The shocking rate of violence against women in South Africa is not a secret anymore. Women are at risk of falling victim to various crimes, of which rape is most common. Unfortunately, many cases of sexual assault, molestation and rape are not reported. How can we stand up against sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuse?
February 21 st, 2015
According to the French Ministry of Interior, a woman is sexually assaulted every two hours: the figure doubledover the past decade. One in twenty women is physically assaulted and nearly twenty million women are subjected to verbal, physical or sexual assaults. Crime statistics cannot sketch an accurate picture of the number of reported rape cases. All sex related crimes are listed under one category on the national database, making a distinction between male and female rape cases, sexual molestation or violent acts of sexual assault impossible. What further exasperates inaccurate statistics is the fact that the last national approximation on sexual crimes was released in 2002, according to a research conducted by Africa Check. What we do know, without a doubt, is that women and children are mostly raped by someone they know, be it an immediate family member, a member of their extended families or a close family friend.
Courage to stand up
Rape is not going to magically disappear. Nobody is going to wave a magic wand to remove the perpetrators from our homes and our communities. Yes, rape victims are too often stigmatized by family members and the community, but brave women stand up and speak out. What is more preferable: to stand up and speak out or to be a victim of sexual assault and a victim of silence? Many mothers and grandmothers had the courage to stand up to inequality and apartheid. They had the courage to raise their voices and to accomplish the ‘impossible’. There is unity in numbers, we all know this. It is time for women of all race and age groups to stand up and unite in the fight against violent crimes committed against us. We need to embrace our sisterhood and support each other.
Fight or flight response
A rapist will never announce his intention to rape. Some say prevention is better than cure but in this instance, it is not possible. We are endowed with a fight, flight or freeze mechanism when our existence is threatened, be it psychological or physical. Our bodies secrete adrenaline that either propels us into fight mode, or flight mode (running away) or freeze mode where we are physically unable to do anything. Some women have taken up self-defence classes to protect them against physical assaults and in the eyes of the law, we are entitled to protect ourselves when we are exposed to danger and harm.
Even though most rapists are known to their victims, it is always good to be vigilant. Not all rapists are known to their victims so pay attention to what is going on around you. Avoid going out alone or going to quiet places on your own. Moderate your alcohol consumption when you attend a party or go to a night club. Get away as quickly as possible from someone who makes unwanted sexual advances and ensure that you leave for home with a group of friends. When you witness someone being sexually assaulted, phone 10111 immediately or report the incident to police or civil society organisations. Report family members who are guilty of a sexual offence: you might create a stir in the family because family members might be ashamed or embarrassed by the situation but you will help someone in need. Contact community organisations to find out if they offer self-defence classes or join a martial arts club. Most rapists are cowards, preying on ‘weak’ victims. While self-defence classes will not eradicate rape, it could keep you safe from harm.
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