The brutal rape and murder of 17 year old Anene Booysen in February of this year highlighted the reality of rape among young people in our communities. SABC 2 TV talk show for teenagers, Hectic Nine-9, hosted a discussion on their show that addressed the commonly held myth that some women ask to be raped by wearing provocative clothing. They invited Rape Crisis peer educators to come to the studio and do a live broadcast showing their peers around South Africa that rape is never justified.
The Rape Crisis peer education programme teaches high school learners in grades 9 – 11 to see through the damaging myths about rape that prevail in our society, shows them the pathway that the rape victim walks through the criminal justice system, helps them understand the trauma that a rape survivor experiences and gives them the skills to educate their peers about these themes. Rape Crisis hopes to begin to develop a model for prevention work with youth through the ideas that the learners in this programme come up with.
Ntombentsha Thomas, a 19 year old student from Manyano High School in Khayelitsha, went along to the Hectic Nine-9 television studio with five other Rape Crisis peer educators. After a brief rehearsal, the live broadcast began and the learners were eager to share their views. Ntombentsha spoke about how girls are often blamed by society for being raped because of the way they dress and that men sometimes see the way a girl is dressed as an invitation to have sex. She emphasised that although cultures do play a part in prescribing what types of clothing are considered acceptable, it is never an excuse to rape a girl who is wearing revealing clothes. A rape survivor cannot be made responsible for violence committed against her. Another peer educator added that everyone has the right to wear the clothes they want to without being seen as asking to be raped. The fact remains that clothing has nothing to do with rape. Women are raped regardless of what they are wearing and the responsibility lies with the rapist for committing the rape, not the survivor.
Ntombentsha says that before she became a peer educator, she also believed some of these ideas and she even had some of the same attitudes that blame women for being raped as other young people in her community. Through the Rape Crisis peer education programme she learned how damaging these blaming attitudes are to survivors because they stop women from seeking justice and from asking for help in recovering from the trauma of rape. She says that now she believes that no one asks to be raped and that society shouldn’t judge rape survivors as if they somehow caused the man to rape them when all along it was his crime.
Ntombentsha wants to do her part in preventing rape by being a leader among her peers, by setting an example and by spreading the message of the truth about rape that challenges with myths that prevail among her peers. She wants to encourage young people not to judge survivors and she wants to support survivors so that they feel empowered to seek justice.
The peer educators enjoyed this opportunity to show what they had learned on national television and to challenge some of the myths about rape. They still had plenty they wanted to say and hope that more opportunities to stand as young leaders in their communities come their way.
To inquire about asking Rape Crisis to run a peer education programme in your school contact Rape Crisis Operations Manager Nazma Hendricks on firstname.lastname@example.org or (021) 684-1180 and to support our peer education programme donate with the reference Birds&Bees to the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, Standard Bank of SA, 071279865, Mowbray, 024909, SWIFT SBZAZAJJ.
We would like to thank Hectic Nine-9 and SABC TV2 for this exposure and Oxfam for supporting the peer education programme as whole.