on being my sister’s keeper

Perhaps the most profound question asked in the Bible, is the one Cain poses to God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” As I’ve been thinking this week about the scourge of gender-based violence in South Africa, this is the question I’ve kept returning to. Do we have a responsibility to watch out for and care for those around us? The answer for me is undoubtedly a resounding “Yes!” In the light of the many stories of violence against women this past week, I want to call us all to become – day-by-day – our sister’s keepers.

See that girl in the club, looking really uncomfortable as three guys come around her and hit on her? Move closer. Eavesdrop. And if need be, be ready to stand in and defend her.

The girl in the bathroom wiping mascara from her eyes? Ask her if she’s okay or if there’s someone you can call.

The little kid walking alone from school? Park your car discreetly up the road and watch over them til they reach a more populated area.

The girl bent over the toilet vomitting cos someone spiked her drink? Take her hand, sit with her, get her hydrated, walk her home, call a friend, hold her hair back while she’s sick in the bushes. Do whatever it takes. Keep her safe.

That single girl at the braai? She should never have to ask you to walk her to her car, and should never feel like she is being a burden. Take stock at the beginning of the night of who arrived alone and keep watch for when they leave and walk them to their door.

That group of 14 year old girls walking along Tokai main road at 10pm? Stop and offer them a lift. And if they decline tell them you’re going to follow them from a safe distance until they make it home safely.

The woman with the black eye and the cut lip? Ask her name and see if she needs medical attention. Open the door to conversation. Give her your phone number. Just in case.

These are all stories of times I’ve tried to “be my sister’s keeper” – in only one of these situations did I actually know the girl’s name beforehand. Sometimes people thought I was wierd, occassionally they may have been creeped out, often they were grateful. But maybe once or twice I even helped to save a life.

If I am not for them, I am against them. And woe that God’s reply comes to me, as it did to Cain: “What have you done?” [The echo in my head, “What have you not done?] “Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!”

sister's keeper



18 thoughts on “on being my sister’s keeper

  1. close to tears. this is SO powerful and maybe more so because i know it to be true. you have challenged me in your approach to situations where i am scared because i don’t know what to do and you just jump in and save the day or keep the day going til the right person comes in to save it. so proud of this post and the life you live that backs it up so well!

    1. Absolutely! Need to move from an isolated me-and-mine focussed culture to one that is more integrated, open and communal – us-and-ours.

  2. Wow, this really challenged me, so many times I’ve seen situations like this and just walked past, not wanting to “intrude” and be thought interfering or weird. Definite food for thought.

    1. It is absolutely easier to walk on by – also I think a lot of people do cos they think “i can’t do anything”. Several times I’ve stopped and been first on the scene of hit and runs and honestly did not have the skills to “save a life” but I did what I could – kept talking to the person, held their hand, diverted traffic, called emergency services – and maybe that helped save a life. Small things.

  3. If I had to offer to follow that group of girls, they’d probably call their parents or police on their cells and I’d be spending the weekend in jail. They would think I’m some kind of weirdo.

    Most girls in clubs throw up because they’re simply overindulged. I don’t exactly think there is a Rohypnol shop next door and every second vomiting girl has been spiked. Its the usual excuse for over-indulging.

    But regarding women, they should have more self-respect. 14 year olds walking the main road, women alone in clubs drinking are all women who have little self-respect. We need to be more pro-active and respect one another more.

    1. The irony is I’m approving this comment, and Jacques’, having just been attacked by a crazy man while walking during the day on a main road to my friend’s house. I am intensely grateful to the two men who stepped in after I kept repeating “I need help” and “I need you to step in and help me right now!”

      Now I don’t know if this attack happened because I am overindulged, or lack self-respect or “was asking for it” or secretly was saying “Yes” even while I was vehemently shouting “No!” Perhaps you have some insight?

  4. This makes all men out to be predators. Many guys and girls go out to meet one another in clubs. It is not all guys who are stalking and drugging women. Women are often bending over toilets because they’ve quite simply had way too much to drink. If her drink had been spiked, she’d most likely pass out before getting ill.

    It is absolutely not acceptable to hit a woman, but in some cases what has the women done to initiate such a response? Has she slapped the man countless times? Has she cheated on her husband? Most men would simply walk away from these situations but in some cases the years of abuse that women put on men could cause the man to act out of character.
    There are always two sides to a story.

