Journalist. Writer. Researcher. Editor.

Statement: Silent Protest

There are different reports for the numbers of rape survivors who don’t report their rape for fear of reprisal. Some say 1 in 4, 1 in 9, 1 in 20. The statistic most frequently used by the South African Police Services to calculate the number of survivors who report their assault (in relation to those that don’t) is 1 in 35.

Rape limits human potential; it silences people, makes them feel less than human, keeps them afraid and creates isolation. The Silent Protest affirms our solidarity with the women silenced by rape and sexual violence. Freedom of speech is denied to victims of sexual violence, and despite the laws and policies that have been put in place, patriarchal attitudes and misogynist practices render laws and policies meaningless in the lives of many survivors.

According to the South African Police Services national crime reports over 205 000 sexual offences were reported, of which just over 165 500 were rape, were reported between 2008 and 2011. This means that anywhere between 800 000 and 6-million South Africans were rapes in the last three years.

And of those 165 500 rapes reported, less than 4 percent will result in a conviction.

These convictions are hard won by rape survivors, as they face secondary victimisation and trauma as almost every step of the legal process. It starts with police members that question whether survivors were “really raped”, or had “provoked” the attack. It continues with insensitive and inept district surgeons and nurses that treat a survivor’s body like a crime scene, with little respect for a survivor’s dignity or humanity. After going through this trauma, a survivor must wait for police members to investigate her crime, and a docket is then submitted to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). The NPA will decide whether a case is “worth” prosecuting or not. If the NPA decides to pursue the case, the survivor will have to face not only her rapist in court, but also a judicial system firmly embedded in patriarchy and rape culture.

The disregard for rights of South African women and survivors of sexual abuse by the SAPS and Department of Justice was clearly exemplified by recent reports in the South African press.

On 15 March the Sowetan wrote that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela ordered the Department of Justice to apologise to a rape survivor for delaying her rape case in court for 9 years.  The department finally apologised to the survivor for her drawn out ordeal 15 months after the order, but refused to compensate the survivor for her trauma. This is despite an order to do so by Madonsela. On 17 March the Weekend Post carried a front page story about a business woman who was gang raped in Port Elizabeth in early 2011. She was left for dead in the dunes, and was only discovered by a jogger some days later. The survivor told the Weekend Post that the first time she received a call from the police about her case was on 29 February 2012 – more than a year after she her brutal rape

The Silent Protest stands in solidarity with these, and all, rape survivors.

Michelle Solomon is the media liaison for the Silent Protest.

If you are a survivor in need of support, please contact Solomon at michelleHsolomon@gmail.com. If you are ever sexually assaulted please contact the Health Care Centre or Counselling Centre staff urgently at 046 603 7070
or 082 803 0177 (after hours).

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