Over the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Children, the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust embarked on a community survey in the Athlone area. Our volunteers and five hardworking interns from the University of York went door-to-door in the Athlone community over seven days to talk to community members about rape. We identified 10 areas and set out, clipboards in hand, to get the community’s opinions regarding the following questions:
- What are the biggest problems in your community?
- Do you think rape is a problem in this community?
- What causes rape in this community?
- What are the negative effects of rape for this community and for your family?
- How safe do you feel in this community?
We exceeded our target and interviewed 525 people. The community was very welcoming and we learned a great deal from them.
What are the biggest problems in your community?
The largest problems identified by the community were drugs, gangsterism and violence, rape and unemployment. It is important to acknowledge the many challenges that our communities face, and how these intersect to reinforce each other, for instance the high amount of substance abuse and how this can exacerbate violence and rape.
Do you think rape is a problem in this community?
Half of the people interviewed, 57%, felt that rape was indeed a problem in their community. However we noticed that many were reluctant to acknowledge rape as an issue, preferred not to talk about it, or said that “rape is not something we talk about, it is something that happens behind closed doors”.
What causes rape in this community?
The vast majority (53%) felt that drugs were a contributing factor to the high rates of rape. They also felt that parental negligence was a problem:
“It is the abuse of drugs. People who can’t control themselves when on drugs.”
“Mothers are working and leave the children with sons or husbands and their friends rape the children.”
What are the negative effects of rape for this community and for your family?
Rape has a negative impact on this community. In particular, it makes people feel unsafe, leaves survivors and families with psychological trauma and causes fear and silence about rape.
“The environment is unsafe. You have to protect your children, and hearing stories creates fear about your children and grandchildren.”
“A lot of people are still very quiet because of the stigma and rejection if they have been raped. They suffer in silence.”
How safe do you feel in this community?
We asked community members to rate how safe they feel in their community on a scale of 1 (completely safe) to 5 (completely unsafe).
Most people feel very unsafe, particularly the residents of Hanover Park. This is what they said:
“I am too scared to go out, I have to take buses and taxis and I don’t walk. It even feels unsafe in the house.”
“My family isn’t safe in this area. They have to stay locked in the house. We’re raising girls. They can’t go to school alone or play outside alone.”
Today, on the final day of the 16 Days of Activism, we are hosting a Community Dialogue and have invited all those whom we interviewed to join us in discussing the results of our community survey. These results from part of a larger community needs assessment we are conducting in the Athlone area. Our next step will be to partner with the community to identify potential solutions to some of these issues, and support community members in developing innovative ways to challenge the high rate of rape. We believe that communities are the experts on their own lives and know best how to challenge the problems they face if they are listened to, supported and empowered to make change.
We would like to thank the Athlone SAPS and the Athlone Community Policing Forum for accompanying us and ensuring our safety during the surveys and our volunteers and students for all their hard work. We also thank the Athlone community for being so welcoming and for inviting us into your spaces and sharing your opinions with us. Finally we thank the Department of Social Development for their contribution to this project.