WATCH: Beauty queen launches campaign to encourage sexual abuse victims to speak out
News / 5 November 2019, 10:00am / Mercury Reporter
Durban - Sasha-Lee Laurel Olivier, voted one of the most beautiful women in the country at the Miss South Africa competition, is going to represent South Africa at the Miss World pageant.
On December 14, she will join contestants from all around the world in London to compete in one of the best-known beauty pageants around the globe. Sasha-Lee, who was sexually abused as a child, has chosen to support, inspire and help girls, boys, women and men who have had a similar experience as part of her Miss World ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ campaign.
Using #ItsNotYourFault as her slogan, she is determined to use the very public platform that Miss World provides to bring solace to women and men who are survivors of sexual assault.
“A very deep sense of shame accompanies rape and long term sexual abuse. Those who have suffered at the hands of the predators and perpetrators feel responsible for their own abuse, and are profoundly ashamed of what is happening, or has happened, to them. We need to desperately change the status quo regarding this - the shame does not belong to the victim at all. I want to use my slogan #ItsNotYourFault to show both women and men that they are in no way to blame for what has been done to them," she said.
As part of her campaign, Sasha-Lee will reach out to people reporting a sexual attack at police stations because, she says, “These people are at their most vulnerable at this time.”
She cites the fact that earlier this year, 80% of police stations in South Africa have had no medical rape kits at their disposal.
“This means the woman or girl (or boy or man) has to sit with the feel, smell and semen of the attacker still on and in them, unable to wash or change until evidence is taken from them. They could wait traumatised for hours.”
Sasha-Lee acknowledges the reality of limited access to medical rape kits, but is determined to assist women and men on an emotional level as that was one of the things she wished for when reporting her case. That is the reason she distributes the Rape Comfort Packs that accompany her #ItsNotYourFault campaign.
“I hope these Rape Comfort Packs –provide many basic hygiene products, a teddy bear, sugar, and a personalized card assuring them the attack is not their fault – offering a moment of dignity to the wounded soul in what possibly could be the worst moment of their lives. I want those assaulted to know they are not alone; that they are seen and heard and that their dignity has not been impaired because they have been sexually assaulted.”
Her efforts are being supported by The Angel Network and active citizen Penny Stein who are helping her reach out to sexual abuse survivors across South Africa, with the distribution of thousands of rape comfort packs.
Sasha-Lee said: “One in three women in South Africa has had some form of unwelcome sexual encounter before the age of 15. It is a shocking statistic and I am one of them.”
So, when she walks the ramp at Miss World in London in December, she will take with her a fervent desire to make a difference in the lives of women, children and men who feel alienated, alone and filled with self-loathing after being sexually abused.
She follows in the hallowed footsteps of past Miss South Africa winners who have gone on to wear the Miss World Crown.
"We are delighted to announce that Sasha Lee will represent us at the prestigious Miss World competition. We intend to support her in every possible way with her Beauty with a Purpose campaign. Gender violence is a scourge everywhere in the world, but never more so than here in South Africa where the statistics are alarmingly high. We know that she will succeed at shining a much needed spotlight on this issue and highlighting the need to act, to put an end to sexual abuse," said Miss South Africa organisation CEO, Stephanie Weil.
The BackaBuddy link to help raise funds for the rape comfort packs - R120 per pack.