PRESS RELEASE: SONA 2019

Presidential Commitment to support for Rape Survivors: A Victory

During the State of the Nation Address, delivered on 7 February 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa more than once mentioned the issue of gender based violence. He confirmed that more funds will be dedicated to places of support, such as Thuthuzela Care Centres, and that government is working to ensure the better functioning of Sexual Offences courts. Funds must be made available to civil society organisations who already provide specialist support services to survivors to continue to deliver and expand these services. This will mean that more rape survivors can access justice and support services.

We are pleased that the President committed to work with partners in civil society to implement the decisions of the National Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide which took place last year.

We believe that all survivors of sexual offences should have access to a specialised court. Rape Crisis Director Kathleen Dey says, “We believe that the culture of impunity for perpetrators of rape will be addressed by a stronger criminal justice system with support services, sexual offences courts and more prosecutions”.

The Rape Survivors Justice Campaign RSJC calls on the South African Government to put the necessary legislation and regulations into effect so that sexual offences courts can be established across the country. We are also calling on the President to honour his public commitment to ensure that survivors of rape receive specialist services. We will monitor the upcoming Budget Speech to see if the necessary funds are made available.

Contact: 021 447 1467
Email: Jeanne Bodenstein at jeanne@rapecrisis.org.za

#SONA #SONA2019 #Ramaphosa

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

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I Believe Her: On the Power of Rape Survivors’ Voices

downloadEach time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women. – Maya Angelou

I don’t know how women do it.

Every now and again, the veil is lifted on the quiet terror all women live with each day. A violent crime is brought into the public domain, and we have to look the worst effects of violent masculinity in the eye. Usually, there is a woman’s voice at the centre. She stands in maelstrom, sharing the details of her trauma, all the while knowing that she might not be believed or that she will almost certainly be victimised even further.

Cheryl Zondi’s testimony in the trial of alleged rapist Timothy Omotoso felt different. Yes, we watched as Omotoso’s lawyer tried to discredit and diminish Zondi’s story. Yes, we saw some of the usual tired victim-blaming tropes emerging. But even with all of that, conversation and commentary remained supportive of Zondi. For once, we seemed to focus on the crime and the perpetrator, rather than the moral character of the survivor brave enough to tell her story, in the presence of the person who violated her. We were appalled at the way in which the justice system allowed the open revictimisation of someone who had not only survived primary victimisation but was willing to discuss it in the public forum.

So, what made this trial, and this survivor’s testimony different? What makes this case stand out, as opposed to the Zuma trial, the Kawa case, and so many other cases in which survivors were not believed and the public participated in their secondary victimisation? Put simply, by allowing for hers to be one of the few testimonies broadcast live into the homes of South Africans, Zondi gave face and voice to the trauma of sexual violence. While we could only imagine and speculate as to what Khwezi survived, in the Omotoso case, we have Cheryl Zondi, a survivor who reveals her face and her voice, in real time.

This is not to say that that’s right: we shouldn’t have to catalogue our pain in such public forums for it to be taken seriously. Women have been whispering about and screaming against sexual violence for so long, it seems unfair that society is only waking up to it at this moment. But Zondi’s publicised testimony was also broadcast in the wake of the #MeToo moment. In this particular global moment, women across the world are, perhaps for the first time, speaking everywhere and in various ways about what we have survived. Maybe Cheryl Zondi has, like many women, seen the tweets, read the countless stories, and heard echoes of her own pain. And there is a deep power in knowing that there are voices near and far, local and global, that will echo your own.

It makes even the quietest voice sound loud with conviction.

Perhaps that is the power of this moment brought to us by Cheryl Zondi’s testimony. In speaking publicly and possibly drawing on the strength of the #MeToo moment, she is creating further echoes and empowering even more survivors to add their voices to what should be a constant chorus of real outrage driving change. Because we believe Zondi, we might believe the next woman and the next, without having to see their faces and hear their words.

Because the truth is that, it is still an enormously risky thing to ‘come out’ as a survivor. You expose yourself to unfriendly clinical examinations of memories you may have worked hard to blur and bury. You are pulled into a process completely removed from the context in which you endured trauma and are compelled to relive it, with an audience. The 19 women who came forward and submitted their statements on the sexual harassment and assault they experienced and/or witnessed at Equal Education understandably stood fast in their right to remain anonymous. The independent inquiry took this insistence on anonymity as a reason to exclude their stories from their process. How sad. How strange. That years after their experiences at Equal Education, 19 women are still so afraid that they cannot make themselves known to an independent panel. But where you and I sense deep fear, the panel chooses to see procedural impropriety.

Stories like the unfolding Equal Education saga are proof of just how much it takes to speak out as a survivor. The #MeToo movement emboldened us somewhat and provided us with multiple ways to tell our stories. The Zondi testimony shows that society is now open to hearing and possibly even believing women. Just as long as we tell our stories publicly, in open court, before a judicial authority.

What I hope will be the enduring lesson of the Zondi testimony – what I want for all survivors who held our breaths through it – is that even as society still shuts out survivors who choose to speak differently, quietly, anonymously, we know that the public voices of women like Cheryl Zondi echo our own anonymous ones, and that we will be believed. Not by everyone, not everywhere.

But certainly by more people than would have believed us before.

By Rumbi Goredema Görgens

RGorgens

Enter Rumbi is a Zimbabwean-born South African-based feminist author. Her writing has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Vela Magazine, and on FeministsSA.com and MyFirstTimeSA.com. She has worked with various South African civil society organisations, including Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. Find more of her work at Rumbi Writes.a caption

 

How to Write About Rape

Writing about rape. Where do you start?

