Today: April 13, 2024

Rough Aunties

Rough Aunties is a shocking and moving documentary about
Bobbi Bear, a group of women in South Africa who aggressively aid the needs of
abused and molested children who would otherwise suffer in silence. A real
heartbreaker.

The film opens with a seriously traumatized young girl
struggling to tell Rough Auntie Mildred Ngcobo, nicknamed Sbo, what has
happened to her. The Bobbi Bear worker acknowledges that it is difficult to
talk about ‘private parts’ openly and hands her a bright yellow teddy bear. She
gently suggests that the child relates her story by marking the bear with a
magic marker, an elastic band and band-aids. We learn the girl’s horrifying
story, ‘He broke into my house by smashing a window, then he got me by the
throat’
she says, before revealing that ‘he’ raped her.

The Rough Aunties
swing into action as they and the police swoop onto the home of the rapist, the
girl’s neighbour. The man’s mother denies her son’s involvement and adds insult
to injury. ‘Didn’t that girl’s father do it to her first? Why didn’t
you arrest him?’
Sbo angrily challenges
her: ‘You don’t talk like a parent, old woman’. A policeman silences the old woman and warns her sternly:
‘Shut up or you’ll be arrested.’

Such is a typical day of a Bobbi Bear worker saving children
from their aggressors that is not always men. One case involves a woman who receives a five-year prison
sentence for incredulously shoving a pipe up inside her child’s vagina.
But the circumstances come in many different forms.
A man is shot dead in his home, in front of his wife and children; another
woman loses her own young son in a drowning accident where a river has been
illegally mined for mud.

Passionate about what they are doing, they are persistent
and not afraid of getting their hands dirty in order to help others. There is
also a man in the group, the classic burly South African policeman who is
clearly as moved by the cases, as much as the women he assists.

Some of the workers are victims themselves, and use their
experiences in order to help their young charges. One young woman is so
traumatized she has trouble distinguishing between the men in her house and
identifying who raped her. Thuli Sibiya patiently gets to the bottom of it. It
turns out that the perpetrator is her own grandfather who has since fled the
home.

‘People in our community, most of the time, they don’t talk
about it,’ says Thuli. ‘[In the] Zulu nation, a little child cannot say the,
the child has to go around the word, just give you an outline of what she wants
to say.’

The Rough Aunties live by one rule, summed by the group’s
founder Jackie Branfield, who started the organization on a shoestring and is
not adverse to taking victims into her home. ‘The day you all stop crying for
these children, pack your bags and go build jigsaw puzzles at the old age home,
because then you’ve lost your heart. Don’t ever stop crying.’

Rough Aunties is both frank and sensitive. Highly
recommended.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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