The Horrific Reality Of South Africa's Rape Problem Will Shock You

Izwi Lami aims to help the victims.
The programme used at Anene Booyson's funeral in May in Bredasdorp.
The programme used at Anene Booyson's funeral in May in Bredasdorp.
Gallo Images

The commemoration of the women's anti-pass march in Pretoria has morphed into 'women's month', which has turned into an advertising opportunity for companies targeting women.

But if we really unpack what it means to be a woman in South Africa, the picture is far from the dewy pink marketing images we're getting in our inboxes.

First off, we live alongside terrifying statistics: that South Africa is rape capital of the world. That one in three South African women will be raped in our lifetime. That a woman is raped in the country every 26 seconds...

But the truth is, while know that we have a huge problem with domestic and sexual violence, we don't know the extent of this problem. There simply isn't enough research.

The little research there is, is enough to point to a scary situation:

  • The last police statistics reported 116 rapes every day - and we know that rape survivors who actually report being raped are in the minority.
  • Four women are murdered every day, three by their partners or ex-partners (double the number of the US).
  • Of the women murdered by strangers, over a quarter (28 percent) were raped first.
  • Various provincial surveys report that between 15-37 percent of men interviewed admit to have raped a woman before.
  • The Gauteng Gender-based Violence Indicators Project (2010) reports that a quarter of women surveyed had experienced sexual violence.

Many women don't tell anyone that they were raped because they feel ashamed or afraid. Yet even if a rape survivor does not want to report her case to the police, it is really important for her to get medical care.

If she is HIV negative, getting antiretroviral medication within 72 hours can protect her against infection. Emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy and antibiotics against sexually transmitted infections are also really important. But counselling is also key to fight against depression.

When Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) did research in Rustenburg, they found that rape was driving HIV and depression in the mining town. Around 30 percent of abortions were for women who had fallen pregnant after been raped -- something that could have been avoided by a simple morning-after pill.

Because we feel very strongly that no rape should ever be tolerated, Health-e has launched the Izwi Lami (My Voice) campaign to collect the testimonies of survivors, put them in touch with counselling services, and campaign for a standard package of healthcare for all survivors to be available at all 24-hour health facilities.

This is being done through our free SMS-driven survey and questionnaire platform. By texting the keyword 'endrape' to 38006, rape survivors can take part in a survey about their personal experience, get information about counselling services in their provinces and add their support for the demand for the package of care.

The survey allows survivors to record personal stories anonymously, giving as much or as little information they're comfortable to share. For many women this may be the first time they are able to share their experiences of trauma.

Those survivors willing to share their stories publicly (either with or without their names) will have excerpts of their accounts shared.

The intention of Izwi Lami is to show other survivors they are not alone, and to create a conversation on social media around how pervasive rape is in the country.

Izwi Lami is a collaborative campaign, with Health-e partnering with Rape Crisis, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), Sonke Gender Justice, LifeLine, mainstream media outlets and local personalities to highlight the issues that beg for us not to look away.

Each SMS conversation ends with a link to a petition designed by calling for a package of care (counselling, ARVs, antibiotics and a morning-after pill) to be provided to every rape survivor at appropriate health facilities.

Health-e is looking for sponsorship to continue the SMS tool and to build it up into a national Survivor Support resource for survivors of rape, sexual abuse and domestic violence, linking them to counselling, Thuthuzela Care Centres, appropriate 24-hour health facilities and police stations.

Join us on this journey because our rape and abuse crisis leaves no South African unaffected. Izwi Lami is a call to be heard, it's also a call to listen and call to act.

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  • Izwi Lami is partly is supported by Code for Africa's impactAFRICA fund and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.Health e-News