Joining communities fighting violence against women

The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence is an international campaign to challenge violence against women and children. The campaign runs every year from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. It was started in 1991 by the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute and in 1998 South Africa joined the campaign.

These 16 days encourage all people living in South Africa and other participating countries to speak out and call for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and children.

#HearMeToo is the theme for this year’s United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and one of the goals is to highlight and show support for activists and organisations that fight against the abuse of women and children. This year the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust will highlight some of the many organisations that we work with who work to improve the safety and rights of women and children in South Africa every day.

To all of those who fight to protect the rights of women and children, defend and protect them and care for victims and survivors, across South Africa and around the world, we salute you.

  1. The Shukumisa Coalition

The Shukumisa Coalition is made up of more than 75  organisations across South Africa including NGOs research institutions, law and policy organisations and community-based organisations that work together to ensure that the Sexual Offences and Related Matters Act (Sexual Offences Act) is implemented, that the South African Government honours its obligation to put the right measures in place to address sexual violence and that these are equitable across the whole country.  Part of the Coalition’s work is to ensure that South Africa has well crafted, well implemented laws and policies in place that are developed through broad-based public participation processes in which women play a key role.

Website: http://shukumisa.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Shukumisa

Twitter: @shukumisa

  1. The Women’s Legal Centre

The Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) is a non-profit law centre that seeks to achieve equality for women, particularly black women through impact-based litigation, the provision of free legal advice, legal support to advocacy campaigns run by other organisations and training that ensures people know and understand the impact of judgements of the courts on the subject of women’s rights. The WLC also provides legal advice to the other non-governmental women’s organisations nationally and in Africa.

Website: http://www.wlce.co.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WLCCapeTown/

Twitter:  @WLCCapeTown

  1. Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR)

LHR was established in 1979 to fight the oppression and abuse of human rights under Apartheid. It later helped the transition to democracy through its voter education and monitoring in 1994. Today it is recognised as being in the forefront of civil society when it comes to strengthening our  democracy. LHR is a human rights NGO whose Gender Equality Programme engages in strategic litigation defending and upholding the rights of women and gender non conforming people. In 2018 LHR acted as a friend of the court in the matter in which the Constitutional Court issued an unanimous judgement that there will be no time limit in which to lay a charge of any sexual offence in South Africa.

Website: http://www.lhr.org.za/about-lawyers-human-rights

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LawyersForHumanRights/

Twitter: @LHR_SA

  1. Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT)

SWEAT is at the cutting edge of sex worker advocacy, human rights defence and mobilisation in Africa. SWEAT has determined the discussions on a legal adult sex work industry where sex work is acknowledged as work, and where sex workers have a strong voice, which informs and influences wider social debates. SWEAT has campaigned for the decriminalisation of sex work in South Africa through Sisonke, a movement that was formed by sex workers because they were tired of being harassed by police, suffering unsafe and unfair working conditions, abuse from clients, pimps and community members, experiencing problems with access to services like social, health and police and problems with access to banks or opening accounts.

Website: http://www.sweat.org.za/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/SWEATSA/

Twitter: @SweatTweets

  1. People Opposed to Women Abuse (POWA)

POWA is a feminist women’s rights organisation that provides both services and engages in advocacy in order to ensure the realisation of women rights and thereby improve women’s quality of life. It provides services to survivors of sexual violence and its advocacy uses a feminist and intersectional analysis as the basis for action. Services include frontline services in shelters, counselling, legal advice, media outreach, training and development, and feminist research and knowledge production.

Website: https://www.powa.co.za/POWA/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/powa.berea/

Twitter: @POWA_SA 

  1. Mosaic Women’s Healing and Support Centre

Established in 1993 in response to high levels of violence against women, Mosaic is an organisation that trains women and men from within the communities they serve to offer services aimed at addressing violence against women, domestic violence, sexual violence and improving women’s sexual and reproductive health. It is a community based NGO that focuses on preventing and reducing abuse and domestic violence, particularly for women and youth living in disadvantaged communities. Mosaic has been a strong supporter of the Stop Gender Based Violence Campaign to propose a National Strategic Plan to end gender based violence in South Africa.