    When men are simply treated as the abusers then often they become this as there is no justice or nobody hears their sides of the story.

    I agree that women should look after one another. However it should not come to a point where all men are thought of as rapists and abusers. Marginalizing and generalizing against men is not cool and actually does more harm to the cause than good.

  5. I don’t think a woman deserves to be abused in any way, and neither do men. Don’t you think it is abusing men to stereotype them? If three guys are at a bar and are talking to a woman, then why would you choose to go up and eavesdrop? Would you do the same if it were three women going up to a guy? I admit that because of their physical strength, a man could easily overpower a woman and this is indeed cause for concern. However to automatically assume that these men are up to no good is akin to assuming that a scantily dressed woman is looking to be raped. It is kind of the same. The men are not “asking” to be treated like rapists. Many decent guys out there who would never think of such a thing. There are of course others who are like that, and similar with women. Stereotypes and generalizations actually creates more problems in a way.

    I would of course step in to help a woman in need and so would most guys when called upon. I would say the vast majority of guys are decent. The same with the vast majority of girls are decent.

    What we never hear about in all these cases is the woman who goes out, gets drunk and sleeps around. The woman who plays on men’s emotions (yes many do have emotions also). The woman who cheats. The woman who goes out to get drunk and to pick up men. She gets too drunk, goes for the wrong guy and the next day has regrets and decides to call it rape. The married woman caught cheating. The woman who throws hot coffee into a man’s face causing him to retaliate. Men and woman are actually both equally responsible for the state of society. We are both human and it’s a team effort. Its not a battle of the sexes and women who are forever blaming men for every evil are actually perpetuating this don’t you think?

    Both sides need to look at themselves and find ways to relate to the opposite sex. Women need to be more friendly and polite. Men need to be the same. There should be mutual respect.

    I am not sure why you had to approve the post. We are all discussing this and I am being honest and trying to see both sides. I mean no offense, just think that maybe you might be a little biased against men for whatever reason? So from a decent guy who is trying to fight stereotypes lets find a way forward for all.

    1. Hi Patrick. I am so sorry you seem to have had such bad experiences with women.

      Secondly let me say that RSA is a unique situation where about 40% of women are raped in their lifetime, with a much higher percentage being on the receiving end of abuse. Also in surveys done up to 50% of men have admitted to raping at least one women. So I think RSA is an extreme situation where vigilance is vital.

      I am married to the most wonderful man, and know many incredible men. But unfortunately due to life in RSA, all men should be aware that they will have to earn a women’s trust rather than it being automatic.
      And women should always be respectful of men…. You can act in a respectful manner before trust is developed.

      I think Valerie’s call is for those of us who are wanting this to change to be more proactive and actively be involved in looking out for those around us. She is a women and so is calling women to look out for other women.. Perhaps her husband will write a post someday where he calls men to look out for other men in trouble.. And perhaps Valerie will write a post some day calling women to treat men right… But right now this is a HUGELY important post, please stop taking away from that fact.

      PS most bloggers have to approve any posts on their page because of spam comments

  6. I understand Patrick’s comments as I am a man. I don’t think it comes down to personal experience with women, but it is what happens in many cases. We hear from other guys who have been through this type of abuse.

    We need to look at the statistics in SA. In many African cultures, there is a lack of education which leads to insane ideas like raping cures AIDS, raping sets lesbian women right (correctional rape) for example. Rape statistics among africans is much higher (even in proportion to the demographics) than across the entire country’s population.

    I don’t think anyone is taking anything away from the posts above. It is stronger to have both sides so that we can all find a solution. Most blogs do require approval, but not every post by the blogger is there mention of it being “approved” unless there is something controversial or it is in some way “borderline”. I don’t see how looking at a man’s views would render is in that category unless the person was in some way biased against men.

  7. The only reason I mention the racial stats is because to fix the problem we need to focus on education those population groups. There is no point for example to tell educated white males that raping does not cure AIDS. It should be focused in rural areas. There is no point in telling poor black males to not use rohypnol as they have no access to it.

  8. You are not alone in this ideas This is a recent doc released by Anonymous, previously a loose collection of hacking groups, now an infectious idea about Social Activism and truth seeking, calling people who identify with it’s principles “to look out for eachother” and to “promote love and compassion”. Exciting times hey =] Well, at least it is interesting to seem that other people are standing up for simalar ideas.

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