Your call will be answered in…

This afternoon I called the Department of Social Development’s newly launched 24 hour call centre for victims of gender based violence. This is supposed to be a service that will direct victims to local organisations and it is staffed by qualified social workers. While the intention is to cover the entire country, the new service will be piloted in Gauteng and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The first time I called I was answered by an automated attendant, in English, and informed that my call would be located and recorded and that I should wait for the next available consultant. There were a few seconds of canned muzak and then I was cut off. I tried again. This time a consultant answered, introducing herself and asking for my name. I stated the reason for my call and she asked me for my name again. She then asked me to spell my name. Which took a long time and then I had to give her my address and spell it all out for her and then give her my telephone number. Then she asked me why I had called so I repeated the reason for my call, which was to find a referral organisation in Johannesburg for a caller from Rivonia who needed a face-to-face counselling service for a child victim of sexual abuse. She asked me twice whether it was the adult caller or the child that needed counselling and said she would find the number for ChildLine and call me back. Which she still has not done. Furthermore ChildLine is not a face-to-face service and in any event also not adequately funded.

Much can be forgiven for a new service with newly qualified social workers feeling first time on the job nerves. But the complete violation of any privacy a caller might wish to have through locating and recording the call, the coldness of being informed of this by an automated attendant and having to give my name and telephone number before I could even tell my story would have stopped me in my tracks had I been a rape survivor experiencing recent shock and trauma. I would not have made it past the first call.

As few as one in thirteen adults report rape in South Africa. Reasons for this underreporting include the fact that many people do not know how the criminal justice system works, they do not know what their rights are to access services within the system and they do not have faith in the criminal justice system’s ability to successfully convict rapists. They are often met by insensitive and ignorant treatment by officials.

Speaking out about rape can be a way for rape survivors to access help, to bring rapists to justice and to hold society accountable for believing the myths and reinforcing the stereotypes about rape that abound. It can be an opportunity to reclaim some of the power taken by the rapist and it can lead to a process of healing for the survivor.

When people who are not survivors speak out they open a space in which to talk about sexist ideas in order to gain a better appreciation for the complexities of rape and the contexts in which it occurs. We can better understand the challenges survivors face in reporting rape and holding rapists accountable and learn how to support those survivors who have been able to speak about it.   

Throughout the year, Rape Crisis is launching a series of powerful portraits of rape survivors who came forward to have their photographs taken for our Don’t Hide, Speak Out campaign. We are calling on all people living in South Africa to support rape survivors who speak out.

This call has to be backed by a corresponding capacity in the state to respond. That response has to be staffed by specialised, experienced, expert helpers who recognise both the right and need of the survivor to have her privacy respected. The survivor’s need for sensitivity in the face of trauma must be paramount. This call centre is a well intentioned effort on the part of government but we worry that it will lead to further secondary victimisation – the same victimisation that survivors experience within the criminal justice system. It assumes that there are enough services out there to meet the needs of people calling in. With government not providing adequate funding to specialised Non Profit Organisations there may well not be enough services to refer to and existing services may not be able to cope with the added demand placed on them by the call centre.


Rape Crisis counsellor, Abigail, providing specialised information and support on our 24 hour counselling line.

We call on government and the business sector to plough resources into the organisations that will be on the front line of giving support to the Department of Social Development’s call centre. We welcome solidarity from international organisations in offering support to innovative solutions to the problem of gender based violence that can have global application. If we are calling on survivors to stop hiding and speak out then their courage needs to be met by skilful, sensitive people supported by well resourced organisations. Not by an automated service playing elevator music and a consultant who doesn’t call you back.

By Kathleen Dey, Director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

Building Better Communities – One School at a Time

This month Rape Crisis is excited to be training a new group of teenagers from Athlone and Khayelitsha for its peer education programme. Through this effective prevention programme, youth come to understand the prevailing myths and stereotypes about rape and actively engage in awareness raising activities that challenge negative social norms relating to sexual violence amongst their peers. The also act as a source of support to rape survivors in their schools and refer those in need of counselling to Rape Crisis.


