Help fight violence against women by giving your Mandela Day minutes to rape survivors

Last year was great, let’s make this year even better!

Rape Crisis counsellors offer 24 hour support to rape survivors undergoing a forensic examination in the hours immediately after rape. They treat each case with the utmost seriousness. They give clear information about what will happen next. They allow the rape survivor to make her or his own decisions and then support those decisions and offer emotional support throughout the process. They make sure the person has access to justice and knows what is required of them step by step throughout the journey.

Medical personnel offer treatment to prevent HIV infection, to prevent other sexually transmitted infections and in the case of women, to prevent pregnancy. A detective from a specialist unit takes a full statement.

This is a difficult ordeal to go through immediately after rape. You can imagine how desperate survivors are to have a shower as soon as all these procedures have been completed. That’s why we give each one of them a care pack containing toiletries, a change of underwear and other personal items.  These items are contained in a beautiful bag sewn by rape survivors in our sewing project. As one rape survivor said: “I felt so comforted by the toiletries and I am amazed that someone took the time to create such a beautiful bag just for me.”


On Saturday 15 July we need your help to put these care packs together.  The contents of the packs are all ready and the bags we pack them into have been hand made by our Change a Life sewing project, a group of rape survivors striving for economic empowerment.  We need your help to pack 1 300 bags for women, men, girls and boys. What better way could there be to celebrate the spirit of Mandela Day than by giving your 67 minutes to support rape survivors?

On the day a rape survivor will be telling her story, our director, Kathleen Dey will be talking about the work of Rape Crisis and there’ll be a crafting space where you can make something special to put inside a care pack. Some people make cards while others knit or crochet small hearts to go into the packs.


Please will you diarise now:

Date:  Saturday 15 July 2017
Time:  10.00am to 15.00pm
Venue:  Rosebank Methodist Church Hall, 2 Chapel Road, Rosebank
(Click here for map to venue) 

Please sign up by clicking here now to let us know that you will be joining us on the day.

Tickets will be sold at the door for R67 each. If you can’t make it, you could sponsor a care pack instead, by clicking here now. Every gesture of support counts in surviving rape. Each care pack costs us R120 to make up. Please use the reference #RCMandelaDay.

Refreshments will be on sale over the course of the day. Please click here if you have a food stall and would like to register to be a vendor on the day or phone Zeenat Hendricks on 021 447 1467.

Thank you for making Mandela Day meaningful by helping to fight violence against women.


Reclaiming the Body: A Six-Week Course for Survivors

As sexual trauma is held within the body, it can leave you feeling numb, disconnected or overwhelmed by emotions. Rape Crisis is offering a course using a combination of simple body movement, breathe work and mindfulness techniques to help you reconnect to your body in a safe and gentle way. Learning how to reconnect to your body after sexual trauma is a powerful step on the road to recovery.

alexasedge_ MERCIA 2

Speak Out member Mercia Isaacs. Pic: Alexa Sedge

This course is open to adult women survivors (18yrs and older) who are past, present or possible new clients of Rape Crisis. Being in counselling is recommended, but not necessary as a counsellor will be present at each session. Participants are asked to commit to the full 6 sessions.

When:  Weekly every Thursday, starting the 4th May until 8th June 2017

Time:  10:30am – 12pm

Venue: Observatory

Cost: Free

Spaces are limited to 10 participants so please call to book by 26 April 2017:  Angela or Khabo on (021) 447-9762 or email

#HerNameWasVovo and she was a human being

I am a middle-class, white, cis-gender woman who is perceived to be heterosexual. Because of this I am protected in many ways from the hate and violence that is levelled against poor, black queer people like Noluvo Swelindawo, who was kidnapped from her house in Driftsands and murdered because she is a lesbian. I am not sexualised and perceived as ‘deviant’ in the way that Noluvo is. My body has not being transformed by hundreds of years of exploitation into something unhuman, like hers has.

Noluvo Swelindawo

Noluvo Swelindawo. Pic: IOL

But I am not as protected as I have always thought. On the 30th of October 2015 I was raped.

I do not profess to know what Noluvo experienced as a queer black woman, but I have experienced what it means to have violence acted out on me, because of what I represent; that which is less than man, that which is woman. I know what it is to be grabbed, strangled, dragged, penetrated. I know what it is to look into the face of a man and fear that he will kill me and leave my broken body in a clump of bushes. I know what it is to fear that those I loved would find me like this. I know what it is to have my humanity ripped away from me, to feel that I am no longer myself.

The murder of Noluvo forced me to reflect on what it means to be a human being in South Africa, what it means to inhabit this precarious, fractured space. On reflecting on the murder of Noluvo, I am forced to mourn for all of us who can read this kind of story and then carry on with our lives, when the lives of so many are being ended, when so many are being stripped of their dignity, their freedom and their humanity.

