I first became interested in the issue of sexual violence when learning about rape on United States university campuses. I wanted to better understand sexual violence on a global scale, and so I sought out a foreign organization working in this domain. Eventually, I found Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust! I saw that Rape Crisis was doing incredibly impactful, innovative work, and was attracted to the broad scope of their work: the organization not only provides support for survivors after an assault, but also works to change the culture and conversation around sexual violence. I knew that I would be able to learn invaluable lessons from working with Rape Crisis.
Before my first day of work, I felt nervous about the upcoming weeks and doubted whether I would be qualified enough to actually contribute. Fortunately, it only took stepping into the Rape Crisis office to put my nerves to rest permanently. Entering the office in Observatory is more like walking into your grandmother’s house than into an office space. It is warm, bright, and filled with creaking wooden floors and fluffy couches. Everybody in the office greets you warmly, whether or not they know who you are. I have always believed that an organization’s values are reflected in its office culture, and working at Rape Crisis, where the Observatory office is characterized by compassion, feminism, and respect for all, has only reinforced this notion for me.
I have been working on a few different technology-based projects throughout my time at Rape Crisis. Primarily, I’ve helped with tasks related to launching the new website and blog. I have also been researching and developing possibilities for mobile counselling or a mobile help-line for survivors. Although I am just an intern, I have been given real responsibilities and am treated as a regular staff member.
Upon reflecting on my time at Rape Crisis, I’ve realized that the organization and its staff have taught me dozens of important lessons. But perhaps most importantly, the experience has impacted the way that I approach any given social issue. At Rape Crisis, I have learned that it is impossible to talk about sexual violence in South Africa without understanding the complicated legacy of apartheid, the history of disempowered and disenfranchised groups, systemic poverty, gang violence, government corruption, or the stigma and myths surrounding rape in local communities. All of these complexities, and many more, influence the manifestation of sexual violence in South Africa, as well as the approach that Rape Crisis must take in their work.
The staff at Rape Crisis helped to bring me up to speed on these issues in South Africa, which put sexual violence in the country into a much clearer context. I now realize that it is impossible to understand a social issue in any given country without really understanding that country. I hope to apply this more holistic approach when learning about any social issue in the future. I am incredibly grateful for my time at Rape Crisis, and for everyone that made me feel so welcome while I was here. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Written by Intern