Time to educate on rape

2013-12-06 00:00

RAPE statistics in the country show that 10 women are raped every week. This is horrific. When one considers that the rapists have widened their net to include grandmothers as old as 60 and babies as young as six weeks old, one realises that we are now living with an unstoppable horror.

We are a country with rapists who are as young as 17, which proves that we are a sick society.

Our society has so far failed to educate itself about rape and its effects on the victims, and the general psyche of the nation. This has become a loophole that rapists exploit.

The communities only rise up to show their anger when a gruesome rape has occurred. It is only then that we see people waving placards and demonstrating against the release of the alleged perpetrator on bail.

This anger, however, never lasts, as another act, more gruesome than the previous one, occurs and the cycle of weeping, mourning, praying and toyi-toying repeats itself.

This phenomenon will not help us to stop the scourge of rape in the country. As a society, we need education on what rape is: we need to learn about the physical brutality that a rape victim suffers during the act, the emotional trauma it leaves, not just with the victim, but with everybody who shares that pain. We need to be taught how to spot a potential rapist. We need to learn to recognise the signs (are the signs not there?).

We need to learn about what satisfaction the rapists get from their sordid acts (because I do not believe that a grown man can get sexual pleasure from molesting a six-week-old baby), and all the other mental and social causes of rape.

The question is, how do we acquire this insight so that we can gain power over this pandemic?

What we generally get from education campaigns against rape are warnings to children against interacting with strangers.

The problem, however, has grown beyond that — it is in our homes, neighbourhoods, schools and playgrounds. Surely there are experts who can come up with studies that will teach society about rape and the mentality of perpetrators, thus equipping parents and communities with knowledge and skills on how to protect those who are potential targets?

The government should also encourage parents to be vigilant by dealing decisively with those who fail in their parenting duties, and it should initiate community advocacy groups. A huge leadership initiative is needed desperately.

The schools have a big role to play here.

Young people should be empowered to lead the campaign against all forms of abuse as they are the trendsetters in society. Their education would benefit society, since the youth are very influential.

Young men must learn about the horror of rape and the everlasting stigma on the perpetrators of this violence against women and children.

The only way to achieve this is to be brutally honest and open about what actually happens to the victim during the violent act of rape, the pain a person goes through at the time.

Our knee-jerk reaction may be utter disgust at the insensitive and barbaric way of handling the subject, as has been the case with the recent matric drama exam paper.

But until young people understand exactly how rape destroys both the victim and the perpetrator, we will not win this war.

We need to stand together morally as a country when it comes to handling matters of sex, sexual violence and rape. If an exam question on sexual violence can trigger a national outcry against the examiners, while cartoons using rape as a theme for political satire published in public newspapers are hailed as brilliant and defended under freedom of speech laws, we are hypocrites.

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