Each year, high school learners from different schools attend a series of interactive workshops and a youth camp alongside their peers from other schools, giving them the opportunity to come together and share the knowledge and experiences they have gained and to collaboratively plan awareness raising activities. These learners are chosen not only for their desire to make change in their communities, but also because of their recognised potential to act as leaders in their schools and communities on the issues of rape, sex and relationships. 

The most recent camp, in December 2013, included peer educators from three different high schools in Khayelitsha. Seventeen year old Yanga Mkhetho reflects on what he learned saying, “I have learned that us as people, we need other people in order to succeed and we should respect others. No matter whatever happens in your life, you should never give up and always go big on your goals.”


From the very beginning it was clear how aware these students were of the objectives of the camp and the importance of their role. Research shows that people are more receptive to adopt healthy attitudes and behaviours if they can relate to a messenger with similar concerns and pressures. Peer education draws on the credibility that youth have with their peers and the potential power they have to be role models. These particular learners from the most recent camp have proven to be truly committed to changing attitudes and perceptions in their schools and communities.

Sinethemba Kheksiwe, age fourteen, reflects on his experience at the camp saying, “ First of all, I learned that if you want to see a person change, you must be what you want that person to be first. So, I’m going to try my best to make everyone look up to me like be a fair and honest guy. I will try my best to be their role models.” Sixteen-year-old Luzuko Matiso adds, “Even me, I have changed a lot. Rape Crisis changed me a lot. I can teach another person about how to treat a woman with respect.” 


Rape Crisis was blessed to have the peer educators sing songs and perform a play about rape at a ceremony at the close of the 16 days of activism. One peer educator also gave an incredibly inspiring personal testimony during the candle lighting ceremony about his passion for being an instrument of positive change in his community.  


Rifqah Abrahams, the coordinator of the Athlone programme explains that “in the Athlone community there are many challenges confronting youth, such as the high rate of sexual violence, substance abuse and gangsterism. The peers are at a critical point in their development, where it is important to encourage positive social norms and behaviours. Rape Crisis is incredibly proud of its peer educators and I feel confident that this new group will go on to be a source of inspiration to their peers as well as young agents of change and support in their communities.”

Rape Crisis’s peer education programme is made possible by Oxfam.


My Experience of the Rape Crisis Counsellor Training Course

Summing up the last few months of training at Rape Crisis in a short blog is not an easy task. Having just completed the training course to become a counsellor, I cannot believe the amount we have learned in what seems like such a short space of time.

After the interviewing process, eight of us arrived at the first session a little apprehensive and unsure of what to expect. We were warmly welcomed by the facilitators and quickly felt at home. The first section of the training course was personal growth, which was particularly enriching but also unearthed some painful memories for some people. This section gave each of us a chance to come to terms with the reality that South Africa faces and grapple the subjects that many feel are taboo. However, this was not enough to deter us as we moved through to the next section of the course.


Next we learned about the political, legal, medical, psychological and social aspects of rape, the Criminal Justice System and the counselling relationship. These were very informative and formed the basis of the vital knowledge needed in order to counsel rape survivors. We were able to get a sense of what a rape survivor goes through after he or she has been raped and how we can support someone going through this. We learned principles of empowerment and feminist counselling which helps us to respect the survivor, make her feel safe, offer her support and give her choices. 


The third and last section of this training course was the practical side of counselling. This included counselling skills, techniques, boundaries and limit setting and how to assess and refer a client. In this section we did lots of role play activities which helped us work through scenarios that we may come across. Before long, we were all feeling much more confident in ourselves. This section also gave us a chance to apply all the skills and knowledge we had learnt so far in a practical way.

Surprisingly, despite the subject matter of the course, we did not feel disheartened, helpless or disempowered. Instead, it helped us to see how we can be a part of change in someones life. The following quote comes to mind and is apt for our group:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has” – Margaret Mead


For me, this course has been a life-changing experience. Through all the journal-writing, contributing and hearing others’ contributions, role-playing and debates, we have grown and become more self-aware and more in-tune with today’s societal issues as well as the issues that a rape survivor may face. For the first time, I was a part of the change and what a great feeling that was!  All in all, this course far exceeded my expectations and I feel very grateful to have been a part of it.

