I stumbled across this article on CNN yesterday – “South Africa Fights Rape Crisis.” I was actually looking for articles for the “In The News” post I said I was going to do once a week, but this caught my attention and I knew I needed to focus on it alone. I’ve mentioned this once before – a few weeks ago, I linked to an article stating how people are worried that the numbers of victims of sex traffiking and rape will go up the closer we get to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This article however, is about how men of the country treat their own women.
“…one in four South African men has raped at least one woman in their lifetimes. And…nearly half have raped more than one woman.”
When I first read that, I was shocked. All I could think was, ‘Are these men psycho? Don’t you have to be to think that raping women is okay, good even?’ I mean, one of the rapists they talked to mentioned his belief that “there is nothing [he wants] in life that [he] can’t get, even a beautiful woman…” Then the article said that “at the time [some men] committed the crime, they did not see it as wrong. They have grown up watching male members of their community treat women with contempt.”
I don’t want to say that makes it okay – it’s far from okay, honestly. But it shows why it’s happening. And as the article mentioned – this type of socialization is a by-product of apartheid. “It institutionalized violence, broke up homes, and left boys without good role models…” Again, not an excuse, but now we know why it’s happening. And the fact of the matter is that it’s up to us to end this circle of violence. We can't just let it go on like this, because if men in South Africa continue to go unpunished for their crimes and uneducated about the effects it has on women, it’ll never stop.
For the article (which you really should read in it’s entirety), the reporter, Nkepile Mabuse, talked to three men who openly admitted to gang raping a woman at a party. All of the men had been in jail, but none for rape. Zwelithini Sono used to be a defense lawyer and said that he “never lost a rape case” while he was still practicing, even when it was clear the accused had actually committed the crime. He now actually provides legal assistance for rape victims and tries to counsel young men against violence against women.
But, it’s going to take more than counseling for young men to end this violence. Women in the community are going to have to be willing to report what happens to them and face their abusers in court. Police statistics say that in South Africa alone, “36,190 women were raped between April and December 2007 – more than 130 rapes a day.” (That doesn’t include attempts.) That compares to the 248,300 rapes, attempted rapes, or sexual assaults in the US in the entire year of 2007, which comes out to 680 a day in the entire country (according to RAINN). But these, of course, are only reported cases.
Unfortunately, the global feelings of stigma and shame keep women in South Africa from reporting crimes, just as women in the US keep it a secret. According to RAINN, 73% of victims know their assailant, but 60% of assaults are never reported, and only 6% of rapists ever spend time in jail. This is confirmed by Andile Gaelesiwe said to CNN: “It’s usually somebody that you know – an uncle, a neighbor – and therefore families would rather say, ‘What are people going to say if we turn around and say Uncle-so-and-so did it? Let’s rather we shut up about it.”
But of course, shutting up about it doesn’t make it go away.