At the end of last year, we went door to door in Khayelitsha to find out what the community thinks about rape, how they are being affected by it, and what they think we can do to address it. We spoke to a total of 492 residents from Endlovini (89), Harare (102), Ilitha Park (123), Nkanini (71) and Makhaza (107). We spoke to men, women and the youth – and this is what we found.
You can also watch our VIDEO here.
What are the main problems in this community?
The main problems are shown below. Rape ranks 6that 18%, after crime, drug abuse, robbery, alcohol and gangsterism. In Makhaza, over 25% of people said that rape was one of their biggest problems.
Is RAPE a problem in this community?
Most (59%) of those interviewed said that rape is indeed a problem in the community. We know from previous research that many are silent about the issue of rape and prefer to deny that there is a problem. We suspect that many who we interviewed preferred not to mention it. In our last community survey of Athlone, many people said that rape was not a problem in their street, but it was a big problem everywhere else.
Why does rape happen in this community?
Alcohol and drugs were seen as the primary causes of rape, far above any other causes mentioned. We have learned from our clients in our counselling service that perpetrators often use drugs or alcohol to make the victim more vulnerable or even completely unable to consent or remember what happened. Some residents, however, said that women and young girls ask to be raped by getting drunk in taverns. The other main reasons given for why rape happens was unemployment, child neglect and poverty.
“People they use drugs and alcohol so they don’t think good when they are using that.”
“Parents don’t take care of children; they leave them and go to the tavern. Some girls get bribed by the older men and they date sugar dads for money.”
“People have so much free time and have nothing to do. If projects start to generate work opportunities rape will be reduced.”
Who would you tell if you had been raped?
Most of the people from Khayelitsha (58%) said that they would report rape to the police. However, many mentioned that the process is slow and that police never seem to never have enough evidence and therefore the perpetrator often walks free. We know from research that when it comes to reality, the majority of rape survivors do not report to the police. This could be because of the impact of trauma that a person cannot imagine until it happens to them.
On the other hand, 26% of people said that they wouldn’t report the crime but keep it inside the house, not telling anyone apart of their family. Here many mentioned the stigma associated with rape:
“That’s not a good idea to tell the community about it because they will make a joke about it. It’s better to tell the family.”
Only 9% said they would opt to tell a counsellor, and only 4% said that they would not tell anyone if they had been raped.
What does rape do to families and to this community?
Residents (32%) felt that the main consequence of rape for the survivor was psychological trauma, particularly feeling stressed, experiencing depression and feeling uncomfortable. Many spoke about how rape impacts on the family and how it can tear families apart if the rape happened within the family. Some said that it causes the survivor to lose trust in others and some said that rape leaves survivors feeling vulnerable, stigmatised and unsafe.
Do you think we can we stop rape?
We were pleasantly suprised to learn that residents were very optimistic about their ability to challenge rape in Khayelitsha primarily by working together in the community, collaborating with the police and improving education and awareness raising efforts. Several people referred to workshops held by NGOs like Rape Crisis and said that there needs to be more education and information available.
What are the challenges in addressing rape?
When we spoke about challenges, people talked about feelings of helplessness, high levels of drug and alcohol abuse, what they perceived as an ineffective legal system, and the fact that rape happens in private and so is difficult to police. These quotes illustrate these challenges:
”We talk about this daily, but no one is doing anything”
”You can’t stop someone who is drunk”
”Perpetrators are free on bail”
”Police cannot stop them so how can we?”
”You just mind your own businesses here”
”You can’t stop rape because people don’t know when and where its happening”
How safe do you feel in this community?
We asked people how safe they feel. Most (57%) of those we interviewed said they feel totally unsafe in their community while only 6% feel completely safe. Women feel particularly unsafe – 61% as opposed to 38%.
The next step in our community mobilisation programme will be to host a series of community dialogues where we will encourage the community to explore possibilities and opportunities for potential solutions that address high rates of rape. Part of this process will also be to identify and recruit community spokespersons and activists from the leadership emerging in these meetings to form a planning or action committee. These community spokespersons and activists will mobilise support for proposed advocacy actions aimed at addressing high rates of rape and promoting safety in the community. Actions that promote safety will directly address attitudes and behaviours that promote violence against women.
Thank you to students from York, UK, who played a major part in this research – Neil Raw, Laura Fernandez, Ida Malthe-Sørenssen and Alia Marie Ep Alhwash. Thanks to Ida Malthe-Sørenssen for the photography.
This work is made possible by Oxfam Germany and the BMZ.
Sarah is the Communications Coordinator of Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.