Sex crimes not limited by race or class

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iol news pic Anene memorial 3 INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS More than a thousand people attended a memorial service for Anene Booysen this weekend. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

It seems we only ever get outraged by rape when some horrific case has managed to make its way into the media.

And that in itself is shameful because all rapes are horrific, not just the ones that manage to make national headlines.

Our outrage works in momentary bursts, spurred on by the media which will jump on to something else as soon as something else comes up. We have become especially adapt at jump-on-the-bandwagon-ism.

A disturbing occurrence created by the media as well as other organisations is the apparent attempt to paint the scourge of rape as a black-and-poor-only form of violence, as if the rich, affluent and white are unaffected by it. As if the rich did not rape and were not raped. This is no different from Aids, which was turned into a poor and black disease. Perhaps the rich hide well what should not be hidden.

The crime of rape attacks the souls of both rich and poor with equal terror and ferocity. Isolating it by making it “their” crime robs us of a solution to this plague.

There are some among us who are tired of talking and reading about it. We can never get tired of talking about this horrific violence.

One of the worst things about rape is its ability to make the victim feel as if she ought to feel ashamed by the fact that she was violated, and therefore not talk about it. The violator has no right to make the violated feel ashamed. It almost feels like society has given more “moral” rights to perpetrator than to the victim.

In some societies in the Middle East a victim of rape can even be punished for being raped or for bringing shame and humiliation to the family as if it was a choice she made.

And the man goes free.

We don’t live in such a society, but I don’t think we have advanced much from such a society. Those who have been violated must not be shamed for something they did not choose to happen to them.

We need to go beyond saying “Real men don’t rape”. We have to understand why we have so much rape in the country. We have to understand the causes of the moral degeneration which has led some men to think that they own women’s bodies. This goes beyond the usual condemnation and finger pointing, it goes to the core and it will force us to look at the demons that we have swept under the rug as a nation.

To simply say that it is unemployment without having done any research might be counter-productive to a solution.

There are societies with higher unemployment rates that don’t treat their women this way.

Once we have understood why, we can think up ways to ensure that we see a reduction in rape.

The fact that most rapists are known to the victim adds yet another psychological layer – and it’s something that’s always so difficult to reconcile when one looks at statistics. Imagine walking past your rapist every day and having to pretend nothing happened because members of your community or family have told you to leave it. Imagine having to live with your rapist because your rapist is somehow a member of your extended family. Imagine having to live with your rapist because he is the bread winner and you are told to keep it quiet because your family will go hungry if you speak out.

Now imagine a society where rapists are no longer protected by elaborate, unspoken rules of society.

It will take a very long time. It took us a long time to roll back the devastation caused by Aids, but there is no reason why we can’t fight this too and win.

Our mothers, sisters, girlfriends, grandmothers, children and wives deserve a society that treats them with respect.

* Khaya Dlanga is a social commentator and author of In My Arrogant Opinion.

Cape Times


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