THOUSANDS of students will be gathering on campuses in Durban, Grahamstown and Cape Town during Women’s Month to participate in the annual Silent Protest where they will show solidarity with rape survivors and fight for their right to Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
The first silent protest was initiated at Rhodes University in Grahamstown in 2007 and 2017 marks the fourth year that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has organised the protests as part of the organisation’s campaign to reduce new infections in young women and girls. The main objective of the Silent Protest is to highlight the serious issues surrounding rape and sexual violence as well as the difficulties its survivors face after the crime.
“Rape, sexual assault and child abuse remain a far larger problem than even the frightening SA crime stats provided by the South African Police Services (SAPS) indicate. The issues which inspired the protest a decade ago persist, with victim-blaming and stigma remaining the order of the day,” said Larissa Klazinga, regional policy and advocacy manager for AHF Southern Africa.
She said the public needed improved education on PEP and how to access it. “We are working with universities as a way of empowering our future leaders to break down the social stigma attached to rape, working with them to combat victim-blaming and secondary victimisation,” Klazinga explained.
Other factors contributing to the silence of rape survivors will also be highlighted at the event: the silencing nature of the act itself, the fact that the survivor is intimidated by the suspect, fear of not being believed, being blamed and shunned by their community, and being interrogated, re-traumatised, labelled, pitied and stigmatised.
A silent protest will be held on 16 August at Durban University of Technology's Fred Crookes Sports Centre, Steve Biko campus.
Each silent protest itinerary will include a morning briefing, symbolic silencing, march, die-in and an open mic session to end the protest, allowing participants to break the silence about gender-based violence.
Crime statistics for rape and gender-based violence are largely unreliable, though more than 50,000 rapes were reported to the SAPS last year.
The average rape case takes four years from reporting to sentencing and only 6.5 per cent of reported cases will be successfully prosecuted. Less than half of one per cent of perpetrators will serve any jail-time.
All recent studies agree that the vast majority of rape victims never report the crime to the police and there are many statistics available focusing on the ratio of reporting to non-reporting of rape survivors. The most conservative estimate comes from Rape Crisis (one in four) and the most shocking comes from the SAPS (one in 25). These statistics translate to anywhere from 260 000 to over 1.5 million rapes annually.