No woman is safe from rape

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

South Africa is not referred to as the rape capital of the world without justification.

A quick browse through the daily newspapers is the source of some of the most horrific attacks imaginable.

"Soweto youth jailed for raping American girl", "Gang rapist jailed for life", "Corrective rape at schools" and so on.

According to the South African Press Association at least 50 children are victims of rape each and every day.

Another shocking fact, according to Childline South Africa, is that one in four girls face the prospect of being raped before their 16th birthday.

If that isn't scary enough, consider this: a child born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped than learning to read.

But not only the young are vulnerable to these sadistic attacks. Any female aged from 8 months to 80 years is fair game.

Another trend that is becoming more common is the rape of lesbians.

Within the last 18 months there have been a number of vicious attacks and murders on women who are openly gay.

The most recent was the senseless rape and murder of Banyana Banyana midfield star Eudy Simelane.

Hunted down like an animal, Simelane was violated by a pack of men and left to die in a polluted stream in Daveyton, on Gauteng's East Rand.

But what drives a man to violate a woman and, quite often, someone he knows?

"Let's look at rape in general," says Ntombi Lokotwayo, a clinical psychologist based in Soweto.

"Men rape for different reasons. One is that they feel inadequate as a man and don't believe a woman will sleep with them, so they force themselves on women.

"Then there are those men who rape because they get some satisfaction from seeing a woman in pain - these we call sexual sadists.

"Thirdly, we have those who are in search of power. Often they are angry towards women - their wives, girlfriends and so on," says Lokotwayo.

South Africa is often applauded for having what is regarded as the most liberal Constitution in the world. Minority rights are respected, languages protected and same-sex marriages are lawful. But still a number of gays feel threatened and the recent attacks on lesbians does nothing to stem this fear.

Lokotwayo says: "People are more intolerant of something they are not sure of. They become afraid of something they are unfamiliar with.

"Often they have no knowledge about the subject and so view it as abnormal," says Lokotwayo.

"Also, if people have a psychological disorder, they will not see anything wrong in what they are doing.

"This is particularly true with regard to psychopaths. Any amount of counselling is wasted because they will continue committing their crimes," she adds.

In most cultures, talking about a person's sexuality is a taboo subject. According to Lokotwayo, this is particularly true in black society.

"Obviously there have always been lesbians in black society, but they are often afraid of coming out. Those who do come out are very brave," Lokotwayo says.

But is being gay more acceptable than years ago?

"It depends on whether you live in a rural or urban area. Urban areas tend to be more tolerant. Rural culture is more traditional and strong.

"Don't forget what has happened and still continues to happen in mining communities.

"Men enter into sexual relationships for sexual satisfaction, then go back to their wives and become husbands and fathers again."

So what can be done to curb what is clearly an unacceptable trend in our society when it comes to rape?

Is it reverting back to more traditional values or values our parents lived by but have somehow been eroded with each generation?

Or does the answer lie in education?

Lokotwayo says: "There needs to be more education regarding sexuality in our schools. Yes, there will be a lot of resistance, but children need to be made aware. The more knowledge they have about certain subjects the better.

"It's not easy educating children. Adults as well are uncomfortable discussing such issues. Some feel it is a taboo subject, so how are they going to educate their children?

"What people must also understand is that a rapist can be anyone. It can be your neighbour or your school headmaster. It has nothing to do with profession, status or even wealth for that matter.

"Also, it can be someone you know - your husband or a relative," adds Lokotwayo.