The following piece is a first-hand account of sexual abuse written by a courageous survivor in her own words. Parts of this letter may be triggering to some – reader discretion is advised. If you would like to speak to a Rape Crisis counsellor, please contact our 24 helpline: 021 447 9762. If you can’t speak to anyone, speak to us.
You have a choice. Don’t let anybody make you believe that you don’t.
Someone might have power over your body for a moment, but they don’t have power over your mind or your future. I know because a few months ago I thought it was going to be a normal Monday afternoon, but it was not a normal Monday.
I was raped for two hours that Monday. Someone that I had trusted with what was most important to me disregarded my trust in the most horrific way. I kept asking him to stop as the tears flooded my eyes and ran down my cheeks, but he did not stop.
He did not stop.
If it wasn’t for a phone call with a friend the day after, I don’t know if I would have said anything. But that evening I decided to press charges, and since then I have been fighting for my own justice. It was at the forensic unit that I visited within 72hrs that the fact that I had been raped finally hit me.
Though the inside of my secret place had been violently torn, broken, skinned, bruised, and swollen (I could not walk properly or sit down without pain for two weeks and the doctor said it would take 6-8 months for my body to heal completely) — these were only physical wounds. But it was the unseen wounds that I did not accept.
I did not accept shame, depression, feeling unloved, unworthy, rejected or broken. I did not accept the idea that I was any less of a person than I was before the rape. I did not accept that there was anything wrong with me, because there wasn’t. No, there was only something wrong with the person that committed this crime.
Though I still felt pain and my heart was broken because someone I considered a friend would do this to me, it was not the pain that tripped me up. NO, it was the pain that made me want to scream. It was the pain that made me want to speak. It was the pain that made me want to let the world know that even though evil things happen, you do NOT need to allow a circumstance to have power over you.
Even if you didn’t speak up when you were raped, you can still speak up now – it’s never too late to share your story.
You can still have your justice too.
Leading change and innovation in organisations is not one person’s job. It should be an opportunity everyone can be a part of. Getting this filtered through the various complexities in organisations today is the challenge that makes both inclusivity and innovation seem like a far dream for organisations to achieve.
At Rape Crisis we had many discussions about what a rebrand would look like. How would it include voices in the organisation to maintain authenticity and when is the “right” time to pursue the journey of rebranding a 43 year old organisation. Because ultimately that’s what this process is: a journey. To bring members of an organisation along this journey is what my team and I has been trying to do over the last 6 months at Rape Crisis.
I started off with creating a facilitation team that led this process with an open mind, heart and most of all the patience to bear with me as we consciously try to practise inclusion across the organisation. The team consisted of Janet Austin (PMEL Specialist), Rifqah Barnes (Training & Development Coordinator), Sino Mdunjeni (Digital Officer), Jameelah Ismail (Fundraising Officer), Neliswa Tshazi (Court Support Coordinator) and Waafiq Hendricks (Graphic Designer). An important part of this process was to have the designer present from start to finish. This level of participation allows the designer to have a much deeper connection and understanding of the context and scope of the project ahead. It allows for them to share ideas and suggestions in the moment, rather than following a static brief and going back and forth with revisions.
Why do it this way?
Hiring a marketing or external design agency to take on your rebrand seems like the best option or best practice however considering the type of organisation, its members, its beneficiaries and the social purpose behind what we are doing were all factors that drove me to thinking about how do we turn this process inward and make this a ‘Collective Organisational Rebrand’.
In Tim Brown’s book “Change by Design” he distinguishes between multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams. “A creative organization is constantly on the lookout for people with the capacity and—just as important—the disposition for collaboration across disciplines. In the end, this ability is what distinguishes the merely multidisciplinary team from a truly interdisciplinary one. In a multidisciplinary team each individual becomes an advocate for his or her own technical specialty and the project becomes a protracted negotiation among them, likely resulting in a gray compromise. In an interdisciplinary team there is collective ownership of ideas and everybody takes responsibility for them.” Tim Brown, Change by Design.
The value of co-creation is that we get to learn from each other.
I cannot express the importance of finding methodologies that breed inclusivity. We can talk about inclusivity but if we can’t practise it then it’s a different story. Making room for voice, agency and diversity are not simply things we add to our vision and mission statement – they have to be embodied in our work, in our projects, in our processes and in the day-to-day life of an organisation. This is a challenging task, but one I can say we are currently experiencing.
When is it time for a rebrand? And who says it’s time for it?
Like with most things in our organisation, it all starts with conversations, corridor and kitchen chats when seeds are planted and ideas are shared – that’s when the thinking process starts. There is no “right” time or “right” person to initiate a rebrand and especially in the context of social justice organisations and the nonprofit sector where there are no rules to follow when it comes to Communications and Marketing. We learn by trying and we grow by trusting our intuition.
