Being a peer educator (peer ed) is so much more than just a label that was given to me because I completed a course. It’s a responsibility that I need to fulfill with the utmost seriousness. Many might feel that being a peer ed is a burden; I see it as a privilege.
Last year was great, let’s make this year even better!
Rape Crisis counsellors offer 24 hour support to rape survivors undergoing a forensic examination in the hours immediately after rape. They treat each case with the utmost seriousness. They give clear information about what will happen next. They allow the rape survivor to make her or his own decisions and then support those decisions and offer emotional support throughout the process. They make sure the person has access to justice and knows what is required of them step by step throughout the journey.
Yesterday marked one week since our “small” victory in a relatively small committee room on the fifth floor of one of the buildings of Parliament. I use quotes because actually it was no small victory and here is why:
The Parliament of South Africa has two main functions. The one is to make and pass laws (legislate) and the other is to oversee the actions of government departments (provide oversight). However, most of these functions are not performed in the National Assembly or the National Council of Provinces and broadcasted over national television with larger-than-life politicians waving their arms and making elaborate arguments. No, most of Parliament’s work happens when Parliamentary Oversight or Portfolio Committees, consisting of members of parliament, meet in much smaller committee rooms to discuss issues relating to the specific portfolio. This can include pieces of legislation, reports or actions taken by the relevant government department.
The Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust has a 40 year history of training activists to bring about change in the way we deal with rape in our society. The need for radical change in our country is still as strong as ever but there is not a lot of training for individuals or groups on how to bring about this kind of deep sustainable transformation.
Over the years Rape Crisis has trained counsellors, community educators and activists from the communities we serve in the hope of leaving a legacy that strengthens and empowers the women of these communities to respond to rape and to stand up for their rights.
It is unconscionable of Zapiro to trigger the trauma of thousands of rape survivors for the sake of a political point that everyone either gets anyway or will steadfastly remain unconvinced on. In a country with rape statistics as high as South Africa’s, with more than 50 000 sexual offences reported to the police each year, a cartoon depicting the country as a woman after the act of being raped by its president is not just shocking: it is going to collectively trigger the memory of an intensely personal event and evoke overwhelmingly painful emotions for each one that remembers their own rape. And there are many. Far too many.
This is a strong example of how rape culture works in our society and how even the most self-aware among us are often quite blind to it.
We all have times where we feel overwhelmed. Whatever your struggle, passion or duties may be, there can be moments that simply feel impossible. At times like these, to suggest that you should prioritise taking care of yourself seems ridiculous. But the truth is that self-care can make you stronger, sharper and more able to cope with whatever life throws at you. It’s not indulgent to invest in yourself.
For me, my go-to self-care strategy is yoga. Yoga acts like a ‘pause’ button on a life that often feels like it’s on fast-forward. Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the honour of working with Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust staff who have been creating space in their schedules to practice yoga together. Strength, flexibility, balance: all the elements we work towards in yoga are also useful for a successful day in the office. And by letting go of tension before it builds up, we are more resilient to external stresses.
The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign (RSJC) welcomes the official launch of the Boschfontein Sexual Offences Court on 24 March 2017 by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. The RSJC holds government accountable for the promised rollout of sexual offences courts across the country in order to ensure that survivors of sexual offences have access to such a specialised court. In the light hereof, we applaud government for honouring its commitment.
However, we note with concern that there are still, according to the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s official website, only 49 sexual offences courts nationally. This means that the vast majority of communities still do not have access to a survivor-centred criminal justice system to address sexual offences. One such community is Khayelitsha, where we gathered during 16 Days of Activism 2016 to demand that a sexual offences court be established to serve this community. Unfortunately it is still unclear when this will happen.
Image above: Pelisa Nokoyo – Rape Crisis Court Supporter
This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange. Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust has embodied this by launching our Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign in 2016 to lobby for a significant change in how South Africa’s criminal justice system deals with sexual offences cases. The Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign calls for access to sexual offences courts for all survivors and holds the government accountable for the national rollout of these courts, as was promised in 2013.
These Sexual Offences Courts are crucial in ensuring justice, because they focus on the needs of the survivor and aim to provide survivor-centred justice. These courts have specialised personnel, services and infrastructure. Some of the special features of these courts, are that the sexual offences courtrooms have separate entrances so that survivors do not have to walk past the defendant on their way to the courtroom. In addition, the survivor is able to testify from a separate room using CCTV. We believe that these courts will provide support to survivors throughout the court process and Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust provides court supporters at 5 courts in the Cape Town. These court supporters are trained to help survivors navigate the criminal justice system and offer much needed emotional support to survivors.
Not everyone knows that if you have donated an amount to a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) and you are a tax payer then you qualify for a tax deduction.
As an approved PBO Rape Crisis has the privilege and responsibility of spending public funds, which we derive from donations and from grants. In order to maintain our registration as a PBO we must of course ensure that we continue to comply with relevant legislation throughout our existence. Our annual income tax return enables the South African Revenue Service (SARS) to assess whether we are operating within the prescribed limits of the approval we have been granted.
Rape Crisis plays a significant role in society as we take a shared responsibility with the South African Government for the social and development needs of rape survivors, their families and people affected by the trauma of someone close to them.
Since the South African Government has recognised that Rape Crisis is dependent upon the generosity of the public, and, to encourage that generosity, it has provided a tax deduction for any donations made by a taxpayer.
Nearing the end of February, we have a lot to reflect on, chew on and (eventually) spit out. Both the State of the Nation Address (SONA) by our President, Jacob Zuma, as well as the Budget Speech by Pravin Gordhan, our Minister of Finance, left a bitter taste in my mouth.
During SONA, our country’s President aims to convey to everyone in South Africa what the state of this nation actually is. This event also marks the opening of Parliament for the year and, say what you want, it is exciting to see Parliament in full cry. For some general reasons to care about the SONA address, please have a look at the Activate! Change Driver’s Network page. The issues that the President mentions and highlights during this address, will be the issues that get special attention from government in the coming year. As coordinator of the Rape Survivors’ Justice Campaign, I was particularly interested to hear the President’s expressed views on gender based violence, services for survivors of sexual offences and, of course, the importance of the rollout of sexual offences courts. It is for this very reason that I noted the President’s very loud silence on all of the aforementioned.