Stop victimising rape victims and give them safe place to speak out
I was raped. This was the bombshell one of my friends dropped on me recently while we were having a conversation about life's triumphs and tribulations.
My heart sank as I had not in my wildest thoughts imagined she had been living with the pain of being violated. This was because she always exudes confidence and happiness. She is always beaming, full of energy and looks very much in control of her life.
But immediately after sharing her ordeal, the bright spark and the wide smile that she had worn on her face quickly disappeared.
With tears rolling down her cheeks, she related how she was raped at gunpoint while she was a second year student at one of the tertiary institutions.
Young, scared and ashamed, she never reported the incident to authorities.
Her biggest fear was not only her family's reaction, but having to stand on the witness stand and convince the magistrate or judge that she was indeed raped.
The shame and the guilt that engulfed her post the incident had such far-reaching effects on her that she developed a lot of disorders. She explained how emotionally shattered she was and how her self-esteem took a knock.
"On days that I was brave to talk about it, I feared that no one will believe me and that I will be blamed for 'asking' for it. To be raped is to be broken in more ways than I could ever count. To be raped is to have somebody reach inside your soul and force it to slowly die," she said.
In that state of shock, I just let her pour her heart out about the emotional pain she had lived with through the years.
When this year's annual 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign was launched, I thought of her and many other rape victims who are suffering in silence.
My heart went out to those rape victims who are dying inside with no one to talk to; the ones living with the shame, guilt and psychological pain of having to put on a strong face while in turmoil emotionally.
The ones suffering from depression as a result of the trauma. The ones drinking their sorrows away in an effort to cope.
The recent police statistics paint a grim picture about the extent of sexual offenses in this country. According to 2017/18 statistics, police recorded more than 40035 cases of rape, up from 39828 in 2016/17.
With an average of 110 rapes recorded by the police each day, it is clear that we are under siege from rapists.
It is therefore of the utmost importance that we work together as a nation in all formations to raise awareness on the effects of rape. We need to encourage and support rape victims to speak out and seek help. We cannot just sit back and fold our arms while innocent people are subjected to this kind of abuse and degradation.
Let's stop victimising the victims and provide a safe place for them to speak out and get help. Let's hold their hands and give them the courage and strength to conquer and, most importantly, assure them that their lives matter.
- Madiba works for the Gauteng department of roads and transport and writes in her personal capacity.