Should stories of childhood abuse mitigate male sexual abusers' culpability?

Men accused of sexual abuse sometimes use their own childhood abuse in mitigation of their deeds. Are they entitled to do this, or is it a cop-out, asks Eusebius McKaiser?

Social activist Lebo Ramafoko, Teddy Bear Clinic's Shaheda Omar and social and health sciences professor, Kopano Ratele, all specialising in the area of abuse and gender issues, weighed in on the questions with Eusebius.

It raises the question of the power of the individual story. When I share with you a childhood trauma that I had experienced, am I being manipulative or am I simply giving an account of what has gone into who I am as an adult? Is it a form of manipulation of the public discussion about me that is about to happen if I anticipate that I am about to be cited publicly as a predator?

Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

READ:#MeToo: 'He called me a c**k teaser': Rosie Motene on Khalo Matabane harassment

But then what do we do with that information and how do we put that information next to the rights of girls and women to justice and is that information about what happened in my childhood supposed to somehow reduce my culpability as an adult?

Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

Is it a form of manipulation of the public discussion about me that is about to happen if I anticipate that I am about to be cited publicly as a predator?

Eusebius McKaiser, Show Host.

Social activist Lebo Ramafoko, Teddy Bear Clinic's Shaheda Omar and social and health sciences professor, Kopano Ratele weighed in on the questions.

Ramafoko said men have been traumatised as young boys, but for her context is everything.

The fact that you have been traumatised, when it is used in a context where you are being called out for your own personal actions that you remain fully responsible for- we call it 'mansplaining', we call it trying to minimise what women are saying about your conduct as a fully grown adult by saying well let's look at what happened in their childhood to try and explain all of that.

Lebo Ramafoko, Social Activist, Feminist and CEO at Soul City Institute

She says society tends not to do the same with racists.

She compares this to Eusebius's example of writers and filmmakers Eric Miyeni and Khalo Matabane's engagement on issues of sexual predation.

We know that racists were brought up in homes where they were probably told that black people are baboons, but even the man who will, like Eric [Miyeni] 'mansplain' why Khalo [Matabane] who initially denied the first story that went out, we are now meant as women to basically go out and sympathise and almost understand.

Lebo Ramafoko, Social Activist, Feminist and CEO at Soul City Institute

I think it does an injustice to the real issues of men being abused - because men are being abused, as children men are being abused. And also we are removing from the conversation the fact that the trauma of abuse happens to men and women. But you largely do not see women go out there and abuse people and then explaining it by saying well I have been abused by men.

Lebo Ramafoko, Social Activist, Feminist and CEO at Soul City Institute

She added that when men are afraid of violence, when gay people are afraid of violence and when lesbians are afraid of violence, they are afraid of violence from other men.

Omar said violence against women and children is neither justified nor acceptable .

Ratele added that he is always surprised why we find violence amongst those that have been violated.

Listen below to this insightful interview:


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