The annual 16 days of activism against women and child abuse is with us again. For organisations like the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust however there are 365 days of activism.
Rape Crisis counsellors bear witness every day to the extreme pain and havoc that rape inflicts on the lives of survivors. As counsellors we are privileged to listen to survivors’ stories. In our counselling sessions we debunk the myths that add to their pain; we do not sit in judgement; we believe their story; we try to ease their path through the criminal justice system and in all this we help them to feel whole again.
And they do.
But there are thousands of women and girls and boys who are too afraid to come forward and report rape – too afraid of the perpetrator and the police, too afraid of the stigma, too afraid they will not be believed and too afraid they will themselves be judged.
These are the people we need to reach out to.
In supporting survivors along their path to recovery, counsellors at Rape Crisis strengthen survivors’ confidence and ability to speak out about their rape experience and their recovery.
It is a very brave person who speaks out about their experience of rape and abuse – it takes enormous courage. But those who do provide an extremely valuable service to everyone in our country – for not only do they provide encouragement to those who are broken and believe they will never heal, they give confidence to those who would otherwise be too afraid to come forward; they help put perpetrators behind bars and they let the world out there know that the monsters who rape walk very much among us.
Silence makes healing difficult. Silence keeps perpetrators out of jail and on the streets. Silence allows society to turn a deaf ear.
It is imperative that survivors of rape feel safe to come forward, seek help and speak out. Perhaps then government and society will accept that rapists are not the visible two headed monsters most expect them to be – they are the ordinary looking among us – teachers, religious leaders, business executives, uncles, fathers and grandfathers, the famous and the celebrated.
Speaking out helps men and women both on the street and in high places to genuinely acknowledge and understand the enormity of the problem in South Africa. For only with this knowledge and understanding will people reject patriarchy and the ‘ownership’ of women and children and the harmful behaviours that result from these archaic belief systems.
We need to join together and Speak Out to demand an end to the tragically high levels of rape in our society. We need to support organisations like Rape Crisis that do this 365 days of the year. We need this scourge to stop.
Lizzy has been a volunteer counsellor at Rape Crisis for many years and has supported many women and their family members in their recovery after the trauma of rape.