'Stop rape,' we say, but do rapists hear?

2013-03-04 08:13

Chris Moerdyk

Isn't it great that South Africa is united in shouting "Stop Rape"?

Everyone from the president to the mass media; just about every representative body in society, labour unions, churches, children and communities - the clamour against rape has been loud and clear, militant and angry.

But, are the rapists listening? Can rapists hear?

Or, are they like the people who cause mayhem on our roads by driving drunk and recklessly in spite of massive media campaigns, threats of zero tolerance by the authorities and being named and shamed in newspapers?

It is wonderful to see so many people and organisations coming together to make their voices heard about the scourge of rape in this country.

But, to be honest, while there is a huge amount of noise being made about the problem, I am not seeing any sort of solution coming out of it all.

Absurd voices

I get the feeling that we are resorting to a habit that we as a nation have developed recently and that is to complain to each other about something, hear government continually "addressing issues," holding incessant talkshops, making lots of speeches, but not actually rolling their sleeves up and getting something done.

What worries me is that the louder our voices get the more absurd they become and eventually everyone gets tired of hearing about it - as they have done with the HIV/Aids pandemic - and it all just disappears from the front pages of newspapers and political agendas. We all get used to it and live with it.

An example of this absurdity was the knee-jerk, unthinking and singularly stupid remarks made by one of our Cabinet ministers on Australian television about the negative effects of Calvinist teaching on young Afrikaans men.

We have also heard talk of young white guys playing rugby and that this somehow translates into becoming bullies and women abusers. 

Frankly, I am appalled at seeing a serious social problem being turned into a racist political game of one-upmanship.

What I want to see is somebody doing practical research into the problem of rape. Heaven knows, there must be a lot of rapists languishing in our jails. Has anyone had a look at who they are, where they came from, what their upbringing was like, their communities, their cultural heritage?

And instead of ministers making stupid remarks about Calvinism, why don't they put their efforts into properly researching how many Afrikaans kids have actually turned out to be rapists and women abusers. How many rugby players have been convicted of rape or spousal abuse?

Action needed

Why don't they do some research into the diverse cultures that we have in South Africa, particularly those that are patriarchal? Are there any cultural groups that perhaps do not see the subjugation of women, for example, as abuse but rather a form of entitlement?

We need to find out what role unemployment and poverty plays. We need to find out what role drugs and drinking plays. Right now, I am pretty certain we know nothing at all about what drives men to rape.

I am worried that all the shouting, placard-waving, media campaigning and speechifying by politicians is not going to bring down the incidence of rape and abuse.

Because, we really don't know to whom we are talking. We don't know who the potential rapists are.

And frankly, I am pretty certain they are not listening anyway.

Action is required not words. Action that is based on fact and not guesswork.     

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  • simon.goodman.752 - 2013-03-04 08:34

    I never understood all those 'united' voices. Do criminals hear us when we say 'Stop farm attacks'? do they hear us when we say 'Stand up against crime'? Do they care? So why would they start now? Rapists and wife beaters couldn't care less about all that shouting, so I very much doubt anything will change, no matter how 'united' we claim to be, nothing will change... We need better education, something our dear leader seems to want to ignore.

  • Cecil James Currie - 2013-03-04 08:49

    I could not agree more with theses comments. Lots of words and very little action. No in depth investigation to really understand the mind sets therefore no targeting where the problem starts. A good example of good intentions is the program run by Prime Media, creating awareness but is it to the right audience? I doubt it.

  • Ngwana Gae - 2013-03-04 09:25

    All the campaigns that NGOs, Goverment come up with completely ignore input from communities. There is this widespread mentality in South Africa that ordinary people are lazy & stupid, and only educated people in institutions can come up with solutions for our problems. Talk with communities, you will be suprised how much in touch they are with what is happening around them. And also blanket solutions do not work. U will find factors that drive incidents of rape in Cape flats completely different to the causes of rape in Sekhukhune. Active citizenry must be revived. When I was growing up all adults (esp men as head of housesold) were required to attend kgoro(gathering)at least once a month. It was compulsory. Community issues were resovled quickly. This so called democrary and modernisation has destroyed that

      Lanfear Mierin - 2013-03-04 11:36

      And what happened if someone was raped Ngwana? What did these "head of the household" kgoro do? Yes, of course the communities themselves should be involved.

      Ngwana Gae - 2013-03-04 12:24

      Lanfear.Then the community decide on a course of action. My point is crime is rampant because communities are no longer involved in the running the country. Laws and policies are written top down communities are no longer custodians of this laws. There is no buy-in from communites in enforcing the laws we have. Some weeks ago I read of a couple who got arrested for burying their newborn who died a few days later in their yard. In rural most communities this is standard practice that any child who dies before they are 3 months is buried in their homestead. Now who wrote this law that they got charged with? When did this practise suddenly become illegal. Do you think the community involved in this example will co-operate with athouries in this case

  • Muriel Germishuys - 2013-03-04 09:54

    Well Said, Chris

  • FLGN - 2013-03-04 10:14

    Indeed, well stated. Knee-jerk reactions do not problems solve

  • SaintBruce Bruce - 2013-03-04 10:35

    Talk appears to be what the Government is good at, action, less so. I agree that research is needed. Does it serve the greater good to do so? Yes. Is the State willing to initiate such research?

  • crysouthafrica - 2013-03-04 10:42

    Agree wholeheartedly. As research by Prof. Rachel Jewkes of the MRC has shown, interviews with incarcerated rapists have outlined that the "rapist" mentality is the result of deep seated economic and social issues. These are not things that can be wiped away by pubescent teens "taking the pledge" Only committed acts by govt in poverty reduction, social upliftment and restoration of community dignity with see a reduction of this scourge.