Website: http://www.mosaic.org.za

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Mosaicngo

Twitter: @mosaicwcape

  1. Sonke Gender Justice

Sonke’s vision is to have a world in which men, women and children can enjoy equitable, healthy and happy relationships, that contribute to the developments of just and democratic societies. Sonke Gender Justice works across Africa to strengthen government, vicil society and citizen capacity to promote gender equality, prevent domestic and sexual violence and reduce the spread and impact of HIV and Aids.

Website: https://genderjustice.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SonkeGenderJusticeNGO/

Twitter: @SonkeTogether

  1. Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC)

The Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to end violence against women (Tshwaranang) is a registered NGO that was established in 1996, to promote and defend the rights of women to be free from violence and to have access to quality services. Their work is primarily focused on improving government accountability on policy and legislative reform, the delivery of services and increasing awareness about and access to justice for women and girls affected by violence.

Website: https://www.tlac.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TshwaranangLegalAdvocacyCentre

Twitter: @endGBV 

  1. Gender Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU) UCT

The GHJRU is a research unit of UCT that unites scholars, practitioners and NGO’s to develop and implement innovative, interdisciplinary research and social interventions on social exclusion and violence in a range of social, political and institutional settings. They focus on foundational areas of gender-based violence, sexual and gender minority rights and reproductive rights. They aim to provide well-informed, evidence-based advocacy positions to support legal and policy reform in South Africa and similarly situated countries

Website: http://www.ghjru.uct.ac.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ghjruUCT/

  1. Centre for Law and Society (UCT)

The Centre for Law and Society (CLS) is an innovative multi-disciplinary centre in the Faculty of Law where scholars, students and activists engage critically with, and work together on, the challenges facing contemporary South Africa at the intersection of law and society. Through research, critical teaching and robust exchange, CLS aims to shape a new generation of scholars, practitioners and activists, and to build the field of relevant legal theory, scholarship and practice, that is responsive to our context in South Africa and Africa. The CLS Hub provides a supportive space for explosive debates around critical social-legal issues and is a space where students, scholars and activists can creatively engage in critical thinking and writing.

Website: http://www.cls.uct.ac.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClsUct/

Twitter: @ClsUct

  1. Child Witness Institute (UPE)

The Child Witness Institute trains and sensitises stakeholders in the legal system on how to work appropriately and sensitively with child witnesses in court. They identify and address underlying patterns of abuse, violence and victimisation that lead to cases involving children. Through engagement with youth and community groups, intervening where necessary, they educate, inform and help break pervasive cycles of violence, abuse and exploitation. The institute works across borders and nationalities to address ignorance, indifference and insensitivity and thereby create lasting, meaningful change.

Website: http://childwitness.net/contact/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheCWInstitute/

Twitter: @TheCWInstitute 

  1. Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS)

The Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) is a civil society organisation based at the School of Law at the University of the Witwatersrand. CALS is also a law clinic, registered with the Law Society of the Northern Provinces, that connects the worlds of academia and social justice. CALS practices human rights law and social justice work with a specific focus on five intersecting programmatic areas, namely Basic Services, Business and Human Rights, Environmental Justice, Gender, and the Rule of Law. It does so in a way which makes creative use of the tools of research, advocacy and litigation, adopts an intersectional and gendered understanding of human rights violations, incorporates other disciplines (such as film and social work) and is conscious of the transformation agenda in South Africa.

