Coming together to #ExposeRapeCulture

Today, on Mandela Day, we celebrate the power of individual actions to make positive change. Rape Crisis decided to harness this energy by encouraging individuals and communities to #ExposeRapeCulture on social media, and by coming together to plan Mandela Day actions to highlight those myths and beliefs that contribute to our high rates of rape.

Our first action of today was a workshop in Cape Town. The Pepper Club Hotel & Spa generously gave us a beautiful space in which to join together with others in the Cape Town area and talk about those beliefs and the impact they have on the way we think about rape and how we treat those who are survivors of rape.

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After our discussions, we each wrote a statement that is meaningful to us and that we would like to expose by sharing with others.

Here is what we had to say:

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“My dress code does not give you consent to rape.”

“I don’t lack a sense of humor. Rape jokes are not funny.”

“You have every right, and you are strong enough to speak out.”

“A random drunk guy kissed me against my will and my friends thought it was funny. How is that funny?”

“The length of my skirt does not say ‘rape me’.”

“He can’t be a rapist – he’s too ‘decent’.”

“Break the silence and speak out. Your voice needs to be heard.”

Thank you to everyone who attended, and we look forward to working together again soon and supporting one another in challenging rape. And thanks once again to the Pepper Club for your ongoing support of our work.

If you would like to donate to our change making projects, click here.

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Ready for Action on Mandela Day

Yesterday we hosted the first workshop as part of our Mandela Day campaign, which aims to expose rape culture and inspire community members to come up with actions they can take on Mandela Day to challenge this culture. Rape culture links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society showing how prevalent attitudes and practices excuse, tolerate and even condone rape. Rape culture in South Africa is fueled by the myths and stereotypes that our society holds about rape.

The workshop was hosted at Rylands Library in Athlone and was attended by high school youth, college students and local community members who all came together to talk about rape and particularly those attitudes and stereotypes that drive rape in the community.

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Creative Consulting & Development Works was on hand to film, photograph and document the day’s activities and will be helping us to share the participant’s Mandela Day activities with others.

After an energetic ice-breaker led by the high school youth, we dived straight into a discussion about rape culture. We debated some of the common stereotypes about gender differences and how boys and girls are brought up to behave and think differently. The presence of both young men and women gave our discussions a welcome liveliness and we were pleased to see young people voicing their opinions in a respectful way and feeling free to share their views so openly.

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After tea we got into groups and came up with ideas about how we can expose rape culture in our communities and presented these to the larger group. The activities include a walk-about in Manenberg, distributing resources at local health facilities and police stations and hosting talks with local youth groups.

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We look forward to supporting the youth this Friday as they go out and perform their Mandela Day actions, and we encourage you to do your part in exposing rape culture with us by donating or by joining our #ExposeRapeCulture social media campaign.

Thank you to Rylands Library for giving us the space free of charge, and to Creative Consulting & Development Works for their team’s hard work and support throughout this campaign.

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#ExposeRapeCulture this Mandela Day

Mandela Day is a celebration of the power of each individual to transform the world and fight for the rights and freedom of all people. Every year countless women, children and men in South Africa have these rights violated by acts of sexual abuse and rape.

Rape Crisis calls on you to donate 67 minutes of your time to challenging rape culture in one of the following ways:

#ExposeRapeCulture on social media

Throughout July 2014, we will be exposing rape culture through Facebook and Twitter. Read about the myths about rape that drive rape culture, and post a picture of yourself holding up your statement, like the pictures below. Share your picture on Facebook and on Twitter using the hashtags#ExposeRapeCulture and #MandelaDay, and tag @RapeCrisis or RC Cape Town Trust.

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Plan your Mandela Day Actions with us

On 14 July 2014 we will hold a workshop to discuss rape culture and help you plan your actions to expose rape culture on Mandela Day. The action could be a march, a poster campaign, a talk at a school, a table in your office foyer, a T-shirt for your colleagues, interviews with men on rape culture, a letter to a Member of Parliament demanding better services to rape survivors – you decide. The following week, on Mandela Day, you perform your action, and we film or photograph your action and post it on our Facebook page. If you would like to participate, email rifqah@rapecrisis.org.za

Date: 14 July, 2014
Time: 11:30 – 15:30
Venue: Rylands Public Library, Gatesville, Cape Town
RSVP: Rifqah  rifqah@rapecrisis.org.za

Donate and support our change makers

Rape Crisis projects that make change in communities by taking action to challenge high rates of rape include our peer education training programme, our community dialogues, our corporate training and consultation service, SafeSpace, our law reform work and and our campaign coalitions. To donate click here.

