RAPE… A HARSH REALITY FOR MANY
Written by: Zama Ngcoya
How one interprets the concept of rape differs. There are many definitions of it which have been brought forward, but in some cases, have not been accepted by many. This could perhaps be attributed to their social, experience, academic or financial backgrounds.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), rape can be defined as a form of sexual assault. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the other hand, includes rape in their definition of sexual assault and term rape as a form of sexual violence.
For Ntokozo Dlamini*, a rape survivor, this is an action she is very familiar with.
“The first time I was raped, I was 4. It was in ‘94 and it was in East London and I was raped by a family friend. I was left at their place and they decided to just rape me and eventually they got arrested. But when it comes to how I felt, I did not know. I was numb. I was a four-year-old not even knowing how to deal with this whole thing. I could only deal with it in high school and it was a set back because I used to drink so much and I used to numb myself. But through speaking to psychologists and getting better, eventually I was fine,” explained Dlamini as she recounts the events of her rape as a minor.
Although Dlamini’s rapist was arrested for the crime committed, this was only the beginning for her.
“Out of the blue, it happens again in a taxi with 4 guys. They raped me, all of them, they beat me and they robbed me. It happened in a taxi and they dropped me off in a place full of containers in the middle of nowhere and I was left naked to cry,” added Dlamini as she told Journalismiziko of the second time she fell victim to rape.
Dlamini shared how the rape has not only affected her, but those around her as well.
“This has affected everyone than just me. It has affected how people see me. It has affected me mostly because in a weird way, my ego is low. I’m not confident, but I have to put up this front. I don’t even know how I can start dealing with it. There is so much counselling but it still doesn’t take away the anger towards every man because I don’t even see a man the same way. I can’t even get myself to trust men and when it comes to my mom, she feels helpless and the people around me are now blaming themselves that they should have been more cautious of me.
According to reports by news publication Mail and Guardian, over 130 000 rapes are reported to the police every year. Around 1.2-million rapes are committed each year. A woman is more likely to be raped than learn how to read. One in three (or two out of five) South African women will be raped.
According to Psychologist Candice Leith, rape can be defined as unlawful sexual intercourse or any other sexual penetration of the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person, with or without force, by sex organ, other body part, or foreign object, without the consent of the victim. She further said that sexual harassment includes any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Leith further highlighted the effects of rape on an individual, and those around them.
“Effects of rape on an individual include depression, anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, suicidal ideation, low self-esteem, sickness, impaired school or work productivity. Stress impacts on the interpersonal relationships. The support could also experience what we call secondary trauma. Secondary traumatic stress is the emotional duress that results when an individual hears about the firsthand trauma experience of another,” added Leith.
It is evident that rape culture is a stark reality in society.
Dlamini discouraged other rape victims against self-blame.
“All I can say is that it is one of those saddest things that we have in South Africa, because you don’t know when its gonna happen, you don’t know where and you don’t know how or why. All I can say to all victims out there, blaming yourself is just making you feel like a victim even more. But then again it’s not so easy because the process of building yourself up is painful because you never know how. Just blaming yourself is not the key,” advised Dlamini.
Leith advised students and other potential victims on how one can handle rape if they have fallen victim to it.
“If you have been raped, contact a friend or family member that you trust for support, contact protection services or the police. If you have been physically harmed, do not wash evidence off your body, go to the Isolempilo Health Clinic or your nearest hospital. Remind yourself that you did not ask for this to happen to you. After a traumatic incident, seek support from a professional like a psychologist at student counselling because you may experience a number of symptoms listed above,” concluded Leith.
*Not her real name