Take Action If You Said #MeToo

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Speak Out member, Chipo. Photo by Alexa Sedge.

By Kathleen Dey

I appeal to anyone who posted or followed #MeToo on social media to join our I ACT Campaign and donate R100 every month to fund our free counselling service to rape survivors.

The #MeToo campaign was initially used by North American community organiser Tarana Burke in 2006 as part of a campaign to promote “empowerment through empathy” among black women who had experienced sexual abuse, particularly within underprivileged communities.

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Tarana Burke (via justbeinc.org)

It gained global momentum after accusations of sexual harrassment – and rape – were brought against Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein in 2017. Actress Alyssa Milano encouraged posting the phrase as part of an awareness campaign to show the scale of the problem.

She tweeted Tarana Burke’s call to action: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote #MeToo as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

According to Wikipedia the phrase was used by more than 4.7 million people in 12 million posts during the first 24 hours.

I am aware of so many women who posted #MeToo on social media platforms and told their stories of harassment, violence and abuse – and many more who were moved by the trend but for good reason did not post the hashtag or tell their painful stories. If each of these took action by donating R100 a month Rape Crisis, we could kick start the I ACT Campaign, a campaign designed to address some of the enormous helplessness and anger we feel when we see how widespread and severe the scale of the problem is. #MeToo demonstrated this only too well.

There were some strong posts from men in support of the women who posted #MeToo, many were shocked by the prevalence and some men said #MeToo as survivors themselves. This is a campaign that men can support just as well. What better way of showing support than a tangible gesture? Many can then say, “I ACT for women’s empowerment” and mean it.

Members of the LGBTQIA community could say an even stronger #MeToo having experienced the intersecting trauma of being sexually harassed and being targeted because of their sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity. Many have not posted because #MeToo did not recognise this but only saw violence through the eyes of women. The fact is there are many intersections in our society that most people are completely oblivious to. Black women might not have the luxury of posting #MeToo but many of the rape survivors we see at rape crisis experience these multiple forms of harassment. On behalf of all of them we say #MeToo and ask you all to say #I-ACT in return.

Just R100 ensures a one hour counselling session for a rape survivor including transport money if needed. In this space where survivors feel safe to tell their stories they find their own coping strategies, learn to move forward, make well informed decisions and connect more closely to others. Please take action to support them so we can all say I-ACT.

 

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Kathleen Dey is the Director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

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Section 55 What??

By Kathleen Dey

I am having such a bad attack of FOMO right now. Today a National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act concludes its deliberations in Johannesburg and while activists from all over the sector are there I am not. And they are all being very quiet about the content of their discussions, out of respect for our colleagues in government and the spirit of the dialogue.

This National Forum is convened by the Department of Justice with the backing of the Deputy Minister John Jeffery and organised by a steering committee that included members of the Shukumisa Coalition representing civil society. What makes this gathering unique is that the 250 delegates include not only members of civil society organisations, government departments and state services providers such as the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) but also members of the judiciary. Since magistrates play a critical role in the adjudication of sexual offences cases and are often not represented in these kinds of discussion this is a huge bonus. My Fear of Missing Out grows as I write.

Yesterday’s programme included the presentation of critical research by research institutes such as the South African Medical Research Council’s recently released report entitled Rape Justice in South Africa. The combined presentations pointed to current problem areas within the areas of reporting, investigation, medicolegal services, support to survivors, prosecution and adjudication of sexual offences cases. There was, unusually, no question time or commentary in this plenary. This was followed by breakaway sessions where government officials and state service providers were given opportunities to provide further information on these problem areas in a more in depth fashion. The overall approach of the ensuing discussion was designed to be solution focused, with civil society organisation offering constructive criticism and recommending solutions designed to benefit all stakeholders.

The current political and economic situation in South Africa is so severe that we believe that we are unlikely to see the kind of resource mobilisation we would like to see in support of improved implementation of the Sexual Offences Act. In fact over the past decade we have seen a significant reversal in the gains that were made prior to that in putting infrastructure, personnel, training and services in place. There has been a marked decline rather than the consistent improvement reported by government. Sexism, racism and attitudes that lead to secondary victimisation of complainants continues to be a problem.

Statistics and reporting are unclear and inconsistent, which makes it very difficult to monitor progress towards set goals. In fact our current crime statistics give a false impression of excellence, showing a decrease in incidents when this is not the case. Strategies based on these misleading findings are in danger of failing as they are not based on an accurate analysis of the situation.

