From University to Cape Town: 10 Weeks Later

As I walked into the Rape Crisis office on my first day, I felt out of place, unqualified, and unsure of how I had come to be here, thousands of miles away from home. I had stumbled upon this internship through my university’s website and jumped at the chance for such an experience. I had few to no expectations as to how everything would actually work out. But as I met staff who welcomed me and introduced themselves, those anxious feelings started to dissipate.

Having finished my first year at university as a media studies major, I was hoping to see how the words in my textbook could be applied. Within my major, I focus on advocacy and change which explores how media can be most effectively utilized to create social development and growth. While I have spent ample time reading about topics such as the importance of appealing to a certain audience or the ethics of communication, I was curious to see how these topics would be implemented in a real setting.

At Rape Crisis, I have learned the specific and sometimes delicate nature of finding out what is needed to appeal to one’s audience. Ethical concerns are of utmost importance. At any nonprofit, but especially one such as Rape Crisis that deals with sensitive stories, the human aspect and respect for empathy are a priority. When planning and then helping out at the organisation’s annual Mandela Day event, I was astounded by the spirit and dedication of the community. The good intentions of the volunteers were evident in the time and thought that went into packing care packs for rape survivors to use after forensic examinations. While it can sometimes be tempting to be pessimistic regarding rape culture, events such as this one showed that progress is being made. During my time, I was continually impressed by the level of emotional intelligence at Rape Crisis.

In addition, I was interested to see how the presence of rape culture manifested in contrasting environments: my university and the Cape Town community. Affected by the distinct factors in each community, the issue of rape culture develops differently. However, from what I have learned, I look forward to helping to address the issue of sexual assault on my own campus. While I will be leaving the physical organization, I hope to continue to contribute while I am back in the States.

The experiences I have gained at Rape Crisis have further confirmed my passion for nonprofit work. I have been exposed to all parts of the job, from sitting in the storage room taking stock to being in meetings for the creation of a new campaign. My favorite project while at work was the development of the I ACT campaign. This campaign allowed me to utilize many different skills: creating effective messaging, taking portraits, and envisioning the aesthetics of the website. I look forward to the launch of this campaign and hope that our work will aid in fundraising for counsellors.

Ten weeks later as I prepare to head back to the States, I can’t imagine how I could have ever felt nervous around any of the people at Rape Crisis. Every morning, I look forward to being greeted by everyone in the office. They work with such honest passion that I hope to embody in my own studies and future career. Thank you to everyone who has made my time in Cape Town so memorable.

Rachel Yen

Rachel is currently a second year student studying sociology, media studies, and Spanish at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is interning with the communications team to gain skills in media and nonprofit work.

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Give Your 67 Minutes to Rape Survivors this Mandela Day

Whether you’ve already signed up to attend Rape Crisis’ Mandela Day event on July 15th or have yet to sign up, learn more about Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC) and how your own community is affected. I spoke with Nomnqweno Nomxhego-Gqada, Thuthuzela Care Centre coordinator, to shed some light on the importance of these care centres and how our Mandela Day event will contribute towards this effort.

Nomnqweno Nomxhego-Gqada

Nomnqweno describes how TCC’s are distinct from other care centres, providing a multitude of services all in one location. In addition, counsellors are present at all times to provide greater accessibility and emotional care. The several services present in a TCC contribute to one goal as stated by Nomnqweno, “[to make] the survivor more aware of what to expect and minimise the level of trauma as [the survivor] will not be telling their story each time they meet a service provider.” TCC’s play an essential role in increasing conviction rates as they allow a greater number of clients to have testing which will provide DNA evidence in court.

The care packs assembled at Rape Crisis’ Mandela Day event will be sent to TCC’s for distribution to survivors. Care packs are filled with toiletries to be provided for every survivor that accesses a TCC. The care packs are compiled in bags, which are themselves symbolic of a connected community effort. Each bag has been hand made by a member of the Change a Life sewing project at the Rape Crisis Khayelitsha office – an initiative that communicates a sense of unity for other survivors and provides an opportunity for economic empowerment. Nomnqweno notes that as a part of minimising trauma, care packs provide comfort to survivors after the completion of a forensic examination and detailed statement.

We invite you to give your 67 minutes for Mandela Day on July 15th at Rosebank Methodist Church Hall from 10.00 am to 15.00 pm. Click here to sign up. Contribute to a world-wide problem and celebrate the progress thus far towards a safer South Africa.

Rachel Yen

Rachel is currently a second year student studying sociology, media studies, and Spanish at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is interning with the communications team to gain skills in media and nonprofit work.

Become a Rape Crisis Counselling Volunteer

Rape Crisis Athlone is calling on individuals to enroll for their Counselling training in order to support survivors of rape, starting March 2012.

Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, said: “Counselling is the core service we offer to rape survivors. Most victims only seek help three months after the attack which is when they need someone to understand and support them. It helps if this person comes from within their own community. Counselling is vital in helping survivors to bridge the gap between the trauma they have suffered and interacting with our Criminal Justice System.”

Rifqah Abrahams, a volunteer counselor said: “As woman, this Counselling course has empowered me to assist and guide other woman in the community, through the trauma of rape, by showing them that there is hope after rape. Healing is possible, and the feeling that one gets as a counsellor, after witnessing your clients remarkable progress is a great feeling one cannot describe.”

“Through our training we aim to increase the number of victims reporting rape and to decrease the number of rape incidents,” says Dey.

Once candidates have completed the course they will do an internship with on-the-job training & supervision after which they can become volunteers for Rape Crisis.

The three-month training will start in March 2012 and applications for the training course close on 3 February 2012 . The Counselling course costs R500.

To apply for the Counselling course contact Rifqah Abrahams or Barbara Williams on 021 684 1183/021 633 9229 . Application forms are also available at the Rape Crisis Centre in Gatesville at the Grassroots Centre (Opposite Elite in Klipfontein Road).

or email: rifqah@rapecrisis.org.za / barbara@rapecrisis.org.za

Stop the Bus! – Day 6 (Trip 2) – Time to say goodbye

Stanford - the final day of the workshop

Stanford - the last day of the workshop

This morning we headed to Stanford where we continued with the workshop. The topic today was care for the caregiver.  We also had a networking meeting in Hermanus where the needs, problems and resources within the Hermanus, Gansbaai, Pearly Beach and Stanford communities were identified and to build better capacity and finding ways of broadening the network of support for rape survivors. Moreover, we visited the hospital, the police station and the Regional Court in Hermanus in connection with the Shukumisa campaign to see whether the rape survivors’ rights and services within the system are followed.

The team has found this journey very rewarding and interesting and we all agreed that the needs for the support of rape survivors in the area visited were vast. We will close this enlightening journey with a quote from Soren Kierkegaard: “To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself”.

From the networking meeting in Hermanus

Some of the participants from the networking meeting in Hermanus together with Eleanor

Goodbye and thank you!

Goodbye and thank you!