Check out some more #ExposeRapeCulture images here.

Thank you to Creative Consulting & Development Works for assisting us with this campaign free of charge. 

What would you have done?

On a Thursday evening not so long ago I decided to stop by Woolies on the way home. I got off the train earlier, got some groceries, and undertook the walk from Claremont to my house in Harfield. I had underestimated the weather. It was howling with wind and I spent most of the journey trying to hold onto my long coat and my shopping bag. It took me longer than usual and so it was darker than I would have liked when I got to the street nearest to my house.

In the distance I saw a couple walking towards me. They were walking beside one another but I could see that they were arguing without being able to hear them. Their body language told me that they were intoxicated. They were stumbling, he in battered down jeans and a muddy jersey, carrying a big bag; her in a grey track suit with a beanie on, hands in her pockets.

As we drew closer to one another, me on one side of the street, them on the other, I could hear their shouts more clearly. They spoke Afrikaans, a language that imbued a ‘fuck you’ with a forceful f and cutting k. He was screaming it at her as she stumbled behind him shouting back. Just as they passed she shouted ‘fuck this. I don’t want to be with you anymore. I don’t want to sleep on the streets. I want to go home.’ I slowed down worried about what was going to happen.

He turned to her, without fear or worry about who was watching, and body slammed her into a four by four. Before I could shout, he stood back and began to kick and knee her in the stomach. His movements and violence seemed practiced, routine, methodical. He didn’t even stop to put down his bag. This was not the first time he had silenced someone by hurting them. This was not the first time he had kicked a woman.

As I shouted and started to cross the road towards them he pulled a bottle from his bag and raised it up to strike her. I was in the middle of the street by this stage and still screaming but he showed no signs of stopping. At that point I experienced time drawn out and elongated. I had a lengthy split second of wondering whether I would keep walking and get between them, and if I did what would happen.

I was saying to myself as my feet kept moving, well at least if I get between them and he hits me, it will be more likely that he would be arrested. After all, he doesn’t know me. The police wouldn’t be able to write it off as a domestic dispute. They wouldn’t be able to ignore his violence as something ‘private’ or ‘explicable’. It would have to be recognized for what it was. Assault.

A car pulled up next to them and a man jumped out. The man withdrew his bottle from above his head. Others came from the restaurants around the street. We all began to shout, telling the man to stop and the woman to walk away. She wanted to follow him. She began to follow him, all the while crying and shouting ‘please phone the police, he hits me all the time. Please’.

The crowd begged her to walk the other way. We moved closer, sensing that the violence was, for this few minutes at least, at bay. We got closer telling her it was her chance to leave and go home. That she shouldn’t follow him. Eventually she turned and started to walk in the direction they had just come from. He, full of bravado, shouted after her, swearing at her all the while. Threatening her.

His bravado angered the crowd, in particular the men who had gathered. They shouted at him to move along, that they would ‘moer’ him if he tried to follow her. I watched the violence and anger in them so easily come forward and wondered where they normally channeled it. I began to call the police, and watched as he turned, now bored with the attention from the onlookers, and slowly walked away.

The police took his description and the name of the road he had walked down. They didn’t take my details before they hung up. I have no idea what happened to either of them. I wonder what happened to her. Did she sleep alone on the streets that night, or did she look for him? Was she able to find shelter?

Women’s shelters and NGOs in the Western Cape and across the country have faced funding cuts for the past few years. Many of them have had to close down or severely restrict the services they provide. One shelter, Sisters Incorporated, ran at a loss in 2011, 2012, and in 2013 operated on only two months worth of reserve costs at any one time. Organisations like Rape Crisis have also publicised recent financial challenges.

This is not because of competition between NGOS, or because the State is providing sufficient services on its own, but because of severe cut backs in funding to those NGOs from the Government. Between 2010 and 2013, 100 jobs were lost between just 17 organizations. And the job losses are not the only losses – that means that those organizations were not able to deliver full services to the women that needed them. Many survived on the efforts of volunteers and dedicated staff, but what about the ones that had to close down? What happened to all of the women who would have used their services?

 Jen Thorpe is the editor of feministssa.com. She’s a feminist writer and researcher who is passionate about getting the word out about violence against women, and about research around women’s negotiation of sexuality.