Rape is prevalent in the Western Cape and in South Africa but it is also under reported because communities have no faith in a system that lacks the capacity to address their needs and allows rapists to go unpunished. The resulting culture of impunity drives the number of rape incidents upwards which means that women’s right to live free from violence is compromised.
Rape leads to high levels of psychological trauma and when this goes untreated the social fabric, in other words the bonds between people in a community, which determine how well the community can function, is eroded. The trauma of rape can have physical, psychological and behavioural effects on the rape survivor including injury, pregnancy, HIV or other sexual transmitted infections, shock, depression, nightmares, thoughts of suicide, isolation from other people and feelings of anger, extreme anxiety and shame. Sometimes survivors turn to substance abuse as a way of supressing these feelings and many of these symptoms can impair a survivor’s ability to maintain healthy relationships and function in a community or a work environment.
Causal factors that drive our high rape rates are many and varied, and the fact that many poor social conditions are not adequately addressed by the state leads communities to suffer and to believe that nothing will change. This ongoing sense of helplessness and powerlessness feeds violence and sexual violence in particular, leaving women feeling unsafe in their communities, their schools, the work places and their homes.
At Rape Crisis it is our mission to promote an end to violence against women, specifically rape, and to assist women to achieve their right to live free from violence by reducing the trauma experienced by rape survivors, encouraging reporting of rape incidents and facilitating the active engagement of communities in challenging high rape rates and flaws in the criminal justice system. We believe that everyone can take action to promote safety in their communities by challenging the high rates of rape in South Africa.
The 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women is an international campaign that highlights the impact of violence on our communities and calls on women and men to speak out.
This year, our volunteers will go door-to-door in the Athlone community, accompanied by the Athlone South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Athlone Community Policing Forum (CPF), to ask community members what they think about rape in the community and how rape affects their daily lives. Volunteers will hand out important information about rape in South Africa and what to do immediately after rape if you are or if you know a victim.
Everyone that participates will be invited to share their ideas and opinions at a Community Dialogue on 10 December. Rape Crisis will present the results of the community survey and have a discussion with community members about the problem of rape. In this way we hope to support the Athlone community in challenging rape and finding ways of promoting greater safety for women.
We encourage you to donate to the #SpeakOut campaign in support of a film about how we can all challenge rape in our communities and promote safety for all women in South Africa. Speaking out as a survivor is a powerful way of supporting survivors and challenging rapists. Our film will spread the message that everyone can be a change maker and that if we all work together we can challenge the attitudes that promote rape culture and create a new culture where women can live free from violence.
Take part in discussing the issue of gender violence with @RapeCrisis on Twitter using the hashtag #SpeakOut.