The valuing of my life, over the lives of other women, was made clear when I attended a government clinic following my own rape. Here I was repeatedly asked who I was accompanying for treatment – because surely this well-dressed white girl could not be the one who was raped? The fact that I cannot comfortably be seen as a ‘rape survivor’ and  that so many people have wanted not to believe what has happened to me when they so easily believe and overlook when the same happens to other women, is deeply revealing of how dehumanisation has become a key social coping mechanism.

If I had been murdered, those of you, who feel that this can’t happen to people like us, would have cried and probably brought flowers, like you did for Franziska Blochliger. You might have raged and screamed. You might even have marched to ensure that this does not happen to another young woman, like me. You would have recognised my humanity and that it was unacceptable for this to be taken from me.

You will not, I fear, do the same for Noluvo.

*Republished with permission.




Rebecca Helman will begin her PhD, which explores “post-rape subjectivities” at UNISA in 2017. She is researcher at the UNISA’s Institute for Social and Health Sciences & SAMRC-UNISA’s Violence, Injury and Peace Research Unit and a volunteer counsellor at Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust’s Observatory office.

Follow her blog here. 





Stop shaming survivors for not reporting rape

by Miles Collins

The sexual offences statistics that were released recently have once again emphasised that there is a problem of under reporting of rapes in South Africa. Rape survivors face many barriers on their road to justice, and reporting remains one of the largest. Our criminal justice system does little to prevent secondary victimisation when survivors do report. We are therefore faced with a complex issue, where encouraging rape survivors to report, no matter how well intentioned, can lead to further trauma instead of healing.

Secondary trauma is often the result of the negative experiences a survivor has when engaging with the criminal justice system – but it doesn’t always start there.

In the aftermath of a rape it is understandable that a survivor’s loved ones would want justice for the person they care about. In the process of trying to help, they might not realise the negative effect the pressure to report or talk about what happened can have on a survivor. The popular narrative of talking or writing about trauma in general can be harmful; it places implicit moral pressure on survivors that they owe speaking out about it to other people when they aren’t ready to do so. Simply recounting what happened, even to friends and family, may cause a survivor to relive the events and experience additional trauma. It is therefore crucial to understand why so many survivors never make it to the point to reporting, and if they do why they are unable to follow through with the process.

In an interview with eNCA, Statistician General Pali Lehohla addressed the reluctance of survivors to report to the police: “In terms of reporting it at the police station, the stigma that is associated with it, all those things make it impossible for people to follow through and report. People ask, why didn’t you report? And they would say: ‘Well, we didn’t think the police would do anything about it’.” This statement reflects the insensitive attitudes survivors are often faced with when trying to open a case.

This behaviour may be attributed to various factors. When service providers believe rape myths and stereotypes, it perpetuates harmful stigma. This behaviour is exacerbated by prejudice about certain “types” of survivors and affects the way they are treated. We see the effect of rape myths when officers dismiss a case or refuse to take it seriously if they believe that the survivor provoked it. Some of the contributing factors are structural such as under staffing, a dearth of resources and inadequate sensitivity training. These structural problems result in survivors not receiving adequate services such as being informed about the health risks after being rape and being referred for medical care.

Aside from the glaring hurdles in the system, even if a survivor reports and gets the care she needs, she is still at risk for secondary trauma every step of the way. The road to justice doesn’t end in the police station; the forensic unit and the court room provide a whole new set of challenges.

Shaming survivors who don't report increases the risk of secondary trauma. (Photo: Alexa Sedgwick)

The road to justice is immensely challenging. Shaming survivors who don’t report only adds to the existing trauma.  (Photo: Alexa Sedgwick)

Rape Crisis uses Judith Herman’s four principles of empowerment, in order to best maintain a standard for service delivery aimed at rebuilding trust and preventing secondary trauma on the journey to healing. The four principles are: Safety, Choice, Respect and Ongoing support.

  • Safety: It is important to make survivors feel physically, emotionally and mentally safe at all times. At Rape Crisis we provide confidential, safe spaces both with our 24-hour helpline, and counselling rooms.
  • Choice: Service providers need to provide survivors with a range of information in order to allow them to make informed and involved choices about their journey. Our counsellors understand the importance of explaining every aspect of the journey through the criminal justice system, so that survivors know what is required of them.
  • Respect: All survivors need to be taken seriously. Service providers need to affirm their respect with an approach free of prejudice and bias. Rape Crisis seeks to actively dispel rape myths, and has a policy against discrimination.
  • Ongoing support: Survivors need to be supported emotionally and practically beyond the service itself. This includes referring or informing a survivor of other available resources. Our Court Support Project is one example of hands-on direct assistance to survivors both as an advisory and a emotional support presence during a court case.

Whether a survivor decides to report a rape or even to speak out about it is a deeply personal process, and not a choice that anyone else should make for her. We need to stop putting pressure on survivors to report their rapes, and instead address the factors that make the very idea of doing so in an often-hostile environment difficult to do at all. The onus is on us as service providers and supporters to help create an environment of safety and trust, to play our part in helping to prevent secondary trauma on the long road to justice.

Miles Collins is an intern at Rape Crisis currently studying journalism with an interest in radio.