Its three months later, the beginning of autumn, and the Rape Crisis team is on their way to Worcester to follow up on the 2012 Stop the Bus campaign to see what has changed for the farm workers and their families and to find out if those we spoke to got the support they needed.
Our annual Stop the Bus Campaign takes place to commemorate the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women between 25 November and 10 December and last year we visited the small rural communities of Brandwacht, Zwelemteba, Slanghoek, Witels, and Rawsonville in the Western Cape. The bus crew spent two weeks going door-to-door to share information and inviting community members to attend workshops and networking meetings.
Friday, 22 March 2013
At 6am we embarked upon our journey. First we revisited the Saartjie Baartman Women’s Shelter in Brandwacht. Four of the women we met at the shelter in December had gone home with hopes of beginning new lives. We hosted a workshop and everyone spoke about the abuse they had endured and how they came to find themselves in this shelter. One woman also showed pictures to testify to her trauma and the injuries she had suffered at the hands of her abusive partner. She is now working in her community, speaking to other woman about domestic violence and rape after leaving the shelter. The women felt safe to share their stories and afterwards, candles were lit to acknowledge their pain and to symbolize the day’s message of hope.
The next stop was Zwelemteba, a township just outside Worcester, where we revisited Zwakala Youth in Christ, a youth group that teaches life skills and educates other youth in the community through drama and talks. The group welcomed us with a song entitled “Mercy Rewrote my Life”. In the workshop the group discussed their ideas about rape in their community and had reflected on the information they had received in December. Afterwards a few survivors told us about their struggles for closure and feelings that the justice system had failed them. They also spoke about how family members are sometimes not supportive and can add to the difficulty of healing after rape. One of our counsellors listened respectfully and acknowledged their sadness.
After a very long day we made our way to our accommodation and held our group debriefing session.
Saturday, 23 March 2013
Its grape season and today we returned to three farms in Slanghoek.
The first farm we visited was Witels. We were invited into a house, occupied by two young couples and their friends. They were reluctant to admit that domestic violence and rape is happening on this farm although they did tell us about a 19 year old woman who was raped on a nearby farm. They had also received good news of a wage increase due to the recent labour strikes. We continued knocking door to door and were welcomed into homes where we gave the locals important information about what to do if someone has been raped, how to report to the police and how to follow other criminal justice system processes and procedures. A school girl and a youth leader asked for information resources to take with to their school and church.
The next farm was the tranquil Ruigers Vlei, home to the survivor they had heard about at Witels. The whole community was saddened by the horrific attack that had happened right under their noses. The woman’s family was concerned about her recovery and asked us to speak to her. She said that she was fearful even though the perpetrator had been taken into custody. A counsellor listened to her, gave her information about healing and the court process and encouraged her to maintain her follow-up appointments at the hospital.
Finally we entered Da Nova, an informal settlement in Rawsonville. The bus made a quick stop in the town and we took the opportunity to hand out pamphlets and create awareness around rape. We had heard that when women are raped here they seldom receive proper care and treatment. We met a survivor, a young mother, who was raped in primary school and as a result could not finish school. This community has high levels of unemployment and poverty, and domestic violence, alcohol abuse and rape is on the rise. A group of young girls said that they felt there was nothing for them in this informal settlement. We left informational resources and facilitated a referral to a women’s shelter.
We ended the day with a session of debriefing and we reflected on what we had encountered in these communities and the major challenges they encounter daily. There is certainly much work to be done.
Our special thanks to the Western Cape Department of Social Development for making this campaign possible.