Performance indicators for officials within the criminal justice system are not successfully promoting good performance neither are they entirely useful as mechanisms for holding individuals or departments accountable. Some provide a perverse incentive in that they encourage poor performance when for example members of the SAPS are measured by the decrease in reported rape statistics when in fact they should be encouraging reporting. Management structures are weak and leadership is lacking. These factors combine to make oversight very difficult.

These flaws can be seen in the roll out of the promised sexual offences courts, an issue right at the top of the agenda of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign. There are sexual offences courts where there is specialised infrastructure in place but not enough skilled and experienced personnel and no services, sometimes meaning that there is a lack of psychosocial care for survivors. Section 55A of the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill, which would allow for the Minister of Justice to establish these courts and set certain criteria for these courts has not yet been operationalised even though the president has signed this new law. There are no minimum standards for sexual offences courts and no sexual offences court regulations in place as yet.

A focus on the sexual offences court roll out may help government to tackle problems with courts as well as police and forensic investigations since the idea that specialist personnel would work together could best be promoted with these courts as “centres of excellence” linked to surrounding Thuthuzela Care Centres, forensic units and Family violence, Child abuse and Sexual offences (FCS) Units. We should therefore focus on the following suggestions for government role players at the upcoming national forum:

1. Section 55A of the Judicial Matters Amendment Bill must be operationalised as soon as possible.

2. Civil society organisations need to be given a chance to give input into the minimum standards on sexual offences courts as well as the regulations.

In addition to this we need to recommend that:

1. The functioning of the relevant departments and service providers within the criminal justice system be evaluated by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) in order to develop an improvement plan that will give rise to revised performance indicators.

2. Clear, consistent, disaggregated, integrated statistics are collected, collated and shared.

In the meantime, in the absence of improved performance indicators, we need to see competent officials concentrated within centres of excellence so that infrastructure, personnel and services can come together as they should. Let us hope that this incredible National Forum meeting will deliver at least some hope that these suggestions will be taken up and driven forward with the commitment they deserve.

 

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Kathleen Dey is director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. 

Support Thuthuzela Care Centres #EnditNow

By Kathleen Dey

I’m listening to a rape survivor tell a conference room filled with people the story of how she was raped at the age of 14, shot, shoved into a pit latrine and left for dead. How she didn’t die. How she lived. How she crawled to safety. How she named her assailant and sent him to jail for life. How she lives with a bullet in her neck. How she prevailed against thoughts of suicide by finding the Rape Crisis counselling service. How she wrote a book about her experiences called Dear Bullet or a letter to my shooter. Many in the audience are in tears. Others are shocked even though they are experts in this field. As she ends she says, “We need to stop rape. We need to save rape survivors by helping them to talk.” Her name is Sixolile Mbalo.

Dear Bullet

In the 20 years since Sixolile was raped South Africa has escalated its response to gender based violence, combining criminal justice, medical and mental health related services in an innovative model called the Thuthuzela Care Centres. At these centres, based in hospitals around the country, counsellors called first responders meet each survivor as they arrive to greet them, calm them down and contain them until they are composed enough to be able to absorb information. They then inform them about the complex processes involved in reporting rape and walk them through the process step by step: A nurse will counsel the survivor about potential health risks including potential HIV infection and prepare them for the forensic examination, which is conducted by a doctor specially trained to collect forensic evidence for the crimes of rape and sexual assault.

After this examination the first responder gives the survivor a care pack containing toiletries so that she can shower, change into clean underwear and brush her teeth. A police detective will either take a statement immediately or escort the survivor to their home and make an arrangement to take the statement the following day. Before they leave the nurse will make sure that if the HIV test was negative that the survivor has Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) medication to prevent HIV, pregnancy and STIs. The first responder will make sure the survivor has contact details for ongoing counselling services for future reference as well as an information booklet on recovering from rape. As this case makes its way through the criminal justice system it will be supervised by a specially trained prosecutor and investigated by a specially trained detective. As they adhere to the PEP regimen survivors are followed up to ensure they complete the full course and do not seroconvert and become HIV positive.

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Thuthuzela Care Centre Coordinator, Nomnqweno Gqada with the care back bags rape survivors receive at TCC’s.

