Decades of support

Rape Crises communications intern, Rachel Yen, Khabonina Mthembu, director Kath Dey and Rape Crises communications coordinator, Zeenat Hendricks.

The number of women and children being abused has not suddenly increased but the violence is being given more exposure in the media, says Rape Crisis director, Kath Dey.

Rape Crisis in Observatory was established in 1976 by Anne Mayne and others who recognised the need for victim support.

“Anne Mayne was raped by three or four black men in a park and this was during apartheid when the death penalty was given. She was an anti-apartheid activist and didn’t even think of going to the police because they wouldn’t have stood a chance.

“Her friends and family didn’t know how to support her and she thought if she as a privileged white woman has no support her, what about everyone else. Initially she would meet people needing counselling in her lounge, a coffee shop or on the back seat of her car. Fourty years later, (Rape Crisis) is still going,” said Ms Dey.

She said the organisation didn’t have any rape statistics at the time and only got a grant from the government in 1996.

She said that today the structures in place to address the rape epidemic have vastly improved, as government has invested in facilities such as the creation of a rape forensics unit and specialist sexual offences court.

“There is no increase (in the abuse), there is only an increase in media attention and politicians are jumping on the bandwagon.

“The situation is only getting worse. The only positive side is that more services are being put in place. Government has not failed us in that regard,” said Ms Dey.

The sexual offences court in South Africa has been implemented to reduce the trauma experienced by survivors.

The court will also help to speed up rape cases and allow better court judgements to be made as the court is better skilled in rape cases.

Ms Dey said that improving laws and support services will lead to more convictions of perpetrators, which will help combat the culture of violence that erodes the fabric of society.

Ms Dey said many people are raped by someone they know and South Africa has one of the highest incidences of rape in the world.

Gang rape is also common, with some victims raped by up to 30 perpetrators at a time.

The organisation therefore tries various methods to tackle the rape culture and lessen the number of casualties.

Members of the organisation host educational talks in communities and schools to better inform youth about the value of consent and how to go about protecting themselves from potential dangerous situations.

The group counselling service is also available via phone or face-to-face, free of charge.

Counsellors are also stationed at police stations to ensure that victims of rape feel safe, supported and respected so that they’re able to make informed decisions.

A 24-hour crisis line is also available for anyone who needs to talk to an experienced counsellor in English, Afrikaans or Xhosa.

Anyone can also visit their offices in Observatory, Athlone or Khayelitsha for more information.

If you would like to find out more about the organisation or donate and help rape survivors to find healing and justice, visit www.rapecrisis.org.za/get-help/ or call 021 447 9762 for more information.