Showing rape survivors how much we all care on Mandela Day

“‘Palace politics’ would have us believing that we all hate one another but it isn’t true. South Africans are incredibly kind to one another. We actually care a lot about one another.” Marianne Thamm made this remark as encouragement to a writing group a few days ago and it struck such a chord with me. Few things show how kind we are and how much we care about one another as much as Mandela Day does.

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Pic: Alexa Sedgwick

The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, a year after the Nelson Mandela Foundation invited the global community to join them in support of an official Mandela Day. Mandela Day is not meant as a public holiday but as a day to honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela and his values through volunteering and community service. It is a global call to action that celebrates the idea that each individual has the power to transform the world and the ability to make an impact. The Mandela Day campaign message is: “Nelson Mandela has fought for social justice for 67 years. We’re asking you to start with 67 minutes.”

This year for the second year in a row the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust invited members of the public to come and pack care packs for rape survivors with us as a way of contributing 67 minutes of their time to fighting for social justice for rape survivors. With rape statistics in South Africa as high as ever people flocked to the doors and we saw over 450 people over the course of the day. Since many people turn away from even thinking about the horror of rape we have a difficult time popularising our issues, so we were deeply moved by the turnout. We were even more amazed by the spirit on the day. Everyone was very much aware of the suffering of survivors as they chose the items needed for each pack and wrote notes of encouragement to survivors. Yet at the same time people really enjoyed coming together, talking, laughing and genuinely having fun decorating their cards and care pack bags. The festive atmosphere and the sense of being on an outing together with friends or family while supporting a great cause is what makes this an event to look forward to in years to come.

Each pack contains toiletries and a change of underwear so that rape survivors are able to have a bath or shower immediately after their forensic examination where their underwear is taken away for DNA analysis as evidence of the rape. Clean and a little more comfortable they can then give a more detailed statement to the police and go home. Many speak about how this small physical comfort brought them a great deal of emotional relief and support.

As for those that came to pack these care packs they said:

“For me, Mandela Day basically means giving back and remembrance for a great leader and a great humanitarian. Giving back by dedicating my time is an act of kindness.”

“The significance of Mandela Day is important in South Africa because it teaches the nation to give to others, even if it is not financially. There is no better day than today to contemplate the role each and every one of us can play in making sure we do not fail on that count.”

This year our care pack bags were sewn by a group of rape survivors working at the Change a Life Rape Crisis Centre sponsored by Computershare’s Mike Thompson Change a Life Foundation. They know more than anyone how valuable these bags can be. They have also made them beautiful were there to sell bags as they explore making sewing part of their livelihoods. The sewing materials and care pack contents were donated by the Western Cape Department of Social Development. This three way partnership between business, a social profit organisation and government belies the message pervading the current political mood: in fact we can work together to make things better because we really do care for one another. And it gives us joy to do so.

Watch a video of the event using this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhLGYsFiRFA

 

By Kathleen Dey, director at the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

What is a TCC?

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Celebrating five years of Rape Crisis counsellors working at the Karl Bremer TCC. Rape Crisis counsellors are currently working at Heideveld and Karl Bremer Hospital, as well as the Forensic Unit at the Victoria Hospital in Wynberg. 

What is a Thuthuzela Care Centre?

Thuthuzela Care Centres, or TCCs, are one-stop facilities for rape survivors. They are unique in that they offer all services (counselling, physical exams, and law enforcement) under one roof. This makes it logistically easier for survivors to report a rape, and helps to lessen the amount of secondary trauma a survivor experiences. If it weren’t for these centres, survivors would have to go to a hospital, police station, and counselling centre all on their own; repeating their story each time.

What can you expect when you walk into a TCC?

The TCC’s first priority is you. They want to make you as comfortable as possible. It should be noted that the process is flexible, and can be tailored to you. If you do not want to file a case, you are under no obligation to do so. The Centre will keep all evidence for three months. You can wait and decide later whether you want to file a case or not.

What services does a TCC offer?

Counselling: You will meet with a counsellor and receive immediate counselling and support. The counsellor will answer any of your questions and give you a better understanding of the physical exam and legal process (should you choose to file a case). By knowing what to expect, some of your stress and fear can be alleviated.

Law Enforcement: A law enforcement official will be present to gather your testimony. This is your account of the rape, and is needed if you want to file a case. It is important to know that you did nothing wrong, and the detective is not there to get you in trouble. Again, you are not required to file a case. It is your decision.

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Medical Personnel: This is the person that will conduct the physical exam, and provide you with any necessary preventative treatments (i.e. HIV/STI or pregnancy) that you may need. The physical exam is invasive, but is necessary to collect evidence and ensure that you receive proper treatment.

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After your medical exam you will be given a Care Pack and the opportunity to shower. It is important not to shower before, because it makes it more difficult to gather evidence. These Care Packs are filled with soap, shampoo, conditioner, fresh underwear, a snack and a few other items.

To speak with a counsellor, or to find the counselling centre nearest to you, call the 24 hour Crisis Line at 021 447 9762.

Want to get involved? Come to our Mandela Day Care Pack Drive.

By Olivia Mashak

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Olivia is the Communications Intern for the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. She is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. She graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in Public Relations and Advertising and a minor in Hospitality. She has a passion for non-profit work and her Hairless Chinese Crested dog, Pandora.

 

Save The Date: Care Packs For Mandela Day!

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Will you lend us your hands, and give your 67 minutes for Mandela Day?

At all four of Cape Town’s forensic units which attend to anyone who has just been raped, Rape Crisis is there to support the survivor reporting the offence.

After counselling, opening a criminal case docket, and undergoing a forensic full body examination to collect critical evidence, the survivor is given the opportunity to have a shower, and will receive one of our Care Packs containing toiletries and appropriate personal items.

On Saturday 16 July we need your hands to help assemble these Care Packs.  The bags and the contents are at the ready, just needing to be put together. How better to celebrate the spirit of Mandela Day, by giving your 67 minutes (or more) to support rape survivors?

On the day, a rape survivor will be telling her story; our director, Kath Dey, will talk about the work of Rape Crisis; and there’ll be a creative corner where you can make something to add to your pack. There’ll also be an opportunity for you to send your personal message to the survivors receiving the bags you pack.

Make a note:    

 Date:  Saturday 16 July

Time:  11.00am to 15.00pm

Venue: Observatory Community Center, Rawson St, Observatory, Cape Town, 7925 .  Map to venue here.

And you can sign up using this link

We hope to see you there. But if you can’t make it, you could sponsor a Care Pack instead, by clicking here now. Every gesture of support counts.

For more information, call 021 447 1467.

Today we salute our youth

On this day, 40 years ago, students took a stand against a violent and unjust system. We salute the courageous youth who fought for change in the 1976 uprisings.

Despite the rights we enjoy now, we still have a long way to go in changing attitudes around rape. This Youth Day, we’d like to shine the spotlight on our Peer Educators fighting rape culture in their schools and larger communities.

Rape culture is rooted in myths and stereotypes that normalise and excuse rape. By challenging these myths, our Peer Educators grow into leaders and role models, while changing attitudes towards women.

It’s no easy task to get up in front of your school, and talk about rape. We are extremely proud of our Peer Educators and facilitators, leading by example. Watch the video to find out how our Peer Educators are making change.

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Newly graduated Peer Eds from Intlanganiso High in Site C, Khayelitsha. Pic: Alexa Sedgwick

 

This programme is made possible through the generous support from Oxfam Germany and BMZ.