In a survey we conducted during the 16 Days of Activism 2014, almost 60 percent of the respondents from the Athlone community and surrounds confirmed that the high rates of rape caused them to feel unsafe, vulnerable and helpless both as individuals and as a community. It was evident from the findings that the primary reasons for rape in this community are substance abuse, parental negligence, unemployment and poverty. A lack of empathy and disrespect for women, exacerbated by an ineffective criminal justice system were also seen as strong contributing factors by survey respondents.
Community members also emphasised how many people are simply too scared to speak out about what happened to them. They feel stigmatised and compelled to live in silence and close ranks when questioned. The community’s concerns about family trauma incorporated the devastation that the whole family experiences, and how they are often as emotionally broken as the rape survivor. In this way family cohesion is fractured by the harm that comes to one member.
This year we will be conducting another door to door community survey, this time in Khayelitsha. We hope to discover the community’s attitude towards the high incidence of rape and whether or not they perceive that the government is delivering on its promises to keep all communities safe. We intend to share our findings with the community at a community dialogue 10 December 2015. These interventions will form the basis of a campaign to strengthen the criminal justice system and its response to survivors.
Rape Crisis Director Kathleen Dey says, “Negative attitudes towards women and girls, where women are seen as subservient to men, pervade all aspects of day to day life in South Africa. This tends to result in a failure to adequately address gender based violence since the impunity of men as rapists is tacitly accepted. Power imbalances in the community often fall along lines of gender hence increasing women’s vulnerability to violence. Entrenched systems of cultural and religious beliefs reinforce these negative attitudes towards women. Increasing women’s agency by challenging these beliefs in the subservience and subordination of women will go a long way towards empowering women to hold government accountable for the role it must play in ensuring women’s right to live free from violence.”
We are launching a fundraising campaign that will run throughout the 16 Days to raise funds to train members of the community as volunteer counsellors. These volunteers are trained to support rape survivors and their family members along the road to recovery after rape as a way of restoring women’s individual agency within the community. To support these counsellors visit www.rapecrisis.org.za .
You can follow our activities on our Facebook page: RC Cape Town Trust