Rape Crisis Weekend Away

Rape Crisis is an organisation whose work is for the healing and empowerment of survivors of sexual violence. Our work is founded on feminist principles of advocacy, freedom from patriarchal violence and freedom of choice. Rape Crisis makes visible the needs as well as the experience and disempowering reception and treatment of survivors as they navigate the system in search of help and justice.

Our services are suitably placed in critical spaces which a survivor is likely to access. These spaces are the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) where we have counsellors who are first responders and provide emotional containment; our three offices in which both crisis intervention and long-term therapy are provided to reduce post-traumatic stress and enhance post-traumatic growth; and at the courts where there are court supporters who offer psychosocial support to assist survivors with readiness for the court processes.

Over time, as a result of work pressures and responding to the burden of gender based violence, we neglected ensuring that visibility and activity levels of feminism within the organisation remained a high priority, and possibly also to our gender based violence (GBV) sector peers. Due to the enabling partnerships we have formed with organisations in the sector and with funders- who support and value the work we do, Rape Crisis became part of the African Women’s Development Fund’s (AWDF) Leadership and Governance Project.

The Leadership and Governance Project entailed a coaching process for Barbara Williams (Counselling Coordinator, Athlone Office) and I, in which we were allocated a coach – Hope Chigudu – who mentored us on personal growth and feminist leadership. The other part of the project entailed training our Board, who discussed the organisation’s status and identified areas for development. We then submitted a proposal on how we would address the identified gaps. We were able to acquire the support of AWDF’s Maanda Governance Grant to dedicate time and resources to the well-being of the organisation and reigniting our feminism.

We embarked on this journey of feminist ‘recovery’ by way of the whole organisation going on a weekend retreat to Waterval Country Lodge in Tulbagh. This served a dual purpose for us, as it was an opportunity for a break (self-care) and a space where we would begin developing our Feminist Charter. As part of the lead up to the weekend away, conversations on understanding feminism and feminism at Rape Crisis were held with all programmes and at all levels of the organisation. 

In addition, a process of assessing feminism in our operations was facilitated with the use of a Feminist Tool, a questionnaire that looked into the visibility of feminism in the organisation, in the work we do for our clients and community, in the work we do in teams, in our management as well as our own individual commitment to Rape Crisis being a feminist functioning organisation. This process will conclude with the formulation of the Feminist Charter which will guide the understanding and expression of our feminism as an African organisation in the GBV sector.

Team building activity: helium pole

This has been an enriching experience: the coaching, the interactions with members of the Rape Crisis family in preparation for our weekend away and revival of our feminism. It all culminated in a wonderful getaway in which we questioned, discussed, suggested, sang-along, danced, shared meals, posed for photos and then walked away with renewed commitment to our work and to strengthening the links between our Road to Justice, Road to Recovery and Making Change programmes.

Written by Neliswa Tshazi, Court Support Coordinator

Photos by Alexa Sedgewick


Feminist Leadership

Anyone can be a leader, whether they hold the title of a leader in an organisation or not. But what does it mean to be a feminist leader?  This is a question that we at Rape Crisis have been thinking deeply about from the time the organisation was founded in 1976. We have not always made this thinking clear or visible to others, but a recent grant from the African Women’s Development Fund has allowed us to explore the topic more and to be more open about exploring the question of power in our organisation.

We all know that women’s rights are under threat in South Africa because of violence, poverty and inequality. This affects us in our homes and in our communities, but most of all in our work because we work for an organisation that:

  • Offers services to rape survivors 
  • Educates communities about the harmful norms and stereotypes that promote violence against women  
  • Advocates for change that will improve the criminal justice system for rape survivors.
Our RSJC volunteers advocating for change

Because we do this work we know that, well beyond the scope of our own endeavours, South Africa needs leadership that encourages individual women to work at understanding and shifting the oppressive power dynamics that keep harmful and oppressive systems in place. By oppressive we mean harsh, authoritarian treatment of others by powerful people, making sure that less powerful people are kept down. These dynamics appear in ourselves, in the people around us and in society.

