Rape victims encouraged to speak up

Barbara Williams of Rape Crisis said society needed to make it safe for victims to come forward.

Silence is rape’s biggest ally, but it can be defeated by creating more safe spaces for victims to speak out.

This came out of a 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign event in District Six, at the weekend. Rape Crisis, SAPS, the Pink Ladies missing persons organisation and City of Cape Town officials took part.

“Our biggest issue with the problem of rape is the silence that goes with it. Whichever statistics you look at will never reflect the true numbers of rape,” said Barbara Williams, the counselling co-ordinator of Rape Crisis in Athlone.

She said society needed to make it safer for victims to come forward. Without a safe space to talk about their trauma, it would continue to gnaw away at them, she said. It was vital for rape victims to seek medical attention within 72 hours, she added, even if they did not want to press charges.

“It can reduce the risk of HIV infection. There is medication that can prevent pregnancy, there is also sexually transmitted diseases medication to reduce the risk of any infection,” said Ms Williams.

Captain Ezra October, from Cape Town Central police, warned about the growing threat young children faced from cyber bullying on social media sites.Children should be allowed to use the internet but parents should monitor their online activity, he said.

During the event, the Pink Ladies profiled children, taking their fingerprints and recording other personal data that could be used should they go missing.

“We give each child a certificate to take home because the information is private. On the certificate, will be the child’s name, address, date of birth, any distinctive marks, a photograph of the child and their fingerprints,” said Pink Ladies events co-ordinator Foziah Davidson Prins.

Fairuz Achmat-Basardien, coordinator at the District Six Civic Association said: “I think we need to build up the strength of the women to be brave enough to come out and break the silence whenever they have been abused or humiliated and children must be protected from the cyber bullying and sexting.”