Journalist. Writer. Researcher. Editor.

My activism is

Again, another comment I made on @ivovegter’s column that I wanted to cross post here. This is a discussion about my activism and the shape it takes. I often get snipes from people that I only do “online activism” or “slacktivism” – a completely baseless claim. I think it’s premised on the fact that I am a very outspoken netizen and always online, but it’s fallacious none the less. So here’s what my activism is.

Could you please show me the empirical data you have to support such a claim, Ivo? That engaging in arguments against rape metaphors somehow prevents us from being ‘legitimate’ gender activists? That we enable misogyny against ourselves and other women?

I don’t appreciate the suggestion that I or any other gender activist who sparred with you are now barred from helping survivors. The majority of our work is not done on platforms such as this – this is merely a space for philosophical debate and discussion. If there is any group of people in this world that I try my damnedest to respect and help, often at my own expense, it’s rape survivors.

The majority of my work with rape survivors consists of tracking down legal advice, counselling, and even arguing with faulty police about services for rape survivors. It includes driving to a survivor’s home in the middle of the night because she had a horrific flashback. It includes driving to a hospital at 3am to assist and support a family as their 6 year old son gets a rape kit done on him. It includes sitting in court with a father of two children rape survivors and arguing with the rapist’s supporters to make space for the father to sit in court. It involves supporting a father when his child’s rapist is let go for lack of evidence. It involves watching a father burst into tears when it finally dawns on him that we would never get justice for his children. It involves sitting in meetings with people who have protected rapists, remaining calm when they call child survivors “little liars”, and still someone finding a way to engage with said person for the future of those children. It includes fighting with the provincial spokesperson of health over legally mandated services for survivors, such as HIV-preventative drugs, and why healthcare workers cannot deny survivors care. It includes hours and hours of research into rape sentencing patterns, case law, studies and rape prevention strategies. It includes fighting for a brutally gang raped and murdered woman’s right to at least a decent funeral, and then sourcing the money to pay for it. It includes fighting against rape myths every day. Myths that say some survivors’ rapes weren’t ‘real’ rape, because they didn’t have visible scars. My activism includes telling the local Directorate of Public Prosecutions summarily to go to hell when they threatened to charge activists with obstructing justice, while simultaneously arguing that the rapes of two children – who were hospitalised for at least two weeks each – “was not brutal”.

It includes counselling, advising, empowering and even loving countless survivors, and trying my best to help them find new life after the horrors they experienced. All the while trying to figure how the hell to do that myself.

My activism includes co-organising the biggest anti-rape protest in the country for two years, and trying my best not to burst into tears while witnessing all the pain and suffering of the over 50 rape survivors who bare their souls that day.

My activism includes my own near nervous breakdown after years of injustice, of watching survivors and their families crumble, and knowing there is absolutely nothing I can do to help them, because the system is so broken.

My activism has been learning the meaning of strength, resolve and true happiness from every survivor who, despite the odds, manages to make it.

This debate, as awful as it has been, has done absolutely nothing to hinder my ability to help rape survivors, and I will not deter me either. I am disappointed that you would damn all the gender activists involved for something that is in essence only the tip of a monstrous iceberg. But in the end, that is your prerogative. I will continue attempting to publicly engage on this subject, while hoping it is not as fraught in future.


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