We live in a society that puts certain people on a pedestal, to a point where even when they commit despicable acts, people choose to protect them as opposed to the victims.
These are the sentiments of 24-year-old Kudakwashe Kunzekweguta, founder of Women Association of Survivors (WAS). Kudakwashe was inspired to create a movement to address abuse suffered by church members at the hands of people they look up to- their pastors.
The movement, initiated in September 2018 is called No to Invisible Tattoos and its focus is on dealing with the silence culture that is prevalent within the religious sector when it comes to abuse, and to ensure that church elders who abuse women within the church are brought to book.
“This initiative focuses on the religious sector and how a lot of abuse is being shoved under the carpet, yet the sector can play a pivotal role in eradicating gender-based violence or sexual violence in our society, ” she says.
A situation she came across through WAS made her realize that this was something she needed to pursue urgently.
“There’s a case that WAS did and it was a young girl who was being abused by her father and her father was a Bishop. When we took up the case, the girl was told to drop the charges because her father was a Bishop, they wanted to protect the church,” she explains.
While she was disappointed by the turn of events, she was even more heartbroken to learn the demographic that was encouraging the young lady to drop charges.
“This really hurt me because most of the people who were telling the young girl to drop the charges were women, and women in church are supposed to protect us,” says Kuda.
Despite the impermeable podium on which most place church leaders, no one is exempt from being a perpetrator, she learnt.
“As much as we want to resort to the church for help, church cannot help us because church is also made up of human beings,” she says.
It’s Kudakwashe’s hope that people start speaking up more with regards to abuse within the church.
“People should start speaking up, people should start sharing, no matter how big the church is, because what’s important is someone’s safety and someone embarking on a journey of healing, you cannot heal whilst you are facing your perpetrator,” says Kudakwashe.
She reflects on her own abuse whilst contemplating that despite the challenges she may face in taking the church on, she has to keep on going.
“At some point, I was a bit nervous to challenge the pastors, to challenge the church …but my past experience gives me strength.. I was married and my husband used to abuse me physically, emotionally, but the people in the church didn’t hear the whole story and they judged that the woman is the one who’s always wrong. We want women to know that it’s not their fault. No one asks to be abused, “ she says.
No to Invisible Tattoos is working with the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe to approach churches within the Apostolic sect first and plans to branch out to other churches thereafter.
Most tattoos are visible, but “if a tattoo is being drawn in your soul, no one can see it. The same goes with pain, if they [women] don’t speak up, it’s engraved in their soul and if they share, the tattoos become visible,” Kudakwashe explains the rationale between the movement’s name.