The horror of rape

2013-11-22 00:00

RAPE is a selfish, inhumane and heartless act committed by men who want to satisfy their immediate needs without having to face the effect it has on their victims.

This year, I learnt first-hand how rape affects a person — not just the physical effects, but also the way it damages the spirit.

My friend has gone from being a bubbly and full-of-life individual, to having to redefine her view of the world.

Behind every statistic and the scary figures of SA’s extremely high levels of rape and sexual assault that I have reported on as a journalist, are people who we love and know. Hidden by these numbers are our friends, mothers, sisters, daughters and wives.

I can recall vividly the night she called to tell me what had happened. It was something I will never forget; the night I wish had never happened.

It was the night I was awakened by a call from a distraught, weeping friend.

“I’m in hospital. I’ve been raped,” she wept.

I broke down, not knowing what to say. I drowned myself in tears as my friend sobbed bitterly.

It cut and hurt so deeply.

A friend and a person I had grown to love had just been a victim of rape. Fear gripped me. It could have been me.

Last week, we read in horror that another woman, a young doctor from Pietermaritzburg, became a victim of rape while jogging and the whole community was outraged — as we should be.

This country’s rape statistics break my heart. I shudder to read that one in three South African women will be raped in her lifetime. In SA, statistics show that a person is sexually assaulted or raped as often as every eight minutes.

My friend recalls begging this man to leave her alone and for him to take her bag and cellphone but the rapist wasn’t interested. He just wanted sex, he told her.

I watch my friend in anguish as she tries to rebuild her life and come to terms with the terrible ordeal, while going through the various health check-ups.

Her whole life turned upside down in just a few minutes of calamity.

According to Rape Crisis statistics, 64 514 sexual offences were reported to the police in South Africa last year, but not all rape cases get reported. According to Rape Crisis, only one in nine, or one in 25, rapes actually gets reported to the police.

One wonders what really needs to be done to stop this catastrophe called rape.

In response to the rape of the doctor, women have been advised not to jog alone because it makes us vulnerable.

Both my friend and the PMB doctor have one thing in common. They were alone at the time they were raped and this made them vulnerable. It’s unacceptable.

Of course, we should take precautions all the time, but I believe that a strong message needs to be sent to men that women aren’t objects, but human beings who feel pain.

Young boys who have grown up watching their dads abusing their moms need to be taught otherwise.

I believe that we need to be speaking to our boys while they are still young; we need to tell them that they don’t have to inflict pain or use force to prove their manhood.

The SA National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and Department of Justice and Constitutional Development say there is a 65, 1% conviction rate in sexual offences in the country.

In my book, this percentage of rapists who are locked up is quite low, even though the authorities may brag about it. What about those rapists who do not get caught?

It’s been months since my friend was violated, but he is yet to be caught. It gives me the chills that he is still roaming the streets. I can’t help wonder how many women or girls he has forced himself on.

On Monday, the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign starts. This is when the government and non-governmental organisations will be speaking on radio and dishing out pamphlets, trying to convince men not to harm us, and coming up with ways of how to fight this crisis that faces every women and girl child.

Someone said: “Imagine if, for 16 days, there was no rape, no child abuse.”

But I say, imagine a country where there is no rape, whether you’re walking or jogging alone or in a group.

Rape can make one feel defeated. But I believe my friend will make it through this dark period because she refuses to be defined by that terrible experience. She, like other rape victims, will show rapists that their barbarism will not overcome or take away her dignity and self-respect.

• Gabisile Ngcobo is a reporter at The Witness.

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