Nalenhle Moyo is a writer and communications enthusiast whose life mission is to facilitate education on holistic health to ensure that each person is able to identify and take care of their physical, emotional, intellectual, relational, and spiritual needs in order to fully contribute to the betterment of society. She is an aspiring marriage and family therapist with the hopes of establishing her own therapy practice.
- How would you define trauma and how does it manifest through-out our lives if left unhealed?
Trauma is the residue left after going through an emotionally overwhelming experience. It can be long-term or short-term and it often reflects that we have not yet fully recovered from what happened to us. It manifests in many ways, but I’d say it’s most evident in relationships starting with the relationship one has with themselves. Trauma can make a person undervalue themselves and consequently begin to feel that they do not deserve to be happy. This can spiral into almost intentionally putting yourself in situations where you are undervalued and unappreciated or even setting yourself up for failure by taking on tasks you are almost certain you won’t be able to complete. It’s almost like your mind seeks to reaffirm the belief that you are not worthy in order to stay in line with the trauma you carry. Trauma survivors can become their own abusers in a way. Then of course there is how we relate to others. You know the saying, ‘hurt people, hurt people?’ What often happens is when one is a victim of unfortunate incidences or abuse, they can internalise the idea that they are weak and powerless. People who feel this way would then spend time trying to assert power over others to try and regain some sort of feeling of autonomy but unfortunately, it does not make the trauma go away. It becomes like a drug, with the satisfaction lasting only momentarily before the person sets off to assert dominance over someone else again. This can happen in friendships, in family setups, in romantic partnerships, or even at work.
- The 16 Days of Activism can be a triggering time for abuse survivors, how can they support the movement whilst also protecting their energy?
I think it takes a lot of self-awareness to be honest about where you are on your journey and that’s what survivors need the most. What is your level of sensitivity? How recent is the event? What things trigger you? Those questions can guide a survivor in knowing at what level to engage on. There may be a need to reduce the amount of tragic stories one interacts with whilst they are still healing. But there are some instances where knowing that you are not alone and that someone went through it and made it out can be encouraging and it may also inspire you to offer support. I believe that you don’t need to provide any ‘support’ that is detrimental to your healing and you can only determine that by reflecting on where you are. Each person is different and so there is no fixed way of supporting the movement whilst protecting your energy. But maybe consider engaging offline in places that feel safe rather than online e.g on Twitter where people can be less empathetic. You can support the movement by simply having a conversation with your circle of friends. I say this all the time, your acts don’t need to be grand for them to be meaningful. Do what you can, where you can, and understand that there is no pressure to be like the next person.
- How best can we support victims of abuse who are still adamant about staying in the abusive environment?
This is a very tricky one and I’d be lying if I said I had the exact answer. But I guess what I would recommend is making the victims know that they are supported. Maybe calmly point out that you are aware of what is happening and that you are there for them if ever they need support. When we care about someone our first instinct might be to rescue them or pull them out of what we see as an abusive environment but if they are not ready to acknowledge it then it becomes hard and that’s where you might have someone report their abuser and immediately after, they drop the charges. Letting them know that you genuinely have their back, not being judgemental, and keeping the conversation open might be the best you can do.
- We are living in a time where social media has normalised a lot of abusive behaviours and has gone to the point of romanticising them, i.e toxic relationships. How can young people empower themselves out of the conditioning that has forced them to justify the abuse happening in their own lives?
You are correct to say a lot has been normalised and the cyber space is saturated with a lot of voices. And I also think even in the times before social media the same thing happened. Things like ‘bekezela’ (an IsiNdebele term for ‘endure’) being told to women in abusive relationships, have existed for many generations. When it comes to empowerment, I always go back to the self. How do you define yourself? Do you recognise your value? Are the people around you affirming your intrinsic value? Once young people learn to be grounded in who they are, they do not become immune to abuse, but they are able to recognise it from early on and act in a way that doesn’t force them to justify anything. Having a good community is also very important. Do the people around you hold the same values and will they offer good counsel? Of course one can have thousands of followers online but there should be a very intentional vetting process for who becomes a part of their inner circle. Hopefully those people would not justify abuse and toxicity. Then of course knowing your rights, knowing how the law can support you should you find yourself in a difficult situation and being aware of any other community organisation that deals with such. You might never need to use that knowledge but being aware is empowering and it helps you move with more confidence.
- We are quite an outspoken generation. How do we call out these atrocities whilst remaining mindful of survivors?
There’s a couple of things we can do. These are my personal golden rules:
-Be mindful of the media you post online. In as much as an image of a battered person might look like creating awareness it can trigger a victim and send them steps back in their healing. So think twice before sharing.
-If someone is a victim or survivor, and they have shared their story with you, ask them first before sharing it with someone else especially on a big platform.
-Understand and respect it when survivors do not want to be at the forefront of the movement and try to incorporate them without putting the spotlight on them.
- How can we (as young people) continue working towards an ‘abuse-free’ world?
Let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s ask questions. Let’s be curious. Beyond 16 days of activism, we can continue to stand against abuse in different ways. Most importantly, let’s build communities where we not only support each other but also keep each other accountable. Before we protest in the streets, let’s be intentional about calling out our friends.
– Nalenhle Moyo | Zimbabwean Student at United States International University Africa, Kenya
Curated by Anne Sharlene Murapa | People and Operations, Campeedia.