have always viewed you as a strong lady and to an extent saw the definition of African Woman Confidence in you. What occurred to you makes me depressed thinking of what our ‘ordinary’ sisters are going through. I cannot imagine the courage you had to build to publish such a tragedy and I will forever respect you more for that. Please Let this not cloud your perception about man, nor prohibit you from associating, trusting and loving someday for I truly believe that your ideal ‘BEE gentleman’ is awaiting a lady of your calibre. Hope, Faith, Love.

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  • i have to say Ms Gantsho i admire your courage…it takes a lot to open up like that – i hope it has helped in healing the wounds…but like they say ‘what doesnt kill you only makes you stronger’…the piece is quite sobering – well written as usual…word is bond

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  • thnx so much for the poignant article in which you so truthfully and beautifully laid ur soul bare to us… I’ve taken so much frm dis piece and m sho so many women both young and old could relate 2 ur experiences. From your brokenness I pray you u discover ur beauty and that you find life from your wounds. Elevate!

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About Author

Vangile Gantsho

Freelance Artist/Writer - "I don't suffer from insanity. I thoroughly enjoy it. You're just jealous coz the voices only speak to me." -I'm crazy enough to be loads of fun - sane enough not to be locked up (...well, permanently that is..) smart enough to hold my own - and shallow enough to not be a bore!

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  • erato

    well written dear…it is very clear that growth has taken place because awareness is where it starts and…ends

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • I’ve been putting off commenting on this piece coz i guess i had to digest that i had actually written and sent it out first. But now that I have, i think it’s important to say that I fear a lot of people may have missed the point. From the e-mails, fb messages and responses i got, I feel like a lot of people focused on the persinality rather than the message. And that saddens me.

    In writing this, I was seeking to be courageous, I just wanted to tell the truth. And the only way I could tell that truth (without coming off as judgmental) was by sharing my own story. The essence of what I’m trying to share is far greater than I (or my courage) could ever be. So please search for that essance and read THAT.

    That being said though, thank you for recieveing my truth (me) with such warmth and love. You make it eaiser to release the secrets of my words into the worlds.

    Bless

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • Ms Gantsho, your piece is so insightful in more ways than one. As much as I desire to recite an epic to that regard, the crux of your piece saddens me dearly. I have always viewed you as a strong lady and to an extent saw the definition of African Woman Confidence in you. What occurred to you makes me depressed thinking of what our ‘ordinary’ sisters are going through. I cannot imagine the courage you had to build to publish such a tragedy and I will forever respect you more for that. Please Let this not cloud your perception about man, nor prohibit you from associating, trusting and loving someday for I truly believe that your ideal ‘BEE gentleman’ is awaiting a lady of your calibre. Hope, Faith, Love.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • i have to say Ms Gantsho i admire your courage…it takes a lot to open up like that – i hope it has helped in healing the wounds…but like they say ‘what doesnt kill you only makes you stronger’…the piece is quite sobering – well written as usual…word is bond

    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  • thnx so much for the poignant article in which you so truthfully and beautifully laid ur soul bare to us… I’ve taken so much frm dis piece and m sho so many women both young and old could relate 2 ur experiences. From your brokenness I pray you u discover ur beauty and that you find life from your wounds. Elevate!

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
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