Students and others held a “silent protest” against abuse of women at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus on Thursday.Break the silence: we believe you, Khensani Maseko 2018 and Zolile Khumalo 2018 were some of the messages displayed on the placards carried by the students.Maseko, a third-year student at Rhodes University, committed suicide last month after she was allegedly raped by her then boyfriend, while Khumalo, a Mangosuthu University of Technology student was shot dead by her ex-boyfriend in May.The students, together with the organisers of the day-long protest, the Aids Healthcare Foundation, were out to raise awareness of the alarming epidemic of gender-based violence in the country.The silent protesters taped their mouths as they marched silently through the campus. Then there was a “die-in”. This was the symbolic memorial for those who were raped and murdered due to gender-based violence.Students said it was important to raise awareness and spread the word of unity against violence against women. Therefore, they stood in solidarity with violence and abuse survivors who are usually silenced by their experiences.Larissa Klazinga, the policy and advocacy manager of the Aids Healthcare Foundation, explained the importance of the march. “We believe that unless we find a way to break the silence on violence in our country, we are never going to win the war on Aids. “We are here today to raise awareness on how vast the scope of gender violence is and this march is to assure people that they are not alone,” Klazinga said.She explained that a huge issue is under-reporting. Klazinga said there was a lagging response to the sexual violence and that sexual offences have not been dealt with as they should have been.“We know that the average rape case is postponed 36 times and it takes four years before you get a verdict. It’s very difficult to access justice.”The crime statistics released by police this week show that from April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018 murders of women and children have increased. During that period, 291 more women were killed, 117 more boys and 29 more girls. Reported rapes in South Africa increased to 40 035 cases, an increase of 0,5% and reported sexual assault has increased by 8,2% to 6 786 cases. The total number of sexual offences against women, as reported to police, has dropped by 1,7% to 36 731 cases.