This week, my sleepy little town was shocked to the core by a horrifically gruesome murder.
Details are thin on the ground and contradictory. Netwerk 24 is covering the story, (login is required, free for 30 days), but stories appear and disappear hours later. The best source of information was the town’s Facebook page, but when the comments quickly degenerated into inexplicable nastiness, the owner rightly shut down the debate.
What we do know is that the police have arrested three people, one of them a woman.
It’s a very normal human impulse to look for an explanation when something horrible happens. We need to know that we are safe in our homes, can hike up the mountain without fear or drive to a nearby town on a Saturday night without mishap. Most of all we want to know if this awful thing could happen to any of us or our loved ones. But it seems that questioning what happened, trying to differentiate between the facts and rumours is construed as “blaming the victim”.
As any South African knows, when you are victim of a crime, questions are asked. Left your handbag on the seat of your car and had your window broken? Asking for it. Had your sunglasses ripped off your face through an open car window? Asking for it. Walked around the shopping centre with your two carat diamond ring on your hand and got mugged in the carpark? Asking for it. It’s not that we’re unsympathetic, it’s that we’re frightened. We want to know it’s not something what will happen to us because …. because I don’t leave the house without a bodyguard and a gun. Or my pitbull by my side. It’s a way of keeping control when the world around us seems to be heading off into the abyss.
For now we need to wait until the police have completed their investigation, but a vacuum gets filled with rumour and innuendo. Until now, crime in this town has been the equivalent of ringing the doorbell and running away. People are rightly scared and shocked and hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to find out what happened.
And no, asking questions is not blaming the victim. We need to know.