Four years ago when I started at Rape Crisis I felt a rebrand was necessary, my reasons back then are different to now. The brand itself never seemed interesting to me, however the people did. Four years down the line I have learnt something that can only happen once you immerse yourself into the environment you wish to change and that is that change is not a linear process, it happens in small ways and so as the years have gone by this idea of expansion and growth sits strongly with me and everyone else who forms part of Rape Crisis. We identify with growth and expansion when we see and feel things change around us and when the demands of the external world have to be met. So what do we do? We respond, but we respond in our own time and in our own way.
This is the power we have, the power not only as practitioners and thought leaders but as a feminist organisation that drives processes within and encourages that journey as one that everyone is part of. Ideally the responsibility of driving a branding process sits within the Communications team. But to collectively build and own it we have to collectively agree on when it is time – which is when it then becomes everyone’s responsibility. To accomplish this we sent out a survey to all staff and volunteers asking about their feelings about whether it was in fact time, and the majority response was a YES!
How does change affect participation?
Specifically in this context, change is hard. Members of an organisation will have attachment to certain things about the current brand such as the logo, colours, symbols and familiarity with the existing brand. A resistance to change is a good sign, its sign to go back to the drawing board and re-create. Being mindful of how people accept change, work with new ideas and feel about a new process are all part of the process. If this hinders participation then we must think of ways to manage and address a resistance to change. For this we did an empathy map exercise on how everyone was feeling about change. This gave me a good enough sense of the reading in the room and helped the facilitation team to push forward and create the rest of the sessions in a mindful way.
This attachment is very important, it shows that staff values the identity of the organisation and therefore cares about what it grows into. When it comes to participation, there is only so much one can put into place for participants to actually participate. One good sign is when you have a high attendance, that means there is interest and curiosity. CURIOSITY is the factor that will drive people to creativity.
As an organisation that deals with such complex social issues we are constantly faced with external change and the question is whether or not we respond and adapt. Often these types of decisions or conversations are driven by external factors including donors, stakeholders and communities, and it is on Rape Crisis to shift. The beauty about that shift is that it sits inside the organisation, the tools to make this happen already exist. In Warren Nilsson and Tanna Paddocks article on social innovation from the inside out they mention that, “Socially innovative organizations draw on member experiences to generate the raw material of social change. They do so not just in special retreats or workshops, but in the routine meetings and conversations that make up most of organizational life.” This describes a particular part of the collective rebrand and how we share and experience organisational change.
As it stands we have gone through a 6 month period of 3 co-created rebrand sessions. During this time we have gathered data, collectively designed mood boards, learnt about colour psychology, symbols, logos, concept development and the voice of a brand. And what we plan to do next is use all the input gathered to conceptualise and create a design brief that will look to incorporate the new input for the brand. This is an unfolding process and we look forward to the next phase as we build and iterate collectively.
(Zeenat Hendricks is currently completing her Masters in Inclusive Innovation at the UCT Graduate School of Business and is conducting her fieldwork study at Rape Crisis as the insider researcher. Her research work explores how communications acts as a tool for social innovation in organisations and drives inclusivity and participation)
If you follow the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign’s digital platforms, you have probably come across a post about Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs). These are one-stop facilities where rape survivors can access medical care, psychosocial support, and can even report the rape to the police. They sound great. And in many instances they are great. But there are only 55 of them in our country which spans 1,221 million km². That is A LOT of km².
That means there are countless small towns, rural communities and housing settlements where there is no TCC in sight. Nada. Not one. Not even a whiff of a TCC. And the obvious question is, what about rape survivors who don’t have access to such a one-stop facility? That is the question that the RSJC team at Rape Crisis has been grappling with over the past few years. Our successful work on sexual offences courts has shown us that a survivor-centred criminal justice system is important. It has also reminded us that many rape survivors never see the inside of a court, often because they do not have access to the first step in the criminal justice system – post rape care.
As activists and advocates for change, we have to imagine the world as it COULD be. And we imagine access to care, everywhere. We dream of a South Africa where every rape survivor in the 1 221 million km² that is our country has access to:
– medical care,
– a forensic examination,
– psycho-social support,
– a referral for longer term counselling, and the
– means to report the crime at the police.
Every rape survivor having access to these five components of post rape care is the change that we want.
We therefore advocate for these five components/services to be protected in legislation and to be provided to survivors in every corner of the country. The mechanism of how these services are delivered could look different in different contexts. It might be at a local clinic. It might be at a state hospital. It might be in a van. It might be at a TCC.
If you spent your precious time reading this blog, we believe that this is a change that you care about too. This will be a long journey (it took us five years to get Sexual Offences Courts protected in legislation with a set of minimum standards and a plan for the rollout and designation). So Access to Care, Everywhere will probably be no different.
1. You can talk to us about anything
We are not here to judge you or any of your behaviours. We care that you feel able to bring anything to the session that you are grappling with or that other people around you are confronting you about.
2. Healing from trauma is tricky
Sometimes it means grappling with very difficult emotions and memories that can leave you feeling ‘raw’ after a session. This does not mean that you are doing something wrong or that you are not healing. It can be a sign that you are working on things.
3. Be patient and proud that you have taken the steps
Not feeling better after one session? Struggling to implement the coping strategies that have been suggested? That’s okay, give yourself time to adjust to the changes and figure out what works for your personal healing journey. Seeking help is already a courageous step.
