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If government is serious about gender-based violence, it should fund more projects for rape survivors

By Karabo Mafolo 11 September 2019

Wits University students lie on the floor during a silent anti-rape protest on August 17, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Established 10 years ago, the silent protest exists to highlight the plight of rape survivors. (Photo by Gallo Images / The Times / Alon Skuy)

Rape is a huge problem in South Africa, and even though it remains under-reported, the official numbers are still staggeringly high and survivors are often re-traumatised at police stations and in the courts. Rape Crisis has been working to change this.

The founder [of Rape Crisis], Anne Mayne, was gang-raped in Cape Town in the early 1970s and then she found out there was no support for rape survivors. She was really intrigued by this idea of people from communities supporting other people from different communities that are rape survivors. That was the start of Rape Crisis centres around the world,” says Jeanne Bodenstein, the advocacy co-ordinator for Rape Crisis.

Rape Crisis has worked with survivors for 43 years, offering them counselling, support during court and training high school pupils to facilitate workshops that address rape culture.

Bodenstein says Rape Crisis was started as a volunteer support group for rape survivors and still largely relies on volunteers.

With the recent protests that have taken place against gender-based violence, Bodenstein points out, “The problem is not bigger than it was two months ago, but there’s definitely more awareness.”

And the more people push for the government to take gender-based violence seriously, the more it “creates a window to put more pressure [on the government].”

Last week, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he would discuss with Cabinet making the National Register for Sex Offenders public. The National Register for Sexual Offenders only lists people who have been convicted of raping people with intellectual disabilities and children.

I have concerns on it being made public because of the implementation, and how it’s set up might not function as we effectively as we think it does,” Bodenstein told Daily Maverick.

Bodenstein said that in the fight against gender-based violence, the government needs to show its commitment by making funds available for survivors.

We can’t say we’re serious about gender-based violence and post-rape care if we don’t fund Thuthuzela Centres or other forensic services.”

Thuthuzela Care Centres are one-stop facilities where rape survivors can get access to a social worker and a nurse who is there to minimise the survivor’s secondary trauma. Secondary trauma is trauma that survivors may experience when they are treated badly when they try to report their case.

There are 55 Thuthuzela Care Centres across the country. The funding for counselling services mostly comes from international donors. DM

If you’d like to volunteer or donate to Rape Crisis, go to https://rapecrisis.org.za/

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