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Michelle Hattingh’s I’m the Girl Who Was Raped – a powerful, brave book


Michelle Hattingh was in Joburg this week launching her memoir, I’m the Girl Who Was Raped. Her book is receiving huge media attention, because she has had the courage to come forward and tell her story about being raped and what happened to her afterwards externally – but more especially what happened internally – how she dealt with what happened to her, how she felt, how she started to heal.

Michelle’s story is a no holds barred one, and her insight and writing is disrupting conversations and taken-for-granted views about rape and what it is, she is disturbing and disrupting rape culture, and none of it is easy.

Fiona Snyckers was in conversation with Michelle about the book at Love Books.

With Fiona’s permission, I’m sharing what she wrote on Facebook afterwards and her Twitter summary of the launch.

I’ve been present at panel discussions where white members of the audience have derailed a discussion on race and black pain by talking about how hard it is as a white person to know how to do the right thing.

What they did, in other words, was make the conversation about themselves and demand that the black panelists mop up their white tears.
Last night at Love Books we saw this in action again, but this time it was male tears that hijacked the agenda.

I was in conversation with Michelle Hattingh, author of the searing memoir I’M THE GIRL WHO WAS RAPED at her Johannesburg book launch. We’d had a long and difficult discussion about rape and rape culture, with many valuable contributions from women in the audience.

We were just wrapping things up when someone asked that a young man who’d had his hand up be given the chance to speak. Michelle agreed so I allowed the question.
He started off by saying that he thought we were all simplifying rape. (This is Mansplaining 101 – accusing a female interlocutor of not grasping the nuances.) Then he said that rape was “complicated” because there were always two people with their own different backgrounds that they brought to the encounter. (If this sounds like rape apology, that’s probably because it is.) He went on to talk about how difficult it is to be a man in this day and age and how hard it is to tell if a woman really is giving consent, especially if she is drunk.

And because we had decided that this was absolutely the last comment, that’s where the session ended, with mansplaining, rape apology and male tears having the last word. I’m still annoyed about it.

But Michelle’s talk was great and he didn’t have the power to take anything away from that. In the end, that’s all that matters.



Michelle was interviewed by Sue Grant-Marshall for Radio Today. You can listen to her interview here.

More photos of the launch are here. Thanks to Lourens Botha for these photographs.

Thanks, too, to Helen Holyoake of Helco Promotions for her brilliant work in drawing the attention of the media to I’m the Girl Who Was Raped.
I'm the Girl Who Was RapedBook details


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    June 3rd, 2016 @13:12 #

    on Facebook in response to Fiona's piece above, James Alexander who was at the launch said the following:
    "I was there to listen, but I should have said something. What rang true for me, inter alia, was your statement that it's an essential right in any sexual encounter for a woman to say no. At any stage. It's not complicated. In law and in nature penetration is a profound act, with opposing consequences for men and women, and a woman's right to consent, and fundamental respect for that consent, lies in the essence of what makes us human. It may be power and not sex, but rape is power expressed through a sexual medium, through violation of our fundamental being, and it is abomination. I took my daughter last night, and we had a long talk afterwards, and she, child that she is, explained this to me. But still. I wish I'd said something. It's not complicated. No means no. Sorry, Fiona."

  • Anne Townsend
    Anne Townsend
    June 3rd, 2016 @14:04 #

    So much comes up for me here. When members of the audience challenge the views of the author, the discussion is seen as going 'sideways.' How so? Why else have a discussion? I can only imagine the author is a resourceful, intelligent human being, to tackle this topic. Does she need a father in the audience to defend her? Your eyes will express, your demeanour will express, 93% of communication is non-verbal. Is it not braver (and harder) to sit with our discomfort (and that requires silence) than to rescue another? Speak out if you need to. Silence is also palpable, and potent. The discomfort of the audience is another way of supporting another.

    (No, I wasn't there. Will definitely get this book!)

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    June 3rd, 2016 @15:37 #

    Challenging views is one thing. Racism and rape apologia are very different, esp in a public forum. We have to find better ways of pushing back against them. Been writing about rape culture all day, and multiple micro- and macro communities have differing levels of investment in it. For instance, some frat communities on certain US private campuses are heavily invested in rape as a recreational, competitive activity between dudes. Does that mean all fratboys are rapists? No. American post-WWII consumer culture, which created and scripted the seriously weird and dangerously gendered ritual known as dating, deliberately puts women at high risk of physical/sexual abuse and men at high risk of humiliation and exploitation. Does that mean that every American boy asking a girl on a date is a potential... you can see where I am going with this. Rape culture is embedded, in different forms, with varying degrees of overtness, in every single culture I can think of. In some, it's been chased to the margins (but watch out for the sudden eruption of the monster from the deep). To ascribe it to specific cultures on the basis of race is both deeply racist and dishonest. BTW, Pumla Dineo Gqola's book does a swift, brilliant and cutting analysis of the messy relationship between race and rape in SA cultures. It really is the perfect answer to MANY stupid and ignorant questions. Both her book and Michelle's are truly essential reading, and it really helps to read them in tandem -- one unpacks what the other describes, and vice versa.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Colleen</a>
    June 7th, 2016 @08:46 #

    Michelle was interviewed on Morning Live ahead of her launch at Love Books, here is the link:


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