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.

Get involved with RSJC

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.

How to talk about rape

 

Rape and violence against women is endemic in South Africa, but it is a thorny subject matter. How do we bring this discussion to the foreground in South Africa, what are the words we use and where do we start? 

Words matter. They matter because they are carriers not only of information, but carriers of feelings. When they land, words have the power to heal, revive, restore and educate but they also have an enormous power to debilitate and to trigger. But words are our thoughts, and without them we cannot speak, so how do we use them when we speak about rape? A violent scourge plaguing South Africa, encompassing noun, is not the heart of the very word [rape], triggering in itself?

One of the reasons mainstream media has come under scrutiny for reporting on sexual assaults against women is because they find themselves completely at a loss for sensitivity when it comes to reportage. So what do they do? They stop reporting on the incidents instead. Here’s what happens when issues stop appearing in the news – or better, appear less: Society stops talking about it, the discussion disappears into the shadow, voices are silenced, and communities suffer alone, by themselves.

Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis South Africa says, “Stories about rape form only about 1% of all media coverage. We need editorial commitment to increasing the volume of reporting without creating moral or compassion fatigue, so we need to be creative about how we produce content and messaging”.

Media needs to be at the forefront of taking on the responsibility about influencing society to have these conversations. Societies should be faced with stories that reflect sexual assault in a truthful, careful manner because a lot of culture in society is shaped by storytellers and one of the ways rape culture can cease to exist is by creating a space that is safer for women, girls and all survivors of sexual assault and one that is more threatening to rapists. But if we don’t talk about it, no one gets that message.

Dey also highlights the importance of engaging with communities, “We need to strengthen communication with communities affected by rape using multiple languages and platforms. We need to tell real stories about the lived experience of rape survivors being conscious of whose stories are told, who tells them, where they are told and how. We need these voices and messages to be amplified”.

 

“Journalists and other communications professionals need gender and diversity training so that they can speak to these issues in a more powerful way. Feminism has so much to teach us about how we tell stories and we need to have more discussion and debate at various levels on what this could be,” she continues.

The media is a mirror to society and society is a mirror to the media. So goes the old adage, but there is no time better than the present to take that very mirror and hold it up to those in government and make them face the scourge as well. The South African government has had its own anti-sexual-violence messaging tainted for too long by its very members committing a couple of heinous crimes which are not always adequately addressed. When the government fails, it also fails its people.

Dey says, “Government is a key audience. We need political will for addressing sexual violence now more than ever. Media can get to government… We need to challenge rape culture and explore ways of building a culture of respect for consent whatever context we are aiming to change through our engagements. We need to actively support women’s leadership”. That last portion begs special mention: Support women’s leadership.

Newsrooms, government offices and even police stations are rife with the imbalances of powers. Misogyny will always favour the powerful and silence the ones who have been sexually abused, sexually assaulted, raped etc. Up until the 1970s in some countries, women weren’t even allowed to testify in their own rape cases – she was considered not to be a reliable source of her own rape. Biblically, rape is referred to as a theft of property, not of the woman but of the father or husband. The men who “own” the women, and now, centuries after the great book we find ourselves in a position where far too few stories of women by women exist in order to bring about any real change.

Dey says, “There are few messages challenging patriarchy and challenging myths and stereotypes about rape.”

According to the Director of Rape Crisis, the media only report on about 1% of sexual assault stories. “There is a lack of a comprehensive messaging strategy on rape and sexual violence with key messages at the heart of each piece coming through without any degree of clarity.”

But while we work on our words, let’s make one thing clear: The discussion on rape needs to be made institutional in a way that brings about real change.

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

How to donate intelligently

Around this time of the year, Rape Crisis gets a lot of donations and messages from people asking if they can donate anything useful. We have decided to put together a little guide, so that our supporters can get a better idea of our needs.

It is important to remember all NGOs and NPOs are different, and they do not all have the same needs. Whilst wanting to donate is laudable, and we truly appreciate the intention, we would like to help you be more sensitive and donate intelligently. For instance: here, at Rape Crisis, we have no need for clothes, but a lot of shelters do, so if you have clothes or accessories that you are looking to donate, you could look up some shelters in your area and get in touch to see if they have specific needs for certain items of clothing, or if they will take anything.

We won’t beat around the bush, our principal need is money. In order to keep providing free counselling and services to survivors, we need funds. When you donate R100, for instance, a rape survivor gets a free one hour counselling session. Counselling is a fundamental step for rape survivors, and it is our duty to make sure the right services are provided. Our counsellors are thoroughly trained to help victims become survivors, and help them find their way to recovery and healing. With a monthly R100 donation, a journey begins and can continue.

Moreover, thanks to Rape Crisis’ status as a Public Benefit Organisation, if you are a tax payer and you have donated to us, you may qualify for a tax deduction.

If you are in a place where you can’t donate funds, we also need your time. By volunteering or interning with us, you help ensure the smooth running of operations. Rape Crisis would not be what it is today without its invaluable advocacy volunteers, volunteer counsellors, peer educators or volunteers helping out at events.

In terms of material needs, ours are constantly changing, so it is best to get in touch with us at the time and ask us if what you have to donate (be it cutlery, a microwave, some plates etc) could be of any use to us. At the moment, our Khayelitsha office needs fencing as well as a new toaster, and our Observatory office could use some non-flammable paint, a fire escape ladder and some new kitchen cupboards. In addition to that, we are also in need of 2 Jojo tanks. If you are able to provide any of these items, you are welcome to get in touch with us at zeenat@rapecrisis.org.za or call the offices directly 021 447 1467.

Lina Lechlech was a communications intern at Rape Crisis. She holds a B.A in International Relations and Languages from the University of Greenwich.