Oppressive power dynamics are the things that make us feel that because we are women we are less than men, and that we deserve less than men when it comes to pay, holding positions of power, sharing our opinions and making decisions. As a result we accept poor wages, do not apply for powerful positions, remain silent when others give their opinions and hesitate to make certain decisions. 

We need to shift these thoughts, feelings and ideas about ourselves because they are not true. Women deserve to be paid well, to be leaders, to voice our opinions and to make decisions. 

It is harmful for us to believe that this is not so because it makes us believe that women are submissive and subservient to the needs of men. The harm that comes from this, is men’s ongoing violence against women, the fact that we are not kept safe from this, that we are often blamed for this and that our recourse to justice is filled with so many obstacles that in the end not enough rapists are punished.

That is why it is important that we not only work to bring about this shift within ourselves but also to lead in a way that brings about a change in larger and larger numbers of women so that they feel empowered to bring about change at every level of the systems that influence the way we live our ordinary everyday lives.

How do we lead in ways that empower other women? Make sure to Read our next blog on “The Roles of Feminism“.

Written by Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis Cape Town

Just Another Feminist [Valentines] Day

What is feminism?

Feminism is believing in the equality of rights for women on the grounds that they should be equal to men, in every environment – social, political, and economic. Rape Crisis is a feminist organisation, where we empower each other in the best way possible.

What is a feminist Valentines Day?

For feminists Valentine’s Day has some problems. It encourages and enhances damaging gender stereotypes. It celebrates the kind of consumerism that can elevate material things over emotions. It can make people who do not have an intimate partner feel alone and inferior. And for people trapped in violent or abusive relationships it can be a stark reminder of everything that hurts their lives.

But Valentines Day, the 14th of February, doesn’t have to be celebrated in the traditional way. A feminist approach is seeing the 14th of February as a day filled with women’s empowerment, self love, and love for the people close to you and even for people in the wider world. Regardless of this day, you should always do what makes you happy, whether that means ignoring Valentine’s Day or celebrating it.

How can we celebrate this Valentine’s day in a feminist way?

  • Do something to celebrate yourself – something you really enjoy.
  • Celebrate the people close to you in the way you know they would most appreciate – by spending time with them.
  • Fight violence against women, or become more involved with the power of women’s voices. Join the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign 
  • Donate to our counselling service and support rape survivors when they need it most.
  • View or download and enjoy these photos:


Image Sources: Pinterest


Farhana Sarguro – Communications Officer for Rape Crisis and student at AAA School of advertising

Turning big ideas into action in 2018

It’s been a busy first quarter, not only making progress towards our programme targets but also building the strength of our organisation and forging better links with outside stakeholders. We have a vision of a South Africa where rape survivors are supported in their homes, by their communities and within the criminal justice system. We’re making it real.

Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.39.27



Kholeka Booi talks to a school social worker in Khayelitsha about our peer education programme that addresses sexual violence and promotes safety in schools.



Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.42.49Learners from Intlanganisa High School get to hear about what rape culture means as part of our peer education programme.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.42.59At Khayelitsha Mall members of the Rape Survivors Justice Campaign speak to people about the need for specialised sexual offences courts.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.43.13Our General Meeting is a space for staff, volunteers and Trustees to come together to talk about the wellbeing of the organisation and strengthen our internal bonds.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.43.25One of our donor partners, NACOSA, has organised an evaluation of the work we do supporting rape survivors undergoing a forensic examination at Thuthuzela Care Centres.
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Speaking her truth our director Kathleen Dey writes a chapter on feminism in practice that describes how feminism is lived in Rape Crisis today.







Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.43.50Attending the German Embassy reception at the opening of Parliament earlier this year with thanks to our partners from Oxfam Germany.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.44.06Making plans for joint advocacy with members of the Shukumisa Coalition's Law and Policy Strengthening Task Team.
Capture d_écran 2018-05-17 à 14.44.20Xhosa speaking staff and volunteers review the content of our You and Rape booklet as a self-help guide empowering survivors.