Sorry, we have no space for rape apologists.

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In October 2017 South African Kwaito star Sipho ‘Brickz’ Ndlovu strolled into the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court wearing grey pants, a white shirt and a blue jersey. While his attire proved fairly neutral, his choice of accessory did not. Brickz completed his look with a heartless smile.

Smiles are not gestures usually frowned upon, but in this case, the amused expression was severely uncalled for, Brickz was facing a conviction of raping a 17-year old relative in 2013.

The archaic and far too simplistic excuse for rape dates back to 1886 – and that is that men rape women because of sexual deprivation therefore causing them to lose control of their urges in the presence of an unguarded woman. Psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebbing wrote about this myth in his book Psychopathia Sexualis. He further writes that rapists suffer from a mental weakness that allow sexual urges to escape control. This is commonly now known as the hydraulic theory – The pressure of wanting to have sex is too much, and men are too weak, therefore a horrific crime manifests as a result.

Over a century later, the same theory persisted. In fact, the simplicity worsened. Alfred Kinsey, for example, the famed sexologist who founded the Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, dismissed the issue altogether saying that most rapes were false accusations and saying they caused no real hardship anyway.

Fast forward a few years later and as a result of the landslide of rape myths and falsified rape theories which are products of a patriarchal society we find ourselves, still, battling with what we now call rape apologists who still problematically exist in numbers in spite of the significant amount of scientific and psychological study, educational research and feminist theory.

Rape apologists argue that women ask for it, boys will be boys and most of all, women dramatise the act of non-consensual sex for attention, or simply that it never happened. Rape apologists are the men who are most likely to ask for “proof that it happened”, question “what she was wearing” or “what did she do to deserve it”, or smile in court denying that it happened all together, as in the case of Brickz.

Here’s what we know about the victim – she was under the legal age of consent at the time and a virgin, she was the musician’s cousin and she suffered severe bleeding as a result of the rape. We also know she had been infected with an STD and was struggling with depression after the heinous act saying that she wanted to kill herself. We also know Brickz, who told her to take a shower and never tell anyone what had happened, if she did, he would kill her. Then the focus moves back to Brickz, smiling in court, with no remorse, no empathy and an unhealthy degree of deniability.

The rape apologist pandemic is not one particular to South Africa. But in a country fraught with rape, where men should be at the forefront of recalling rape culture instead of perpetuating it, this is the last thing we need.

It is estimated that over 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime and that only one in 13 rapes are reported, while only 14% of perpetrators are convicted.

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In 2017/18 the police reported a record number of rapes at 40,035 for the year with 110 occurring daily but more than that, the Institute of Security Studies reports that the extent of the crime cannot accurately be estimated because there is no way of knowing how many women refrain from reporting the crime.

The survivors of rape are the forgotten and invisible demographic of our country. They silently exist on the dark fringes of society afraid of castigation, further punishment and judgment. Rape crimes will remain under reported as long as rape culture supports the perpetrator instead of the victim. Rape culture will continue to persist and pillage as long as it requires men to admit they’re guilty and for the public to believe instead of trusting the testimony of women. As long as this trend exists, rape apologists will continue to hold forth in a society already heavily burdened with the power of patriarchy and male privilege. We will continue to be burdened with men who can do what they want because they operate in an economy that disregards the autonomy of survivors and instead institutionalises the protection of male sexual entitlement.

A year after his conviction, another celebrity, DJ Cleo, visited Brickz in prison – he is serving a 15 -year sentence. In spite of being found guilty, in spite of raping what was effectively a child and more so, in spite of showing no remorse and no empathy. The DJ tweeted an image of their reunion and captioned said image with: “We all run our own races, he fell along the way… but the race is not over.”

It shouldn’t need saying, but it does: sexual offences against women is not a race to be run and rape is absolutely not a stumbling block along the way, but here we are – in a society where men, with platforms and larger than life audiences, come to the defence of other convicted rapists with watered down motivations of an incredibly serious national crisis.

Author: Haji Mohamed Dawjee

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of ‘Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa’. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

We have created a Rape Survivors Toolkit for survivors friends, family & colleagues:

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Get Involved Now.

A new year always provides the opportunity to take on new challenges. Perhaps you are inspired to be more active in bringing about social change, but don’t know how. Our social media followers often ask us how they can get more involved with the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign (RSJC), so we have drafted an easy step-by-step guide:

Ways to be more politically and socially active

  1. The next time you are with family or friends, instead of letting conversation drift to idle chatter or celebrity gossip, discuss a particular cause that is close to your heart or that you feel strongly about.
  2. Stay focussed on one cause. It is fine to take up many causes, but always recognise your main cause.
  3. Find a political magazine, a local newspaper or an online blog and write for them on issues relating to your cause.
  4. Organize a group of four or five people and attend protests together.
  5. Talk to people that are different from you as a way to challenge stereotypes.

(Most of these ideas are from The Activist’s Handbook: 1000 Ways to Politically and Socially Activate Your Life)

Ways to support the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign

  1. Join our social media platforms by hitting “Like” on our Facebook Page and following us on Twitter @RSJCampaign.
  2. Share the posts, tweets and articles with your friends on your own social media platforms and tell people why you support this campaign. This way, our message reaches a wider audience.
  3. When we have public protest actions, join us physically or by sharing our message on social media.
  4. Consider donating to the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign to help us continue to do this work.

The RSJC believes that the South African Government should be held accountable for making sure that all survivors of sexual violence have access to a sexual offences court across the country. By supporting us in one or more of the above ways, we can do this together.

Sharing insight to develop better court models

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Spaces where researchers, activists and students can gather to share thoughts, ideas and dreams, are few and far between. That is why we were so grateful and excited when the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Law and Society offered to partner with us to host a panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa.

This discussion was designed to follow on from the National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act that was presented by the Department of Justice at the end of 2017 and where some of the research concerning sexual offences courts was first presented to the public. However, only a handful of representatives from the NGO sector could attend the DOJ’s forum and we were interested to hear the views of others in the field of sexual violence, colleagues who work in courts and fellow activists.

Our panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa took place on 26 April 2018 in Cape Town and we were joined by three panellists; Lisa Vetten, from the Wits City Institute, Dr Aisling Heath from the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit at UCT, and Karen Hollely from the Child Witness Institute. Together they shared some of the key findings of their three separate research undertakings in the area of sexual offences in the court system. Their separate research studies looked at the experiences of victims of sexual violence in courts, the observation of court proceedings and the reviewing of court files. They not only shared their very interesting findings, but also their personal opinions of how this issue should be taken forward.

What made this event special is that it brought together groups from two worlds; those at the coal face working in courts, and those in front of the data and research analysing findings. In our experience it is felt that these two worlds don’t connect often enough and so the opportunities to bring these perspectives together to share insights and knowledge are always meaningful. Through the Court Support Project, Rape Crisis provides support services to survivors at five courts. This is an extremely an extremely important component of sexual offences courts. We believe that the very real experiences of our court supporters has the potential to add a depth and richness to the research done by these panellists. By the same stretch, their research helps to shed light on the systemic issues at play that influence the work that happens in courts.

The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) believes that specialised sexual offences courts are the key to restoring faith in the criminal justice system by decreasing the secondary victimisation of rape survivors, and in so doing increasing conviction rates for rape. Learning from the findings of skilled researchers in combination with our own experiences is immensely valuable. It influences our RSJC strategy and helps us work towards answering the question that is central to our campaign; what do sexual offences courts need in order to be successful in South Africa?

 

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Jeanne Bodenstein is the coordinator of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign for the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.