4. Counselling does not mean that you have to tell us what happened
You can (of course) tell us what happened. But counselling is about how you manage and cope afterwards and how you experience yourself in the world and would prefer to experience yourself.
5. We are here to listen
We recognize that guilt, self-doubt and the ‘what-ifs’ are often tricky visitors. We hope to help you shift them so that you can live the life that you need.
6. There is no ‘right’ time for counselling
Some survivors come within days of the incident, others seek counselling years after sexual violence. We are available to help you at whatever phase you are in your recovery. When you are ready, you are welcome to reach out.
7. Counselling can help
You are not likely to forget what happened. How you feel when you think about it or are triggered in some way can change.
8. Seeking counselling is a strength and not a weakness
It can sometimes look as though others are dealing with bigger things or are dealing with things in a better way. We are interested in helping you explore the strength you have within you.
9. Recovery is possible
One of the myths rape culture promotes is that after sexual violence you will forever be broken and tainted. This idea reduces one’s life to being very narrowly defined and unfair to those other incredible sides of you that we would like to assist you get in touch with.
10. We believe you
What you were wearing at the time was not an invitation to be raped. Any time someone blames you for the crime remember, it was not your actions but the actions of the perpetrator that were criminal.
Shiralee McDonald (Counselling Coordinator)
Ronel Koekemoer (Observatory Counselling Coordinator)
The Department of Social Development is developing legislation – The Victim Support Services Bill – which is currently open for comment. When a bill is open for comment you can make your voice heard by making a submission (in this case, to the Department of Social Development) with your input.
WHAT IS THE VSS BILL?
The Victim Support Services Bill was designed as a legislative response to gender-based and violent crimes. More specifically, it was intended as a legal framework that would speak directly to the support services provided to victims of crime. As it stands, the bill proposes that organisations and professionals who provide services to all victims of violent crime register with the government. The cost of registration will be borne by your organisation, and failure to do so could result in imprisonment. The bill also requires that there are always enough human and financial resources to realise the objectives of the legislation, irrespective of an organisation’s own objectives and mission.
A bill that purports to bolster victim support services looks to instead weave needless red tape into the non-profit/non-governmental sector. In essence, the Victim Support Services bill looks to criminalise anyone who does not adhere to regulations that would not actually contribute to the improvement of the services provided to victims of crime.
WHO WILL THE BILL AFFECT?
“If you provide a room for a domestic violence victim, or give spiritual counselling to someone who got hijacked, the bill will make you register. If you don’t, that’s a criminal offence. People aren’t going to know about it so you risk people falling foul of the law.”
- Alison Tilley, Judges Matter Coordinator
There is a limit to the support provided by the government to victims of crime. The victim support sector is comprised of civil society organisations – community groups and non-governmental organisations – that provide the care that the government does not. It can be said that South Africa has a rich history of organisations like these stepping up to fill the gaps neglected by our government.
Somehow, in response to that goodwill, the Department of Social Development has put forth the Victim Support Services Bill. One would expect for the bill to support and supplement the admirable work already being done by non-governmental organisations, because without them victim support in this country would be next to non-existent. Instead, the bill (in its current form) would not just create more harm than good, but may very well eliminate the victim support sector as we know it.
If you provide physical, psychological, social or spiritual support to victims of any violent crime, this bill will affect you. From religious leaders, to traditional healers, shelters, therapists, lawyers, nurses, doctors – this bill would severely regulate and possibly eliminate the informal and formal networks of support that victims of crime rely on for sanctuary.
Victims of crime have suffered enough, they should have the right to access any and all of the services that provide them the support that they need. What the Victim Support Services Bill should be doing is protecting and legislating that right.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Our collective outrage is warranted. But we need to find a sustainable way to channel that outrage in a way that ensures that victims of crime do not end up falling through the cracks due to a lack of state- or civil society-funded support. Victims of crime deserve more than what the Department of Social Development is proposing. We need to stand up and fight on their behalf, and on behalf of the people providing them with invaluable support services.
What can you do?
- Sign the petition: https://awethu.amandla.mobi/petitions/save-victim-support-services-demand-rights-for-victims-of-crime-now
- Make a submission to the Department of Social Development before Wednesday, 16 September 2020. Send your comments by email to:
Siza Magangoel: Sizam@dsd.gov.za
Luyanda Mtshotshisa: LuyandaMt@socdev.gov.za
Anna Sithole: Annas@dsd.gov.za
To learn more about how to make a submission, please read the ‘Making Your Submission’ toolkit here: https://rapecrisis.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/VSS-Submission-Toolkit.pdf
3. Spread the word
The Victim Support Services bill will not achieve much beyond asking NPOs to register as service providers, with failure to register possibly resulting in imprisonment. The benefits of the bill (especially if we centre the experiences of crime victims) are dubious, but the consequences to victim support services would be far-reaching. We need to make our voices heard by signing the petition and making submissions to the Department of Social Development (before Wednesday, 16 Sept) as comment to this damaging bill.