Website: https://www.wits.ac.za/cals/

Twitter: @CALS_ZA

  1. The Dullah Omar Institute (UWC)

The Dullah Omar Institute started its work under the name Community Law Centre, an organisation born out of the struggle against Apartheid. The Community Law Centre opened its doors in 1990 under the leadership Dullah Omar and played a major role in the negotiations towards a democratic South Africa. The DOI is a major contributor to policy formulation for South Africa’s constitutional order, and increasingly, elsewhere on the continent. Its Women and Democracy Initiative promotes citizenship and participation and supports other NGOs in making submissions to Parliament with strong focus on inputs to law and policy relating to gender empowerment.

Website: https://dullahomarinstitute.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CommunityLawCentre/

Twitter: @UWC_DOI 

  1. Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project (GRIP)

GRIP provides confidential, sensitive and comprehensive trauma counselling along with practical assistance and support to help rape, sexual assault and domestic violence survivors successfully obtain necessary health services, prosecute offenders and recover physically, emotionally and mentally with immediate, on-location services in police stations and hospitals, and via extensive in-home post-assault services. It operates in 26 Care Rooms which are situated in 13 police stations, eight hospitals and five courts and maintains constant contact with survivors through home visits and individual one-on-one counselling.

Facebook: https://bit.ly/2PR1U98

Twitter: @info_grip 

  1. LifeLine and ChildLine South Africa

ChildLine in a Non- profit organisation that works to protect children from all forms of violence and create a culture of children’s rights in South Africa. They offer online counselling and telephone counselling for children up to the age of 18, and a toll-free crisis telephone counselling line that deals with hundreds of queries from children and adults. They offer training programmes and recruit volunteers to operate a national helpline line that provides an invaluable educative service, receives calls relating to issues and problems including abuse (physical, emotional, sexual), sexual problems and pregnancy, learning and educational problems, harassment and many more. The ChildLine Toll free number receives approximately 60000 to 90000 calls per month across all the provinces.

Website: http://www.childlinesa.org.za/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ChildlineSA

Twitter: @ChildlineSA

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What is Rape?

Rape is a violent crime in which a person uses sexual acts to intentionally harm and hurt another. We cannot talk about rape in polite terms or hide the truth about it. Rape is an abuse of power and an abuse of sex.

It is important for rape survivors to understand the exact meaning of the laws on rape for two reasons:

  • Firstly, a rape survivor needs enough information about the law to know whether her case has a chance of succeeding or not.
  • Secondly, the survivor needs to know exactly what is expected of them to prove that the rapist is guilty in the eyes of the law.

The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences and Related Matters) Amendment Act (Act 32 of 2007) has been in effect in South Africa since 16 December 2007. This law states that it is a crime to intentionally commit a sexual act against another person without that person’s consent.

The formal definition of rape currently [2018] used in our legal system is:

Any person who unlawfully and intentionally commits an act of sexual penetration with a complainant, without the consent of the complainant, is guilty of the offence of rape.

From the point of view of the law as well as from a medical perspective there are certain things that are necessary to do in the moments right after a rape. These moments are also important for the rape survivor’s emotional recovery from rape.

What to do if someone has raped you?

  • There are medicines you need to take (to prevent pregnancy or infection) that only work within 72 hours (three days) after the event.
  • Getting support immediately after the rape from someone that can help you, also helps you to recover emotionally. This support could be from someone close to you or from a professional service provider such as a nurse, a doctor or a trained rape counsellor.
  • If you are forced to make tough decisions in a hurry, while you are feeling shocked and abused, it helps to get good information, practical help and strong emotional support.
  • Deciding what to do about what has just happened to you as a victim of a violent crime can be extremely difficult if you are in shock or feeling bad.

The sooner you can get to a police station or a hospital the better, because:

  • the criminal has less chance to escape.
  • you may be able to remember more about the rape right afterwards.

there is physical or DNA evidence on your body that links the rapist to the crime, and this evidence fades within 72 hours (three days) after the event.

There is no time limit on reporting rape or laying a charge. However, the sooner this is done, the easier it is to get the medical and physical evidence needed for the court case. Delays in reporting may not be used against you in court, but forensic evidence (physical evidence such as semen and hairs left on your body after the rape) will be lost after 72 hours.

