Research shows that at least one in every six American women has been a victim of a sexual offence, or an attempt thereof, in her lifetime. In South Africa, on the other hand, it is said that about 40% of all South African women have been victims of rape. Shocking? And these statistics are only based on the cases that were reported. A survey showed that about 91% of all rape cases go unreported. In spite of the extensive research done and published, the various organisations established and all other efforts to fight the demon that is rape, we still have an approximated 2000 girls between the ages of 15 and 22 being infected with HIV/AIDS on a daily basis, most of whom are infected through rape. The question people ask is, “If she was really raped, why did she not report it?”
As simple as it may seem to report a rape case, it becomes difficult because society still dresses up rape as a reaction instead of a disorder. The issue is not that she did not report the case; it is rather that she was raped. Therefore, the process of reporting the case should not be punitive to the victim by prolonging the traumatic situation she has been forced into. To solve the rape problem, the perpetrator must be addressed, not the victim. Hence, asking the “if” question is in itself a problem, as it suggests that she could possibly be lying – which, to be fair, is not impossible. However, rape is a real issue that needs urgent attention.
Women and children are being raped in their homes, schools and workplaces. Yet the first thing we are conditioned to ask is, “what was she wearing” or “why was she alone with him in the first place?” Why do we continue to teach women, the victims, how not to get raped instead of teaching men how not to rape? Is this not the insanity of repeating the same process and expecting different results that Eistein spoke of?
Take the currently trending Xola and Kamvelihle case for instance, what do we as young leaders do when one of our own suffers the same injustice that we claim to be fighting against? Is it enough to share her pictures with the hashtag #MenAreTrash or leave a “We Believe You” comment on her status? This cannot be all that is done. Before we know it, everyone will forget and move on with their lives until another case comes up and a new hashtag is created. This passive activism is not taking us anywhere. We must educate our young men from as early as preschool on how to treat women. The same way little girls are taught to cover up, little boys must be taught to respect women. Pop culture will not raise the next generation of men not to rape, we must. Organizations such as Love Life, ACTIVATE!, Lead SA, Citizen ZA, etc. can only do so much! So make your “I believe you” count by going to speak at the local high school about gender based violence, run campaigns in your community, run a talk-shop with the young men in your neighbourhood, do something!
We must actively be about the things we talk about. One does not have to be a feminist to realise that gender based violence has got to stop. The stranger that little girls were warned about is suddenly not as scary as the man that claims to love her. This shows that there is a great need for young people to be taught how to relate to each other when issues of community development are concerned. It becomes futile to raise up men who seem to be leaders in the workplace, in politics and in the community but fail to be decent human beings at home. If for no other reason, it is futile because it means that they will breed a generation of men who will have the same struggles that we see today.
There has been a lot written on the topic of rape, so much so that we have begun to become apathetic. However, this is ironic because rape happens even in the most intellectual of spaces. Instead of telling you what you already know, I am rather going to call you to action. Be the difference in the spaces you find yourself in. Bring up the conversation in your classrooms, at work, in the bus that you take every day, in your friendship circles… educate the men around you and compel them to educate others. The only way that we are to fight rape culture is to stand up as a collective and say enough is enough.
My “I believe you” to the rape victims around me led me to write this article so that your “I believe you” can become an action that will aid you never to have to “believe” anyone again. Change begins when you and I take a stand and stop being passive activists!
Photo credit: Wonderslist