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.

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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.


Sharing insight to develop better court models

UCT event blog image1

Spaces where researchers, activists and students can gather to share thoughts, ideas and dreams, are few and far between. That is why we were so grateful and excited when the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Law and Society offered to partner with us to host a panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa.

This discussion was designed to follow on from the National Forum on the Implementation of the Sexual Offences Act that was presented by the Department of Justice at the end of 2017 and where some of the research concerning sexual offences courts was first presented to the public. However, only a handful of representatives from the NGO sector could attend the DOJ’s forum and we were interested to hear the views of others in the field of sexual violence, colleagues who work in courts and fellow activists.

Our panel discussion on developing court models in South Africa took place on 26 April 2018 in Cape Town and we were joined by three panellists; Lisa Vetten, from the Wits City Institute, Dr Aisling Heath from the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit at UCT, and Karen Hollely from the Child Witness Institute. Together they shared some of the key findings of their three separate research undertakings in the area of sexual offences in the court system. Their separate research studies looked at the experiences of victims of sexual violence in courts, the observation of court proceedings and the reviewing of court files. They not only shared their very interesting findings, but also their personal opinions of how this issue should be taken forward.

What made this event special is that it brought together groups from two worlds; those at the coal face working in courts, and those in front of the data and research analysing findings. In our experience it is felt that these two worlds don’t connect often enough and so the opportunities to bring these perspectives together to share insights and knowledge are always meaningful. Through the Court Support Project, Rape Crisis provides support services to survivors at five courts. This is an extremely an extremely important component of sexual offences courts. We believe that the very real experiences of our court supporters has the potential to add a depth and richness to the research done by these panellists. By the same stretch, their research helps to shed light on the systemic issues at play that influence the work that happens in courts.

The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) believes that specialised sexual offences courts are the key to restoring faith in the criminal justice system by decreasing the secondary victimisation of rape survivors, and in so doing increasing conviction rates for rape. Learning from the findings of skilled researchers in combination with our own experiences is immensely valuable. It influences our RSJC strategy and helps us work towards answering the question that is central to our campaign; what do sexual offences courts need in order to be successful in South Africa?




Jeanne Bodenstein is the coordinator of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign for the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

Making Change as a Rape Crisis Peer Ed

Being a peer educator (peer ed) is so much more than just a label that was given to me because I completed a course. It’s a responsibility that I need to fulfill with the utmost seriousness. Many might feel that being a peer ed is a burden; I see it as a privilege.

I, Monique, am a Rape Crisis Peer Educator and I am proud hereof. When starting this program, I was unaware of the impact it would have on me. I must admit when entering this programme, I was anxious and scared to an extent. Being around a group of ‘strangers’ made me a bit uneasy.


Obstacle course at the Peer Ed camp in Simonstown. Pic: Alexa Sedge.

I can remember when we were told to do our ‘River of Life’ activity – fear immediately settled in me. Not because I had to speak in front of 21 ‘strangers’ but because I had to show others who I really was. I had to show others all the things which made my childhood not so pleasant: all the things that I had locked away and although I wanted to throw away the key, I couldn’t. So there I was revealing what I had kept inside for years – it was scary. I had hated the fact that I had to be vulnerable. However, as each of my peers went up, I could see that we all had a dark past and that sunshine was scarce. What I learnt from that activity was that we need to scratch open our old wounds in order for them to heal properly. I realised that in order for me to help others, I had to help myself first. That activity made me realise something else as well: that’s what rape survivors have to go through when telling complete strangers about their traumatic experience, trusting others with what they would perhaps have kept to themselves.


Athlone Peer Eds Pic: Alexa Sedge

Throughout this programme, I learnt something valuable from each session. I learnt to trust others which is something I do not often do. When we did role plays, I learnt of the stigma related to those being raped and how they are judged. I also learnt many things about HIV and AIDS and the stigma related to those who are positive. I learnt of our rights, responsibilities, and the rights of survivors. We were given many worksheets throughout, which we had to read, but personally the worksheets on how to help and assist survivors were the most important. There was a lot of information that was given to us, from contraceptives to our menstrual cycle, but the most important thing I learnt was that rape is a serious offence. I therefore want to be part of the change because many cases go unreported.

Being part of the Rape Crisis family has been really great for me. We laugh together, cry together, and share a lot of memories. I want to thank the facilitators for doing a super job. Keep inspiring others and molding new leaders. Although my course is complete, my journey as a peer ed has just begun.

Monique Booysen 

Monique is one of our Athlone high school Peer Educators. She is an active change-maker, challenging myths and stereotypes and changing attitudes around rape. 


Our Peer Education programme is made possible through the generous support of Oxfam Germany and BMZ.






Child protection is a feminist issue (and not because we’re the mothers!)

This year Child Protection Week/Month[1] takes place within a global context of heightened awareness of the extent and long-term negative costs (financial and other[2]) of violence against children. And violence against children is something we should be paying special attention to in South Africa, given our very high rates.