  1. Go to the police station nearest to where the rape took place. No survivor may be turned away simply because the rape took place a long time ago or was committed in the station area of another police station.
  2. A brief statement should be taken first and translated into your own language. If you are not in a state to have a full statement taken, the investigating officer will make an appointment with you for the following day or within 36 hours.
  3. You can ask to be seen in a private room at the police station and to give your statement to a female police officer.
  4. You have a right to be treated with respect for your dignity and to complain if this does not happen.

Straight after the rape

  1. Go to a safe place.

Do this as soon as possible.

  1. Tell the first person you see and trust about what has happened.

The first person you tell about the rape will sometimes be asked to go to court to support your story – this person is called the first contact witness. If this person is a stranger, write down his or her name, telephone number and address. This is important if you decide to report the rape, as the police will need to find that person and talk them.

  1. Go straight to a hospital or to a doctor to get the necessary medication.
  2. Get HIV treatment.

If you are not HIV positive and you fear that you have been exposed to HIV, you need to receive medical attention within 72 hours (three days) of exposure. Some studies show that you are better protected if you receive medicine to prevent HIV infection within 6-8 hours of exposure, so the sooner you receive medical attention, the better. If you are HIV negative, the hospital or clinic will give you antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to prevent HIV infection. The ARVs form part of a group of medicines called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP consists of ARVs, emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy and antibiotics to prevent certain other diseases.

  1. You can still receive medical treatment even if you decide not to lay a charge.

Go to your doctor, or a government hospital or clinic. Say that you have been raped and that you want treatment. The doctor or nurse will ask your permission to do an HIV test. This is to find out whether you are HIV negative so that you can receive ARVs. It is very important that you take the entire 28-day course of medication. The medication might lead to unpleasant side effects, but don’t stop taking the medication. You should also think about having another HIV test after three months, as the HI virus can take three months to show up. The rapist might also have given you a sexually transmitted infection (STI). The doctor should put you on a course of antibiotics to prevent this. If you have any discomfort, itching or discharge after the rape, return to your doctor and ask for antibiotics to treat an STI.

  1. Ask for emergency contraception (the morning-after pill) to stop you from getting pregnant if you are not using any prevention methods. This medicine has to be taken within 72 hours (three days) of the rape. The pills might make you feel sick, and you will start to bleed. This bleeding is like a normal period.
  2. If you do fall pregnant from the rape you can choose to have an abortion, or termination of pregnancy (TOP), from a government hospital or clinic. District clinics will perform abortions up to 12 weeks into the pregnancy. Major hospitals and some private clinics will perform abortions up to 20 weeks.
  3. If you need time off work or school to recover or to deal with trauma and side effects from medication, ask your doctor to give you a medical certificate.
  4. Decide whether you want to report the rape to the police. You may not feel like making this decision so soon after being raped.

The police can be called to the hospital if you want to report what has happened to you. The police can also take you to a hospital if you are hurt, or they can call for an ambulance.

Even if you are not sure whether you wish to lay a charge, it is better to have the forensic examination done, so that the doctor can gather physical evidence for if you decide to lay a charge later. Physical evidence such as the rapist’s blood, semen or hair will be lost if you don’t have the forensic examination done as soon as possible after the rape. You will be examined by a clinical forensic practitioner, which is a nurse or doctor who has been specially trained to gather evidence of crimes and offer medical treatment. The examination may take a long time, and you might want someone you trust to be with you.

Talk to us

Need to talk? Call our 24-7 Helpline if you are a survivor of sexual violence or a loved one looking for ways to support a survivor.

HELPLINE: 021 447 9762

Download this information booklet: What is Rape?

Find out more on our website: https://rapecrisis.org.za/

Important Terms:

HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus –  a virus that attacks the immune system and causes AIDS.

AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – a disease that weakens the body’s immune system.

