In the past months, there have been at least 100 cases of reported sexual assault on young girls in South Africa. 87 of those cases, were reported in a primary school in Gauteng with the perpetrator being one person. Yes! One person raped 87 young girls!
Every morning, one wakes up to hear heart-breaking and saddening stories about girls being raped. What’s worse, is the fact that this heinous act is committed by their own peers, or their own teachers, their brothers, neighbours or boyfriends, and even those responsible for their protection. The problem of rape and sexual assault in South Africa is so broad and endemic that it will take a great deal more than any one public awareness campaign to solve it. Neither will it come to an end when teachers, parents and family members don’t protect the children first.
Well, I suppose if you unpack this whole campaign, one has to understand, or rather question why, rape occurs in the first instance, and then to ask why do we keep quiet about it once it has happened. We have to ask ourselves, why is this topic taboo? Why do we not bring together our young boys and girls to talk about their sexual reproductive health? Why are we so scared? I took time to think more about this topic and I realized that we probably understand rape differently. Distorted as this view is, perhaps to our perpetrators its affection, power, control. They don’t know how to partake in the act of love, and to us as women, the victims, we probably assume that is love because we were never taught about intimacy and how liberating it is supposed to be.
Rape is traumatic. One never forgets. It’s an event that can lead to suicide, depression, withdrawal, intimacy and trust issues especially in relationships. A rape victim lives with this stigma and shame, for the rest of their lives. Not only do they have constant nightmares about the event, but they have to live with the fear of being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, or carry the consequences of a pregnancy as a result. It is rather easy to say that women are not coming up and saying “I have been violated’’. But it is not easy. Many women are scared, they fear that they are the cause of the rape. Our justice system is slow to act, perpetrators walk free and continue to commit these heinous crimes. The victims are imprisoned in their experiences that they have to relive each and every moment of every day.
On October 11, the world celebrated the International Day of the Girl Child and this got me thinking that if we only set aside one day to celebrate the girl child, what are we doing for the rest of the year? What are we doing to ensure that our girls and women are safe and protected? What are we doing wrong? Why are our children, sisters, mothers, aunts and grandmothers being abused in the hands of those who are supposed to protect them? How many die at the hands of their perpetrators?
It’s time we take our power back. It’s time we protect ourselves against such inhumane acts. So how do we start? We teach each other, we open up, we don’t judge, we accept each other and we fight for each other. We protect each other. Most importantly, we need to reach out to this upcoming generation of young men and teach them about what rape does to women and those around them. Let us work to turn something negative, hurtful and life-wrenching, to a positive thing that encourages women to stand up and do something.
Further information on rape statistics in South Africa can be found on the link below: https://africacheck.org/factsheets/guide-rape-statistics-in-south-africa/
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