03/08/2017 02:58 BST | Updated 03/08/2017 05:17 BST

We Need To Do More To Debunk Myths About Rape

Anybody can be raped irrespective of your gender, sexual orientation, race and occupation.

Evangelicals for Social Action

Headline: East London man accused of allegedly raping prostitute. "How can a prostitute be raped though?" I stood in disbelief after hearing this question because it indicated numerous issues in our society. I realised in that moment that people don't know what constitutes as rape, people don't know what consent means and people don't understand that males can be raped as well. And in not knowing the above, they are inadvertently perpetuating rape culture. That, or they simply don't care that 42,596 rape cases were reported between 2015/2016, this figure excludes the rape cases that were not reported.

It is evident that rape needs to be debunked as there is a general lack of knowledge about it. Many people are unaware of what constitutes as rape and therefore have difficulty in "trying to make sense of it" says Kim Barker, who is currently studying her PhD in Psychology in Grahamstown, with her research focusing on recovery from sexual violence. Antonio Stride, a doctor at Frere Hospital, defines rape as "any act that is nonconsensual, penetrating or non-penetrating even with a foreign object." Lana Michaels, an attorney at Wesley Pretorius and Associates states that the legal definition of rape is "Any person who unlawfully and intentionally commits an act of sexual penetration with a complainant without their consent is guilty of the offence of rape."

Barker adds that one of the biggest misconceptions about rape is that it can only be a violent act. Many don't consider the psychological and emotional damage that is placed on the victims. Stride mentions that victims are "scarred for life."

Barker believes that it is imperative that we educate people at a younger age about rape as people are most at risk of being raped up until the age of 15. In educating people about rape, it is important to ensure that victims are not blamed for being assaulted but rather to clarify that their personal safety and dignity was infringed on, which reduces the possible guilt and shame victims encounter. This encompasses educating people on what constitutes as rape, the importance of consent and who can be raped.

"Consent is an ongoing process, not a once-off 'yes' or 'no'. Both people have the right to engage or withdraw from the encounter," says Barker. This definition of consent is important as it sheds light on an ongoing case about an East London man who has been accused of allegedly raping a prostitute. Despite her occupation, if at any point she does not verbally consent to what is happening, it is considered as rape. Michaels adds that "anybody can be raped irrespective of your gender, sexual orientation, race and occupation". It is, therefore, a fallacy that only females can be raped but also that only males are perpetrators.

The Rape Crisis Centre released information in May 2017, stating that 1 in 17 men will experience sexual violence in their lifetime yet only 5 percent of male victims will report their cases. This is as a result of the stigma that has been attached to sexual assault. Barker mentions that victims tend to second-guess themselves and feel guilt and shame and this is partially why many cases are left unreported.

Rape is a prevalent issue in society and that not enough conscientization is taking place in relation to rape and sexual assault.

This is why movements such as the Chapter 2.12 campaign at Rhodes University occurred in 2016 where posters were placed on campus, mainly outside the library, as a means to address rape culture. Thereafter the #RUReferencelist protest started where a list of names was published anonymously on the RU Queer Confessions and Crushes Facebook page and was circulated among students. This list of names was of students accused of allegedly sexually assaulting or raping other students. This protest was aimed at holding alleged perpetrators accountable.

Stellenbosch joined the movement in 2016 and submitted a list of demands to their Management stating that the University needs to acknowledge that rape culture is a contentious issue on campus. They requested that the university put more stringent measures in place to protect students from being raped such as increasing security as well as installing more cameras around their campus. UCT protestors joined the movement in 2016 as students felt discouraged by the lack of action taken by Management to ensure the safety of students.

This in and of itself is an indication that rape is a prevalent issue in society and that not enough conscientization is taking place in relation to rape and sexual assault. It is our duty to continue educating people about rape and consent, it is the least we can do for all the victims.