On Friday 23 March over 1400 protestors, both women and men, will participate in the 6th annual ‘Sexual Violence = Silence’ Protest. The protest, organised by the Rhodes University Dean of Students’ Office, aims to show solidarity with rape survivors who are silenced by sexual violence. Both staff and students have participated in previous years.
For the past 6 years student activists at Rhodes University have staged this protest in order to draw public attention to rape and to demand better services for survivors.
The majority of women protestors will be silenced using black gaffer tape, and will be unable to speak, eat or drink water for over 12 hours as a sign of their solidarity with the silence of rape in the national discourse and the silencing of rape survivors. Those survivors that are brave and empowered enough will speak out about the crimes committed against them by wearing shirts describing them as “Rape Survivors”. Over eighty women wore this shirt last year.
We are protesting against the statistic that 1 in 20 rape survivors will report their rape for fear of social stigma and secondary victimisation by the South African judicial system. According to the collated figures in South African Police Service crime stat reports between 2008 and 2011, after the Sexual Offences Act came into effect, over 205 000 sexual offences were reported, of which just under over 165 500 just rape. If only 1 in 20 survivors of sexual abuse reports their rape, then over 4-million South Africans suffered some form of sexual violation in the last 5 years. Similarly, over 3,3-million South Africans were raped.
These numbers are unacceptable. Rape limits human potential; it silences people, makes them feel less than human, keeps them afraid and creates isolation. Our protest on the 23rd of March affirms our solidarity with the 19 in 20 women silenced by rape and sexual violence. Freedom of Speech is denied to victims of sexual violence. Despite the laws and policies that have been put in place, patriarchal attitudes and misogynist practice render laws and policies meaningless in the lives of many rape survivors. Survivors face victim-blaming, secondary victimisation and social stigma when they speak out about the violence they have experienced. State service providers do not always respect the rights of rape survivors and fail to comply with norms and standards set out in national legislation and policy; these are just some of the reasons why reporting of rape cases remains low.
The judicial system’s disregard for rape survivors is most aptly exemplified by the Sowetan’s recent report that a rape survivor was forced to wait nine years for justice, and her case was delayed a total of 48 times. The Department of Justice Director-General Nonkululeko Sindane apologised to the survivor for her ordeal 15 months after an order to do so by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Sindane then said the department would not compensate the survivor for her trauma (despite an order from Madonsela) as “no crime was committed against her”, according to the Sowetan report.
We will be hosting a press conference at the Student Union building in seminar room 1 at 1pm on Tuesday, 20 March. All local journalists, photographers, TV crews are encouraged to attend.
PURPOSE OF THE PROTEST:
- to highlight the state’s silence around sexual violence and its inability or unwillingness to support rape survivors and successfully prosecute rapists.
- to symbolise all rape survivors whose voices are silenced by rape and to represent the 19 in 20 rape survivors who do not report their violation.
FORMAT OF THE PROTEST:
There are FOUR different kinds of participation in the day-long protest on 23 March:
- Silent women: T-shirts with ‘sexual violence causes silence’ on the front & explanation on the back (gagged all day, no food or water)
- Rape survivors: T-shirts with ‘rape survivor’ on the front & explanation on the back
- Men in solidarity: T-shirts with ‘solidarity with women who speak out’ on the front & explanation on the back
- Women staff members & students with health issues: T-shirts with ‘solidarity with women who speak out’ on the front & explanation on the back
06h00 Gather at Alec Mullins Hall on Friday 23 March.
06h00 – 07h00 T-shirt distribution
07h00 – 07h15 Briefing and address by organiser
07h15 – 07h45 SILENCING
07h45 – 08h15 Group photos in front of Main Admin of ALL, then SILENCED, SURVIVORS and MEN IN SOLIDARITY.
08h30 – 12h30 Lectures & tutorials as usual. Protesters to remain visible.
12h30 – 14h00 DIE-IN outside the Rhodes University admin building. ALL (silenced, survivors & men is solidarity) PROTESTERS GATHER.
14h00 – 17h00 Lectures & tutorials as usual.
17h00 – 17h30 ALL volunteers gather outside Main Admin and process from via Drostdy Arch down High Street to the Cathedral
17h30 ADDRESS BY ORGANISER & BREAKING THE SILENCE!
17h30 – 20h00 Debriefing, discussion & reflection
20h00 – 20h30 GAP ‘Take Back the Night’ March
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:
Media liaison, Silent Protest
072 396 8302