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Every year 1 400 women are killed by their partners, and maybe we were listening.

If your neighbour plays music really loud on a week night, do you go over and ask them to keep it down? If they start banging their drums at 9pm in a residential area, do you think you should ask them to stop? Most people do something, whether it’s a letter under the door, a telephone call or a polite knock and request. I mean, their private activities are impacting on yours, not so?

What if you hear a fight? Do you go and see what’s happening, or do you stay at home? And when you hear someone being beaten — whether it’s a man, woman or child, what do you do? An incredible advert from People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) has been circulating on YouTube examining this thought experiment — when do you feel it’s OK to ask your neighbours to stop what they’re doing in their own home. Check it out here.

What is it that stops us knocking when we hear noises like that? Are we afraid for ourselves? Do we still believe that beating someone in your home is a private matter? I lived in a hostel where a girl was beaten by her boyfriend. I was one floor above her on the other side of the building, and I walked downstairs to find him kicking a hole in her door. After I threw him out of the res, her neighbours appeared to say that they’d heard it before, he’d been doing it for ages, they’re so glad he’s been thrown out. But they didn’t do anything themselves. They were afraid or too polite. They felt that it was not their place.

This advert is unsettling and rightly so. Most of us will have heard a neighbour or a friend talk to someone in a way that is aggressive and not said anything. Maybe we’ve even heard a couple fighting, heard the screams and the tears and not gone to check if everything is OK. What makes us stop?

Every year 1 400 women are killed by their partners, and maybe we were listening.

Author

  • Jennifer is a feminist, activist and advocate for women's rights. She has a Masters in Politics from Rhodes University, and a Masters in Creative Writing from UCT. In 2010 she started a women's writing project called 'My First Time'. It focuses on women's stories of significant first time experiences. Buy the book on the site http://myfirsttimesa.com or via Modjaji Books. Jen's first novel, The Peculiars, came out in February 2016 and is published by Penguin. Get it in good book stores, and on Takealot.com

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Jen Thorpe

Jennifer is a feminist, activist and advocate for women's rights. She has a Masters in Politics from Rhodes University, and a Masters in Creative Writing from UCT. In 2010 she started a women's writing...

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