Such a sensitive topic, so prevalent in our society today. It is therefore so important to write about it, so that we can broaden people’s awareness about rape. We want to write about rape because we want our words, stories and theories to change into actions and understandings. But how do you write about such a painful topic without over-sensitising or re-traumatising people and still putting rape survivor’s everyday lived experiences on the foreground? With this question in mind, I went to the Writing about Rape Workshop, organised by the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust.

I first and foremost have to say, that it was just amazing to be in a safe space, with all like-minded women, that all came to the workshop with the same questions. Nothing is more empowering than a group of women coming together with an open attitude to listen to each other, and all with the same goal in mind; writing about rape to change understandings and actions about sexual violence. And of course, the glasses of wine and the good food, also added to a satisfying learning environment.

The writing workshop mainly focused on our head, heart, and hands. Writing with your head, stands for writing facts, the objective knowledge that you have found about the topic. Writing with you heart, stands for reaching to the reader’s feelings; how can you trigger the reader’s emotions with your words? Lastly, writing with your hands stands for put forward the question ‘what is next?’. How do your words lead to people to wanting to roll up their sleeves and start actively engaging with the topic? In a successful story about rape, one should thus focus on reflecting on facts, emphasising emotions, and triggering actions as an outcome of the story.

These guidelines are of course a helpful toolkit for writing about sexual violence but writing about rape of course remains complicated. At the end of the workshop, an interesting discussion arouse with several intriguing questions that show how important it is for this conversation to be continued. One of the main questions was whether it is possible for feminist writers to remain objective. How can we write about rape, without having an activist agenda? Why is it even necessary for feminist writers to be objective, or to be non-activist? If our goal is to create societal changes towards understandings of rape, isn’t writing about it then inherently an activist act?  Furthermore, when writing about rape, who owns the story? Is it the story of the writer/journalist, or the story of the rape survivor that are brought to light? How do we make sure these personal stories of rape survivors about their everyday experiences are portrayed in a responsible way?

Many reasons thus to continue the conversation on how to write about rape. I am therefore very much looking forward to the next workshop to reflect on their questions. I want to finish this blog with an important concluding message for female writers, shared by another participant of the workshop: if we as writers have the power of picking up the pen, it is our responsibility to focus on the issues that are attacking all women, and we can give an inclusive microphone to those voices that need to be heard. These voices are not put forward by those writers who dominate the writing space now. So, let’s write to take a position in that space. Let’s write from the heart, for all women.

Photos from the event:

 

 

 

By Paula Vermuë

Paula Vermue is an Anthropology student from the Netherlands, who is currently doing research in Cape Town for her research master’s thesis. She has joined the Rape Crisis team as an intern in September 2018.

Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault

In recent years, drug facilitated rape (date rape) has become a more prominent cause of
concern in public discourse. Drink spiking has become synonymous with sexual assault, drug
rape and date rape. The typical scenario of drink spiking involves a public space such as a bar, a club, a restaurant, a shebeen or a date setting. It could however also happen in more private settings, such as the home. The perpetrator targets a victim, by secretly spiking his or her drink with a drug. The drug used is often Rohypnol, but also Tik. When the victim becomes incapacitated, the perpetrator could abuse the victim’s vulnerable situation by sexually assaulting, raping and robbing him or her. Tik serves not only to render a victim helpless but also addicted and dependent on the rapist for drug supply thereafter
even after he is convicted and jailed.

Date rape survivors are often very reluctant to come forward as they cannot recall much of what happened to them and this makes them feel very fragile when speaking about it,
because it makes them feel very traumatised. This really is one of the more violating types of
rape because in a sense the rapist “steals” the survivor’s memory of events in addition to
perpetrating sexual violation. It is therefore difficult to say how prevalent drink spiking and
drug facilitated rape is in Cape Town, as many survivors feel ashamed to report at their cases
at the police, as they can’t exactly recall what had happened.

With the festive season approaching, many Capetonians, South Africans and tourists will go out more frequently and find themselves in social settings where drink spiking and sexual assault could happen. It is therefore important to be aware of this issue and to take care of yourselves and your friends when going out. Ways to protect yourself and your peers from drink spiking is to never leave your drink unattended and keep an eye on your friend’s drinks, don’t accept a drink from strangers you do not trust, try to choose bottled drinks that you could open yourself or you can see the bartender opening it. Furthermore, make sure to always surround yourself with people you trust and who would recognise that something is wrong when you lose control over your own body. It is also important to have a plan how to get home, before you go out and that the friends you are with know how you will get home safely.

However, I personally think this is very important, I am not writing this with the
intention to scare women and other possible victims of drug facilitated sexual assault or to
restrain them from enjoying their drinks, dates, or nights out. It is unfair to expect from
women that they must adjust their habits to safely enjoy a space that is supposed to be
enjoying, while perpetrators are not being addressed. This blog is written simply to explain
what drug-facilitated rape is and how you can protect yourself. This should never create space for victim blaming. Rape and sexual assault is never the fault of the survivor. It is
always the perpetrator to be blamed. Therefore, we must also address perpetrators and
peers of perpetrators. If you see or know someone becoming a perpetrator of drug- facilitated sexual assault, please call out on this person, or report this to the police. Let’s all
collectively, create a safe, sexual assault free festive season.

Our helpline number for counselling or advice is 0214479762 and is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and through contacting us we can also link you to our wide range of referral partners as needed, or go here for more.

By Paula Vermue

Paula Vermue is an Anthropology student from the Netherlands, who is currently doing research in Cape Town for her research master’s thesis. She joined the Rape Crisis team on the 1st of September 2018