THE horror of 17-year-old Anene Booysen’s rape and murder took nearly a week to reverberate through South Africa’s hardened emotional system. But now the Bredasdorp teenager, who survived long enough to reveal the name of one of her attackers, has become a symbol.

Perhaps it has taken the unspeakable suffering of a child to finally propel us into action as a nation.

In the seven weeks since a young Indian woman was gang-raped and mutilated in Delhi, prompting headlines around the world, there have been at least 9 000 rapes in South Africa. Nine thousand in seven weeks.

If we are not shamed into action simply by that statistic, what on earth will it take?

Platitudes, hand-wringing and mass moral outrage are all very well, but they are of little immediate practical use to rape survivors. While we analyse and debate the plague of rape, and try to understand why in South Africa it is so often accompanied by sickening physical violence and mutilation, we must move urgently to help those who help the survivors.

There are numerous organisations involved in counselling and helping rape survivors.

Rape Crisis, founded 35 years ago by Capetonian Anne Mayne, is one of them. The organisation counsels more than 2 500 survivors a year. The survivors are helped during court appearances, and support continues through the recovery period. And the support offered is broad, extending to partners and family members.

But, as we noted in this space in July last year, Rape Crisis and other organisations working in the field are facing major funding problems as South Africa falls off the radar of international donors.

Now would be an opportune time for big business, government and other sources of funding to demonstrate their commitment to fighting back against the rapists and sexual abusers by providing no-strings-attached funding for Rape Crisis and other organisations which are in the frontline of the battle against sexual crimes.