  • Chrono Man - 2013-03-04 10:59

    One would have thought that only a small fraction of the male population in general and worldwide would have the "urge" to rape. It seems as if a significant proportion of the male population of SA are rapists. If that is so, why is it the case? Also, can societal dynamics turn someone into a rapist? It is generally assumed that rapists have an urge to exercise power over women and that the act of raping is not driven by the need to have sex. Somehow I think we have others factors at play in SA.

  • ben.nevis.906 - 2013-03-04 11:04

    A mighty smack of "civilisation" would also work wonders!

  • Lanfear Mierin - 2013-03-04 11:34

    Thank you Chris for an excellent article! Why aren't there dozens of psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and experts out there, investigating rape and rapists, interviewing those incarcerated, doing research? It doesn't help anything to stand in the street and wave a placard, or stand in parliament all safe and sound and denounce rape. Action must be taken! And then the greatest test, to find solutions to the outcome(s) of the research.

      Sibusiso Swakamisa - 2013-03-04 16:13


  • Joan D'Arcy - 2013-03-04 11:48

    Well said, Chris. Rape is an act of violence and research is needed to find out why so many men feel the need to express themselves in this manner. It is good that so many people agree that something desperately needs to be done, but now the talking must become action.

  • Michael - 2013-03-04 12:05

    They don't research it, because that research would show that most violence, domestic, sexual, and otherwise is perpetrated by blacks on blacks. And that's not the answer they're looking for. It's easier to blame it on the Afrikaners.

  • Lorato Lerato - 2013-03-04 12:39

    The only effective campaign, would be cutting off their things to 0.5cm in length

      Klaus - 2013-03-04 12:47

      Lorato, sex begins inbetween ears / Brain. By cutting off Penis, problem still exists, personally i think compulsory chemical castration will do the trick, especially if perpetrator is exposed to community

      FLGN - 2013-03-05 09:31

      Earlier research showed that sex is not the motivator for the act. Cutting off the penis would only lead those perpetrators to other types of violent release

  • Richard George Galpin - 2013-03-04 12:44

    CASTRATE CASTRATE CASTRATE and they will hear soon enough and very loud too!!

      Sibusiso Swakamisa - 2013-03-04 16:12

      We need to come up with a preventive measure,castrating them does not mean the damage was not done....

      FLGN - 2013-03-05 09:31

      knee-jerk reaction.

  • klebepe - 2013-03-04 14:05

    Thanks chris. I'm 26 years and know too many rape survivors. None of them were abducted and raped a stranger. It was done by friends, colleagues, dates, study buddies, church 'brothers' etc. the so called decent hard working members of society. The kind of man that will also wear black on fridays. I doubt these men are aware that what they are doing is wrong. The sooner we work on finding the root cause, the better. P

  • flysouth - 2013-03-04 14:09

    Campaigns are a total waste of time and money. Those inclined to rape - or any other criminal action - are of the criminal underclass and as such do not respond, either to existing laws, or entreaties from the well-meaning but useless campaigns! The ONLY thing that can work is a high rate of detection of culprits by SAPS (fat chance #1 hey?) and speedy and harsh punishment by courts (fat chance #2 hey?).

  • Sibusiso Swakamisa - 2013-03-04 16:05

    These is the solution... "What I want to see is somebody doing practical research into the problem of rape. Heaven knows, there must be a lot of rapists languishing in our jails. Has anyone had a look at who they are, where they came from, what their upbringing was like, their communities, their cultural heritage?".....We need to understand the root-cause ,castrating them wont help, not granting them bail or killing them does not mean the damage have not been done already...We need to be creative when coming to issues like rape...

      Lorain Maseko - 2013-03-05 17:30

      sbusiso ur suggestion is time consuming and tax consuming. just send them to hang thats all

  • Lolly Lawrance - 2013-03-04 23:57

    Good point Chris, I was wondering what difference it really made to march and hold posters on a university campus, or anywhere for that matter. After few minutes or hours march with fellow students or workers, we all go back to our academics and work but still nothing has changed. Victimisation still continues even from among those holding posters...

  • linda.b.vanwyk.9 - 2013-03-05 04:02

    Research rarely translates into practical intervention. Almost all universities in the country want to be recognised for their world class research. All they need to do to accomplish this is to publish inaccessible information in obscure scientific publications. As long as action research remain in the domain if intellectuals we will not solve problems on the ground. Respected community leaders should be more than capable of providing practical input to accurately determine the actual status of their communities on the ground. Authorities with the required political will should be able to use this information to take practical steps sutable for each community.

  • ian.murray.52459615 - 2013-03-05 20:05

    It's a pity that this matter is not dealt with properly, days of action and government pontificating is a total insult as a meaningful response. Perpetrators need to fear punishment, a 90% chance of getting away with rape is no deterent. Ironically the minister has a valid observation in some respects, we have a tendency amongst Afrikaaners of bizarrely murdering their errant wives and childre

  • Sue Heymans - 2013-03-08 23:11

    Learn from the case in the US - 7 life sentences for one rapist! They should never see the light of day again...

  • Juanne-pierre De Abreu - 2013-03-09 07:35

    Am I to assume you are not a rapist because you said so? This country is the way it is because of this mentality, that it's over there. These are fathers, sons and brothers that are doing this. And if you are a straight male in SA one can assume you could potentially rape, statistically speaking. Try bringing your argument closer to home.

  • Annemarie White - 2013-03-10 00:59


  • Ryan Roberts - 2013-03-13 22:25

    and I'm sure allowing Top TV to show porn will help, right Chris?! Psssffftt!

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