HIV negative: not having the virus that causes AIDS.

HIV positive: having the virus that causes AIDS.

Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs): medication that helps prevent HIV infection after you’ve been exposed to the virus.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP): a group of medications given to rape survivors, including ARVs to prevent HIV infection, emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy, and antibiotics.

Emergency contraception: the ‘morning-after pill’ –  a pill taken within 72 hours (three days) of sexual intercourse, to prevent pregnancy.

STI: Sexually Transmitted Infection also known as an STD, Sexually Transmitted Disease.

TOP: Termination of pregnancy.

How to talk about rape

 

Rape and violence against women is endemic in South Africa, but it is a thorny subject matter. How do we bring this discussion to the foreground in South Africa, what are the words we use and where do we start? 

Words matter. They matter because they are carriers not only of information, but carriers of feelings. When they land, words have the power to heal, revive, restore and educate but they also have an enormous power to debilitate and to trigger. But words are our thoughts, and without them we cannot speak, so how do we use them when we speak about rape? A violent scourge plaguing South Africa, encompassing noun, is not the heart of the very word [rape], triggering in itself?

One of the reasons mainstream media has come under scrutiny for reporting on sexual assaults against women is because they find themselves completely at a loss for sensitivity when it comes to reportage. So what do they do? They stop reporting on the incidents instead. Here’s what happens when issues stop appearing in the news – or better, appear less: Society stops talking about it, the discussion disappears into the shadow, voices are silenced, and communities suffer alone, by themselves.

Kathleen Dey, Director of Rape Crisis South Africa says, “Stories about rape form only about 1% of all media coverage. We need editorial commitment to increasing the volume of reporting without creating moral or compassion fatigue, so we need to be creative about how we produce content and messaging”.

Media needs to be at the forefront of taking on the responsibility about influencing society to have these conversations. Societies should be faced with stories that reflect sexual assault in a truthful, careful manner because a lot of culture in society is shaped by storytellers and one of the ways rape culture can cease to exist is by creating a space that is safer for women, girls and all survivors of sexual assault and one that is more threatening to rapists. But if we don’t talk about it, no one gets that message.

Dey also highlights the importance of engaging with communities, “We need to strengthen communication with communities affected by rape using multiple languages and platforms. We need to tell real stories about the lived experience of rape survivors being conscious of whose stories are told, who tells them, where they are told and how. We need these voices and messages to be amplified”.

 

“Journalists and other communications professionals need gender and diversity training so that they can speak to these issues in a more powerful way. Feminism has so much to teach us about how we tell stories and we need to have more discussion and debate at various levels on what this could be,” she continues.

The media is a mirror to society and society is a mirror to the media. So goes the old adage, but there is no time better than the present to take that very mirror and hold it up to those in government and make them face the scourge as well. The South African government has had its own anti-sexual-violence messaging tainted for too long by its very members committing a couple of heinous crimes which are not always adequately addressed. When the government fails, it also fails its people.

Dey says, “Government is a key audience. We need political will for addressing sexual violence now more than ever. Media can get to government… We need to challenge rape culture and explore ways of building a culture of respect for consent whatever context we are aiming to change through our engagements. We need to actively support women’s leadership”. That last portion begs special mention: Support women’s leadership.

Newsrooms, government offices and even police stations are rife with the imbalances of powers. Misogyny will always favour the powerful and silence the ones who have been sexually abused, sexually assaulted, raped etc. Up until the 1970s in some countries, women weren’t even allowed to testify in their own rape cases – she was considered not to be a reliable source of her own rape. Biblically, rape is referred to as a theft of property, not of the woman but of the father or husband. The men who “own” the women, and now, centuries after the great book we find ourselves in a position where far too few stories of women by women exist in order to bring about any real change.

Dey says, “There are few messages challenging patriarchy and challenging myths and stereotypes about rape.”

