Yesterday was Women’s Day in my country. The holiday is a cheap salute because we are the global rape capital. There are more sexual assaults per capita here than in any country in the world. To put it into perspective, seven years back the USA had 27 rapes per capita. SA had 132. The only country that scored over 40 that year was Botswana. Little wonder: it’s right on our doorstep.
When I was raped an age ago, I told myself the odds of it happening to me twice were low, so I was safe. Then I realised I was as likely to be raped a second time as I was the first. That’s just how the numbers fall. The universe doesn’t dole out trauma on a one-for-one basis, and many of the women here have been raped three times—by three different people.
The patriarchy doesn’t stop punishing us there. We voted a rapist into the presidency, for a start. I guess the USA likes them apples, because they just did something similar. The attitudes that make rape acceptable in voters’ eyes leak into every aspect of a woman’s life. You must brace yourself for gropings, flashings, sexual harassment, and general disrespect at every turn because there’s no knowing when you’ll get unlucky.
In SA, rape schedules are confining. Living under such heavy statistics is numbing, so I rarely feel fear, but every time I mention the rape problem, someone on Fetlife calls me paranoid.
All women are given that title at least once in their lives because most of us are a little scared. Paranoia is an irrational fear. Being fearful in a country with a rape epidemic is not irrational. It’s sane. If you were a gambler facing the same odds, you’d be scared, too, even if it was only money you were about to lose.
Mention fear, and a few carbon cut-out responses are assured:
Men are also raped.
(I didn’t say they weren’t)
I’m not scared, so you’re wrong.
(By that logic, I am scared so you’re wrong.)
There’s no such thing as rape culture.
(40% of men in Diepsloot admit to raping at least once.)
But that one U.S. study they did in the Eighties was badly designed, therefore all the ones that followed must also be wrong.
(One rotten apple doesn’t kill the tree.)
Reacting to the rape problem makes you a victim.
(If so, then reacting to this post makes you a victim.)
It’s not that those kind of commenters really care about male rape stats. It’s that they want to dismiss women’s experience with rape. Fear is not evil or wrong. It’s an emotion as legitimate as any other. Anger is just as appropriate in this scenario, but most of us aren’t angry at all men. We’re angry about how much we have to change our lives to adapt to the rape situation.
South African women don’t go out without taking measures to reduce their odds of becoming a victim. Anything less is far too risky, yet every year, our supermarkets hand out cupcakes and say, “Happy Women’s Day.”
Being heard on this would make me a lot happier than a cupcake because Women’s Day is a joke.
One man in our most severe rape region is single handedly trying to support all rape and abuse survivors in Diepsloot through his organization. Please consider contributing to the Diepsloot Centre for Violence and Abuse: Paypal firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number: +27 78 888 2144