- Clara Duvill currently volunteers at the Observatory office


Our special thanks to the following individuals and companies who contributed toward this training course.The excess funds raised will go toward our next course. 

Pick ‘n Pay, MKEM, Tessa Hochveld, Kim Hochveld, Omotayo Jolaosho, Ralph Immerman, Marelize Barnard, Georgina Jones, Chantelle de Nobrega, Bregje Wijsenbeek, Jacques Maree, Michael Evans, Joanne Kriel, Johathan Wacks, Kathleen Thelen, Melissa Milne, Joanne Levitan, Tessa Drews, Lou Smaldino, Kate Morris, Cheryl Brown, Jane Raphaely, R.Farber, Ani Schneider, Tiffany Venter, Richard Andrew and Johne Otto. 


Don’t Hide, Speak Out: Interview with survivor, Dave Luis

Dave Luis is one of the survivors who volunteered to be a part of the Rape Crisis Don’t Hide, Speak Out campaign. As a rape survivor he feels passionately about the issue of male rape and the importance of creating awareness and overcoming the stigma that keeps many men silent. Dave also writes his own blog about his journey of recovery after rape and healing from addiction.

Why did you decide to get involved with Rape Crisis’s Don’t Hide, Speak Out campaign?

I have only recently come to terms with what happened to me 18 years ago and as part of my healing journey, I have been writing a very public blog about my recovery from addiction that was in a very big way fueled by my rape. In telling my story of recovery from drug addiction, it’s now become crucial to unpack and tell the story of my rape and how I am healing from that. I want to inspire more men who have been raped to come forward, and start their own process of recovery.

There is a belief that rape only happens to women; what do you have to say about this?

“Men don’t get raped”. Yes. That was my view for many years too, as I tried to force myself to believe that what happened was nothing more than a very adult situation gone wrong. Beyond the stigma of “rape only happening to women” there is a secondary stigma, that “rape is part of the gay lifestyle” – both of these are wildly inaccurate. In my group recovery meetings there are many tales of sexual abuse against young boys and men. It’s a fact: rape happens to men. Often. And we are taught by our abusers and certain societal views that these are just sexual games, that it’s all part of growing up. NO! When 21-year old man like me is held down and forcibly raped by his partner and a friend, that is no game, and it is certainly no myth. Sadly, it is also not a rare occurrence. 


When did your healing process begin? Why did you choose to speak out?

It was in a casual conversation a year ago where I mentioned that my partner had brought strangers into our bedroom, and how on the very first time this happened it was a very painfully unpleasant situation. My friend stopped the conversation and said “Dave – what happened to you was rape!” It took days to sink in, and what followed was months of intense anger, shame, and counselling – many tears were shed. Through phenomenal support and guidance, I realised that for years I had been harboring such vile hatred and anger that affected my life in very bad ways.

Thanks to my support group, I came to realise that anger and thoughts of revenge and retribution kept me as a victim. I started writing on my blog about the rape and one night, when I was ready, I wrote to my ex-partner and confronted him about the rape. I unpacked the events of that night and said clearly “What happened that night was rape.  I am putting that damage down here, tonight.” And then I gave myself the most important gift of my life: I forgave him. It was the only way to leave the anger and sense of revenge behind. It’s not all plain sailing and a bed of roses now – I still have moments where the rage returns and it takes effort to work at forgiveness. But I work at it. Not for his sake, but for mine. I never want to go back to being that angry, hateful victim, ever again. 

What is your message to men who have been victims of rape?

The first person you need support from, is yourself. Find a mirror, look yourself in the eye and say the words “I am a rape SURVIVOR!” and know that there is NO SHAME in being strong enough to say that you were hurt and that now you are healing. And then stand up each and every day, and work at forgiving yourself first – and slowly you will find your way back to life. 


We thank Dave for his bravery and for sharing his story in order to inspire others. You can read more from Dave on his blog, or see his story in