Students are expected to gather at Rhodes University campus at 6am on Friday in a “silent protest” showing solidarity with rape survivors.
The first silent protest was initiated at Rhodes University in Grahamstown in 2007. Tomorrow will be the 10th anniversary of the protest. This year’s event will be the fourth time it is organised under the auspices of the Aids Healthcare Foundation (AHF).
The protest forms part of the organisation’s campaign to reduce new infections in young women and girls. This year’s campaign will also highlight the difficulties survivors face after the crime.
“Rape, sexual assault and child abuse remain a far larger problem than even the frightening SA crime stats provided by the South African Police Services [SAPS] indicate.
“The issues which inspired the protest a decade ago persist, with victim-blaming and stigma remaining the order of the day,” said Larissa Klazinga, regional policy and advocacy manager for AHF Southern Africa.
Klazinga explained that their decision to work with university students was a way of empowering future leaders to break down the social stigma attached to rape.
Factors contributing to the silence of rape survivors, such as the silencing nature of the violation itself, the intimidation of victims by the suspect, the fear of not being believed, being shunned and blamed by the community and being re-traumatised, will be highlighted.
Professor Lillian Artz of the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit explained that “low conviction rates, lengthy court cases and victimisation breed a culture of impunity, where sexual offences are commonplace and where there is a well-founded belief that there will be no consequence for this crime”.
The Silent Protest 2017 will move to Durban University of Technology on August 16 before moving to the University of Cape Town on August 29. The itinerary will include a morning briefing, a symbolic silencing, a march, a die-in and an open-mic session to end the protest, allowing participants to break the silence about gender-based violence.