At the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust we see over of 3 000 rape survivors a year at these centres. We see the extraordinary impact this care has on survivors, making sure they don’t struggle and suffer as Sixolile did but get the help they need right from the very beginning in the hours immediately after the rape. We see the incredible collaboration between medical teams, police officials and NGOs. These NGOs are gathered today to discuss the future of the Thuthuzela Care Centres.

A future that seems suddenly uncertain. The South African Government has not given any clear signs that it will continue this project once foreign donor funding comes to an end. With 50 centres across the country the budget for maintaining these services is high. Where will the funding for this budget come from? Foreign donor policies are moving towards prevention and away from care, seeming to ignore the preventive role that care plays in the cycle of violence. The impact on economic development of gender based violence is significant, with women, who are still bearing the main brunt of these crimes forming a major portion of the workforce or supporting that workforce. The Thuthuzela Care Centres represent the state’s most comprehensive response to gender based violence especially when coupled with specialised sexual offences courts. Yet many donors are unwilling to subsidise services they consider the responsibility of the South African government.

The fact is that these services remain dependent on a strong collaboration between donors, both local and international, the government and civil society. The goals of each of these three sets of actors complement one another perfectly while their roles in achieving free, accessible services post rape to survivors are different. If this three way partnership were to fail, with no commitment from donors or from the state to continue to support survivors in the years to come, what will be the fate of these survivors?

One thing is certain. South African civil society is strong. The conference hall is full, the audience attentive. Many have been in the sector for long years and have accumulated a wealth of experience and expertise. Panel after panel present successful results and in depth research. The evidence is rich and absorbing. With such success to hand this partnership should never fail. Sixolile’s message should be heard. #EnditNow

 

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Kathleen Dey is director of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. 

Rape in South Africa is a much bigger problem than we think

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Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust, displays this article, published as a supplement in The Cape Argus on 28 March 2013

Rape in South Africa is a much bigger problem that any commentator on the rape, mutilation and murder of Anene Booysen and the subsequent public outcry has begun to outline. In South Africa our Constitution enshrines the right of women to live free from violence. Our government has also signed a number of regional and international conventions agreeing to uphold these same rights and duties. It is time for the state to call for international assistance.

 Police crime statistics released in September 2012 state that in 2011/2012 there were a total of 9 193 sexual offences reported to the South African Police Services (SAPS) in the Western Cape. This translates into just under 27 cases per day. In total, 64 514 sexual offences were reported countrywide for that period.

At Rape Crisis we know that the prevalence of rape is much greater than those cases that are reported to the South Africa Police Service (SAPS). This fact is backed up by scientific studies conducted by the South African Medical Research Council (MRC). The barriers to reporting rape are many. For the survivor of rape these barriers include the horror of being forced to relive the trauma of the rape every time she speaks about it, the shame of what other people will think, how they will judge her behaviour before they judge the behaviour of the rapist, the pain it will cause her mother, her father, her friends, her husband or girlfriend or lover, the fact that the rapist and his friends or family or gang will offer her threats or bribes to drop the case and, perhaps the reason closest to our vision as an organisation, the fact that she has little faith in the South African criminal justice system to support her in seeing that justice is done. Perhaps if this system recognised their rights more fully then more rape survivors would report or disclose these attacks.

However it is not only the prevalence of rape that is of such deep concern, frightening as it is. At Rape Crisis we know that the foreseeable consequences of rape can be a matter of life and death. Rapes in the Western Cape in particular but also elsewhere must be considered against the background of poverty, easy access to drugs like tik (methamphetamine) and of widespread HIV infection. Violence against women acts as a vector or as a driving force for HIV transmission because rapists and the act of rape itself carry several inherent risk factors.  Perpetrators of rape often carry other sexually transmitted infections, cause injuries to the genital organs during the act and often rape repeatedly or in a group with more than one rapist. The use of tik and alcohol greatly increase the violence of rape and hence the risk of transmission. We have seen women with human bite wounds. Unwanted pregnancy as a result of rape leads to survivors seeking terminations of pregnancy or living with a child that is a constant reminder of pain. And poverty can make people believe that their lives have no meaning and no value to others. The combination of all these factors has lead to a situation that as it escalates over the years, is, in my opinion, quite lethal.