  • According to the World Health Organisation, South Africa’s child homicide rate is more than double the global average;
  • In the 2013/14 year, 846 children were fatally assaulted and a further 869 were the subjects of attempted murder; and another 11,104 children reported assault with the intent to inflict grievous bodily harm — that’s 12,819 assaults perpetrated against children in one year, at a rate of more than 35 a day, or nearly 1.5 every hour;[3]
  • In the same period, 22,781 police reports of child sexual abuse were recorded — that’s a rate of more than 62 a day, and constituted 44% of all reported rape cases;[4]
  • Corporal punishment is still legal in the home, used by over 50% of parents (with the age of highest risk of being hit at all being 3 years and of being hit with an implements being 4 years);[5]
  • Although illegal, corporal punishment is still widely used in schools: the 2012 study on violence in South Africa schools carried out by the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) found that seven out of ten primary school learners, and almost half of secondary school learners reported that they were physically beaten, spanked or caned when they had done something wrong at school.[6]

One of Rape Crisis’s peer educators who challenge rape culture and assist rape survivors to promote the safety of children in their schools.

But why is this a feminist issue? Doesn’t that kind of argument reinforce the notion that the nitty-gritty of child-care is the province of mothers?

I think gender-based violence is rooted in the way we raise our children. In the hierarchy that constitutes the stereotypical family, the children are at the bottom of the heap. It is in the way we think about and treat our children that we sow the seeds for the adults they will become. We teach them that bigger people are more powerful and that men are the biggest people, and hence the most powerful. We teach them that it’s OK to hurt someone who is smaller and weaker, and that lashing out is an appropriate response to disagreements and conflicts of opinion. And we do this by demonstrating it to our children every day, in our own behaviour and interactions.

Of course, there are many, many families (in the broadest sense of that word) where children grow up seeing adults who use reason and debate to resolve differences, and who are self-disciplined and protective of the rights of others.

But, for a significant number of our children, such parents are rare and the contexts into which they are born and raised reinforce social constructions of masculinity as dominant and in control and femininity as subservient and indecisive.

The so-called defence of reasonable chastisement is part of the problem. This is the defence within our common law available to parents or caregivers who assault their children (although this right of parents has been argued against on the grounds that it violates our Constitution and Children’s Act, and the ratification of international child and human rights treaties).

While legal assault in the form of corporal punishment is perpetrated against both boys and girls (i.e. make it arguably not a women’s rights issue), children living in homes where they are corporally punished learn the lessons that many will play out in the adult lives. Boys who are corporally punished are more likely to become abusive partners and girls more likely to seek re-victimisation within their intimate relationships. The confusion of love and pain (“I’m only doing this because I love you” and “This hurts me more than it hurts you”) is hard to get past for many who have grown up where casual violence is the norm.

The socialisation of children lies at the root of gender-based violence through the constructs of masculinity and femininity which they see around them, in the home and outside of it and the lessons they are taught about power and control (and who has it and why). This is about how boys and girls are raised.

In this Child Protection Month, along with the fanfare and events and back-slapping that accompanies such commemorations, let’s remember that the best way to protect children is to prevent abuse, neglect and an upbringing characterised by interpersonal violence as the default option whenever something is not to our liking, and that masculinity is more prized than femininity.

Because if we can give most children a happy childhood in which they are respected, listened to, and taught by example how to manage themselves and their interpersonal relationships in a way that respects the value and dignity of everyone, then we will have gone a long way to achieving a society comprised of adults who appreciate diversity, respond to differences and disagreements without resorting to violence and who understand that our human value is not determined by our gender.

And that’s why child protection is a feminist issue.

Carol Bower

Carol Bower has worked to end violence against women and children for almost all of her professional life. She now lives in the middle of nowhere fulfilling the ageing hippy dream and making as much trouble as she can. She is currently working with Sonke Gender Justice on improving attitudes towards and the practice of parenting as a key strategy for preventing the sexual and physical abuse of children. Carol is a previous director of Rape Crisis.

[1] Since 1997, the last week of May each year and the whole of June are dedicated to child protection in South Africa. This week, Child Protection Week lasts from 31st May to 7th June.

[2] Economists estimate the cost of child assault, not just from the obvious costs of increased child welfare interventions, but also from the well-documented loss of future earnings from an assaulted child. The total global cost reaches an astounding $3.5-trillion annually. For South Africa, the cost is estimated at $82-billion (see http://mg.co.za/article/2014-10-30-violence-against-women-and-children-costs-sa-173bn

[3] South African Police Services National Crime Statistics.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Dawes A, Kafaar Z, de Sas Kropiwnicki Z.O, Pather R, and Richter L. 2004. Partner Violence, Attitudes to Child Discipline & Use of Corporal Punishment: A South African National Survey. Cape Town, Child Youth & Family Development, Human Sciences Research Council.

[6] Burton P. 2012. Snapshot: results of the CJCP National Schools Violence Study. Cape Town: CJCP