“A few months ago, I was on my way home to Soweto. When I got on the train, I saw a group of men standing together, in the corner. I did not take any notice of them — till I heard a woman crying.
“I stood up to see what was happening. The cry came from the corner. I saw that these men were raping a woman, right there, on the train. I opened my mouth to say something. But the woman next to me grabbed my arm and pulled me down.
“Then she whispered to me, ‘If you say anything, they will go for you too. It is better to pretend that you see and hear nothing.’ When I looked around, I saw that everyone else on the train was doing just that.
“I got off at the very next station to find help for that woman. But as the train pulled out of the station, I knew that I could do nothing. But I will never forget that woman’s cry, as long as I live.”
Women are raped everyday — in fact, 400 women in South Africa get raped everyday. People think it is only young women who get raped. But babies as young as six months old and women of 90 years old get raped. Every woman lives with the fear of rape all her life.
WHAT IS RAPE?
In South Africa the law says that rape is when a man forces his penis into a woman’s vagina when she doesn’t want to have sex. But women think the law does not say enough. The law must change.
The law must say it is also rape when a man forces his penis into the mouth or the anus of a woman. Or when a husband forces his wife to have sex when she doesn’t want to.
WHY MEN RAPE
People think that men rape because they cannot stop themselves when they want sex. But rape has nothing to do with sex — rape is about power and fear.
Someone told us this story: “I have a friend who rapes. Once I asked him why he did this. He said that he started to work on the mines when he was very young. He was raped by another man. In the end he became this man’s ‘girlfriend’. Now he is used to men. He is frightened of women because he does not know them. So, to have sex with women, he does it by force.”
“I think rape also shows how men think of women. If men see women as less important than themselves, then they think they can rape women. They don’t worry about how women feel. Often when men feel weak, they rape women. Then they feel better. I also think that when a group of men rape a woman, they are just trying to show off to their friends.
“People think that rape happens in dark streets, by strangers. But most men rape women that they know, and many women are raped in their homes. Women are victims because they are weaker than men.”
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM RAPE
If a man tries to rape you, you must decide what is best — to fight back and try to get away, or to keep still. Only you can decide this.
Good ways to protect yourself are to kick a man in his groin very hard, so that he cannot walk. If you stick your fingers into his eyes, he will not be able to see. Even spraying a deodorant spray into his eyes will help you.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE RAPED
Many women do not want to report rape to the police. But it is good to report rape for the following reasons:
1. You can get a legal abortion —that is, doctors will stop your pregnancy if you report your rape. 2. Maybe you will feel safer if you know your rapist is in jail. 3. It makes people know what a big problem rape is. 4. It makes other women safer.
But there are also problems in reporting rape. Women find it hard to tell people about their rape time and time again. If you report rape, this is what you must do:
You must go to the police straight after it happens. Do not wash or change your clothes — the police will want them for evidence.
You must tell the police the whole story when you make your statement. You can tell the police you want to make your statement in a private room or to the Station Commander.
The District Surgeon will examine you — he will try to find sperm in your vagina to prove you were raped. If you were hurt, the district surgeon does not treat you — you must go to hospital for treatment.
When they find the rapist, you must point him out for the police. They make men stand in a line. Then you must show them which man raped you. You must touch him.
If there is a court case, you go to court as a state witness. The court case is often a long time after the rape. You have to tell the whole story again to the court.
GETTING A LEGAL ABORTION
If you are raped, you can get an abortion. But you must ask for an abortion. If you are pregnant from your rape, you must go and get an affidavit — a signed statement — from the police, to say that you were raped.
Then you take your papers to the local magistrate. The magistrate decides if you can have one. If he say you can have an abortion, he gives you a certificate. You must take the certificate to the hospital. The doctors will do an abortion.
If you did not report your rape, you can still get an abortion, but it is difficult. You must tell the police why you didn’t report it. Then the police decide if they will give you a letter for the magistrate.
Very often women feel very bad after they are raped. Women do not like to talk about rape because sex is a private thing. Also some people blame women. They say, “Well, she asked for it.”
Now organisations have started to help women who are raped. They are called Rape Crisis. Rape Crisis helps people to talk about their rape. Talking helps women to feel better. It also helps to stop being afraid of men.
These organisations help women to report rape. They will go to the police station with you. And they will help you with the court case.
PROBLEMS WITH REPORTING RAPE
Rape Crisis say that often when women report rape, they are treated as if they are to blame for the rape. They say this is wrong. Raped women must be treated like people who report assault — that is, when someone hits you.
They also want police women to work with women who are raped. They say when a woman has just been raped, she cannot talk freely to a man.
Rape Crisis also says that women must be checked by women doctors. And they say the doctor must not just check the woman, — they must treat her if she was hurt. She must get drugs for’vuilsiek’ or V.D. And she must be treated so that she does not get pregnant.
CHANGING THE LAW
Rape Crisis says the rape laws must be changed. They say rape is not a special crime — it is the same as assault. If anyone hits you, they are breaking the law. It doesn’t matter what you say to them. Rape Crisis says it is the same with rape. It doesn’t matter how you dress, or what you say, no-one must rape you.
The big problem with rape is that if a man is found guilty of rape, he can hang. Because of this, judges must be very sure that a man is guilty. So they ask the raped woman many questions.
Women have said that in court, they felt they were questioned as if they did something bad — and not like someone did something bad to them. They were asked all about their sex lives. Rape Crisis says women must not be asked about their sex lives. And raped women’s names must be kept secret.
RAPE CRISIS CENTRES
If you are raped, or if you want to help women who are raped, phone these numbers. If rape is a big problem in your community, maybe you can start a Rape Crisis centre in your area.
All these numbers are for messages. You must phone and leave a message. Then the person on duty will phone you back.
Cape Town — 021 215400 or the office number — 47 9762. It is better to phone the office number. Durban —031 33 3333 Pietermaritzburg — 0331 56279
Johannesburg (People Opposed to Women Abuse — POWA) 011 783 5027