Communities Making Change: Khayelitsha Speaks

2 December, 2015

This year, for the 16 Days of Activism, Rape Crisis volunteers joined together with students from the University of York to find out what the community of Khayelitsha thinks about rape. We went door-to-door in Endlovini, Harare, Ilitha Park, Makhaza and Nkanini asking people about the prevalence of rape, what drives it, how it impacts on families, if they would report it, and if they believe things can change.

Here is what some had to say:



“Some people are raped due to the fact that they are drunk and because they wear short skirts. Some girls get bribed by older men – they date sugar daddy’s for money” – Khayelitsha resident



“The main problem here is the crime. Even if I go to the shop at 7.30 in the morning I’m scared. And the shop is only seven minutes away. One night there was someone breaking into my house at 3 am, the family had just gone to sleep. I’m looking forward to find out how to overcome rape and crime. I just want to feel safe” – woman in Khayelitsha



“Each and every day people are raped in Khayelitsha. Rape can damage the future of the victim. If you have gone through this experience while you were so young, you won’t be able to erase it from your head. The memory will hunt you for the rest of your life” – man in Khayelitsha



“I feel I can talk openly about rape now. All the Rape Crisis counselling sessions and the support by my family had made me a stronger person. I am also interested in participating in the community dialogue because I don’t want other girls to go through what I have been through” – female survivor in Khayelitsha6

“Boys must be taught how to love and protect one another rather than use power to their advantage. We must instill values of living together. We need to create a group for men – how do they feel? They are the ones doing this to the women” – man in Ilitha Park




“Why rape happens? The kids walk around in the streets and the parents drink too much. Sometimes the parent’s don’t care for their children”- woman in Ilitha Park




“Rape is a violation of human rights and we – the young people – need to talk about it so everybody learn that the law and rights have to be respected. We need more public spaces or meetings where we can discuss this” – teenager in Ilitha Park



We are raising funds to train new volunteer counsellors so that we are able to offer more support to this community. You can find out more information about this here. 

Note: We have not matched the comments made to the image of the actual person for the sake of confidentiality, although all images were taken during our 16 Days of Activism survey in Khayelitsha. Thank you Ida Malthe-Sorenssen for the wonderful photographs.

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30 November, 2015

The 16 Days of Activism for no Violence against Women is in full swing. This year the level of activism is high. There is the Shukumisa Campaign’s #16DaysofDiscontent and its government score card that each day looks at how different departments are doing with regard to ensuring women’s right to live free from violence. Radio talk show hosts are also interviewing expert commentators, online articles from local opinionistas abound, the latest research is being published, newspapers are highlighting the issue in news stories and television shows analyse the situation as a whole. This is one campaign for women that does not somehow involve lingerie or a pamper day of some kind. It’s just not a champagne and chocolates kind of thing.

This year the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust has marked the campaign by conducting a door to door survey of households for the second year in a row. Last year we worked in Athlone. This year we ask the Khayelitsha community to confirm or dispel the insights we have accumulated after more than a decade of delivering counselling services to rape survivors in the area. A team of Rape Crisis volunteers and student interns from the University of York formed a team of fieldworkers and took to the streets of Khayelitsha to find out what residents had to say.


The first thing they noticed was the diversity of people living in Khayelitsha, with different pockets within the broader community having a completely different character. Some are safe, some are not. Some have formal brick housing others are made up of only shacks. In some areas drug abuse is rife and in others not. One thing is clear – rape is a problem in all of them. At the same time, it is not a problem that is easy for everyone to speak about. It often evokes intense discomfort and a culture of silence. At other times people seemed to welcome to opportunity to name this difficult problem and so speak about how unsafe they feel.

When asked what can be done about the problem many feel helpless and do not know what to say. Others speak about instilling a new set of values in young people, values that promote an end to gender based violence. How do we do this?

Even the poorest communities have a wide range of assets, skills, capacities and resources that they can tap into for their own development. One thing that many people have told us is that they do not have enough opportunities to come together to meet and speak about this issue, to have dialogues with local NGOs and to engage with local police, health facilities and courts to discuss problems, needs and deficiencies. Such gatherings would lead to a focus on positive change that could result in a search for local strengths and opportunities in the face of this ongoing threat to the safety of women.

To do this the community must be given the space to view the problem head on and from all angles.  Our survey results will be presented to the community at a dialogue at the closing of the 16 Days of Activism alongside our views on the problem as an NGO working in that community. We will then ask the gathering to consider these findings and argue and disagree or support what has been said until we come up with a clear picture of what we are all facing together.


In Athlone the journey has gone a few steps further as we begin to map community assets and find spokespersons willing to come forward and speak on behalf of the community. We have begun to have more in depth discussions about the problem of rape, which includes ideas on how parents can be involved and what role the criminal justice system has to play, for example. One very obvious asset is lacking: the Athlone area does not have a designated specialised sexual offences court. In Khayelitsha there is a specialised sexual offences court but the physical infrastructure is not in place to allow for its effective functioning. Is this an issue the community will agree to take up?

This remains to be seen. In the meantime this blog spot will begin to highlight some of the stories our team heard as they knocked on doors and chatted to people in the queue to the barber shop or at the SASSA paypoints. You can also follow our appeal to sponsor the training of rape counsellors and more field workers.

Kathleen Dey

Kathleen is the Director of The Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust

This work is made possible by The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation
and Development (BMZ) and OXFAM Deutschland.

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About rapecrisisblog

We have a vision of a South Africa in which rape survivors suffer no secondary trauma, and are supported throughout their interaction with the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Our mission is to promote an end to violence against women, specifically rape, and to assist women to achieve their right to live free from violence. Rape Crisis Cape Town seeks to achieve its mission through counselling and training of women, thereby reducing the trauma experienced by rape survivors, and encouraging reporting of rape and the conviction of rapists.

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