The resources we have to hand to tackle this problem are dwindling fast. With the classification of South Africa as a middle income country international donors are offering much needed support to poorer African countries or indeed responding to social problems of their own. Government has not adequately gauged the extent violence against women and therefore has not allocated funds adequate to the task of delivering services at the scale that is required. 

Local corporate social investment does not increase year on year and these donations are tied to the performance of the economy and need to be shared between an increasing pool of beneficiaries.  Businesses have not yet seen how they can expand their consumer base by aligning themselves with a good cause. Individual citizens are only just beginning to realise their power to use their votes to support decision makers that are committed to constructive solutions.  They are only just beginning to realise that they have the choice to spend their money on a good cause and that in doing so they will make a real difference.

And what is that difference? What is it exactly that those organisations like Rape Crisis do? What is it that makes what we do so remarkable?

Rape Crisis was founded on the idea that ordinary women can do extraordinary things. Our founder, Anne Mayne, was an ordinary South African woman who was raped in the 1970s and found that she had nowhere to turn for help. She did not want to see other women suffer the same fate and so she recruited some volunteers to assist her. They met at one another’s homes to plan the work of Rape Crisis. They soon got themselves a pager and a telephone number. The telephone has not stopped ringing since. They offered counselling and support to rape victims in coffee shops, on the back seats of cars and on park benches before they had a small rented office. They spoke at meetings of civic associations, citizen groups, at churches and at schools. They wrote letters to the press exposing the inadequacies of the criminal justice system and of the law.

Rape Crisis 36 years later is the oldest women’s organisation in South Africa offering essential services to both female and male rape survivors. We recruit our staff and volunteers from the very same communities we serve – the community of ordinary South Africans in everyday life in all its diversity from housewives in Constantia to domestic workers in Khayelitsha to factory workers in Athlone to university students to unemployed women to professionals – we are all represented. During the struggle to end Apartheid we were a safe house and trained some of the most powerful gender activists in the field today. More recently we began to recruit women who speak Swahili, Lingala and French in order to better support the growing number of rape survivors from outside South Africa coming to our doors.

We counsel now in more comfortable surroundings in one of our three offices and the telephone helpline still operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 day a year. We also counsel rape survivors at two health facilities and five Cape Town courts and we train police victim support volunteers to counsel survivors when they come to police stations throughout the Western Cape to report rape.

We speak at civil society gatherings, at schools, at universities and at churches but now we do this in Cape Town and in towns throughout the Western Cape.  We speak on the radio, we appear on television and we write articles for the press. We support our partners in national initiatives such as the Shukumisa Campaign. We run courses for our sister NGOs and train officials within the criminal justice system. We make submissions to Parliament advocating for law reform and for better implementation of our laws. There is no sense for us in seeing the individual rape survivor triumph over her anguish only to see the same thing happen again and again without making any attempt to change the system or build stronger communities.

As build them we do.  Our staff and volunteers are well trained in highly specialised skill sets as counsellors, court supporters and community educators. Not only that, they know how to convene meetings, chair meetings, take minutes, keep records, set up filing systems and gather research data. They know how to lead. In fact they are the future leaders of this country. Supporting them is the best thing you, as an ordinary South African can do.

In the weeks since those men raped and killed Anene Booysen we have seen ordinary South Africans do so much. We can all follow their example.  Join a campaign. Participate in a meaningful action. Join an organisation and train as a volunteer. Tweet #StopRape into trending every week and follow @RapeCrisis and like the RC Cape Town Facebook page or contact the organisation closest to you that you find on www.shukumisa.org.za to find out more about what you can do to assist them.

Look for the party in the upcoming election that supports law reforms that will benefit victims of crime and that will ensure steps to build a criminal justice system that sees the strength in the rape survivor and builds on that strength. Look for the party that has a true political champion that will drive these reforms over the long term. Vote for that party rather than any other.

Support champions like Gasant Abarder amd Margie Orford when they ride a race or write a book that highlights the problems we all face together and looks for the best solutions. Support a business that supports organisations like Rape Crisis rather than one that doesn’t. Donate and become part of something you can feel proud of. Support a call on the South Africa government to invite the United Nations to make a country visit to South Africa to investigate the problem. Perhaps when we have the scrutiny and support of the international community we will gather the resources do what needs to be done.

Contact Rape Crisis for counselling or other services on (021) 447-1467 or visit www.rapecrisis.org.za to find out how you can become more involved.