According to the Director of Rape Crisis, the media only report on about 1% of sexual assault stories. “There is a lack of a comprehensive messaging strategy on rape and sexual violence with key messages at the heart of each piece coming through without any degree of clarity.”

But while we work on our words, let’s make one thing clear: The discussion on rape needs to be made institutional in a way that brings about real change.

Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of ‘Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa’. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @sage_of_absurd

Progress at the Khayelitsha court

The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign has been working for almost two years advocating for the establishment of a sexual offences court at the Khayelitsha court. While the advocacy and engagement process is never easy we feel we have made some steady progress in working towards this goal. As we plan our next protest to advocate for sexual offences courts during the 16 Days of Activism campaign we thought we would reflect on just how far we have come since we started this project in 2016.

Early on in the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign we, together with community members, expressed support for the establishment of a sexual offences court in Khayelitsha. During the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence in December 2016 we gathered as a community in front of the Khayelitsha court to demand a dedicated sexual offences court be built. At the end of our protest during 16 Days of Activism, we handed over a memorandum to this effect to the Department of Justice.

The current court supporter office is a container, which is located outside of the Khayelitsha court fence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2017 the situation at the Khayelitsha court did not change and we realised that we were going to have to gather there again to voice our demands for a sexual offences court. During the course of 2017 we lobbied the Deputy Minister of Justice to accept our memorandum at our gathering in December 2017. Upon receipt of the memorandum, the Deputy Minister expressed his intention to seriously explore the possibilities of establishing a sexual offences court in Khayelitsha.

As a result of our demands the Deputy Minister asked that the Gender Health and Justice Research Unit (GHJRU) include Khayelitsha in their study on improved case outcomes in sexual offences. We offered to assist with this, specifically focusing on the fieldwork at Khayelitsha taking place in January 2018. We also placed the issue of the office space currently occupied by our court supporter on the forefront of the agenda as something that should be addressed.

During our fieldwork, we reviewed more than 100 sexual offence court dockets. The outcome of this will be covered in a report that will be released by the GHJRU.

The Deputy Minister of Justice visited the Khayelitsha court again during February 2018, with the specific aim of improving the infrastructure of the courtroom and surrounding facilities that are used to hear sexual offences cases.

We enlisted the help of architect Tiffany Melles, from Michelle Sandilands Architects, who agreed to work pro-bono to design the improvements for the court. We then drafted a report and sent it to the Regional Head of the Department of Justice setting out the background, problem statement and recommendations. Our advocacy coordinator, court support coordinator, architect, Khayelitsha Court Manager, Area Court Manager and Senior Public Prosecutor at Khayelitsha met on 11 May 2018, so that we could discuss the plans and draft the report with them. They were very enthusiastic about the proposed changes. Following this meeting the plans and report were sent to the Regional Head and Deputy Minister.

This is the courtyard of the Khayelitsha court where we propose two new units for the sexual offences court supporters should be placed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we await the plans to be approved and implemented, the Department of Justice has prepared an interim office for the court supporter by partitioning a section of the intermediary room. This was done for safety purposes as the previous court supporter room was outside of the court security fence.

Our court support coordinator and advocacy coordinator have met with the Regional Head (Hishaam Mohamed) and two of his staff who work on court facilities. We convinced them that the mobile units together with the minor capital works proposed in our report and plans will, in fact, provide them with a long-term solution. Once the Regional Head and his team understood the logic of the plans, they seemed enthusiastic about our plans for the court. We want this court model to be the pilot for the country of the use of mobile units. As we stand now the Department is in the process of getting quotes for the ‘building’ works and we are in the process of getting quotes for the mobile units.

We are so pleased to have had such positive engagement with stakeholders as this project has progressed and look forward to working with the Department of Justice to make our vision for this court a reality.

Download our report: Report on Recommended Changes to Khayelitsha Court Supporter Office. 

Take a look at our proposed plans for the Khayelitsha sexual offences court here: RSJC Khayelitsha Sexual Offences Court plans.