Let’s also address rapists when addressing rape

By Xoliswa Ben-Mazwi (@Xo_Li)

Xoliswa Ben-Mazwi asks when are we going to target programmes of rape prevention to perpetrators in the same manner as we do to the victims of the crime, saying “with every anti-rape alarm and can of pepper spray distributed, there should be campaigns to rehabilitate rapists and prevent our dads, brothers, teachers and friends from being rapists.”

rape culture

While listening to a radio station that some South Africans would call the “News24 comments section of radio”, I stumbled upon a discussion between radio personality, Redi Tlhabi and Michelle Solomon, a journalist and rape activist. The discussion centred on the anti-rape alarms launched by the North West government to help women and child-headed households repel rapists. Yes, repel.

The device, as described by Community Safety MEC, Gaoge Molapisi, “produces a three phased siren to alert the community of intrusions with the affected house being easily identifiable by a flashing red light”. Quite a spectacle, isn’t it?

In a country with one of highest rates of rape in the world, there is no denying that active steps need to be taken to reduce these numbers. However, we also need to assess whether we are taking steps in the right direction.

Solomon rightfully addressed the fact that anti-rape campaigns are, more often than not, targeted at victims and rarely at the perpetrators. We are constantly being told what to do to avoid being raped. “Dress conservatively”, “carry a rape whistle and pepper spray”, “use the buddy system when going to the bathroom”.

I look at gender issues through the same lenses with which I Iook at racial issues. From where I am standing, I do not see anybody telling people of colour how to avoid being victims of racial slurs. I can only imagine the public uproar if the powers that be at Stellenbosch University responded to claims of racially charged brutality by urging black students to travel in groups to avoid being assailed by white students in the historically Afrikaans town.

I am in no way rallying for the termination of campaigns that aim to protect women. However with every such campaign, there should be a campaign targeted at the perpetrators. Telling me to cover up and learn how to defend myself is not a solution to rape. At what point are we going to tackle this pandemic by delving into the messy psyche of rapists and rape culture? With every anti-rape alarm and can of pepper spray distributed, there should be campaigns to rehabilitate rapists and prevent our dads, brothers, teachers and friends from being rapists.

In the meantime, I need all (potential) rapists to take a knee and get in on this huddle. Sirs, we are going to need you to do a few things:

  1. Dress conservatively. By that I mean your “rapist” label need not be printed in bold across your chest. You can wear it as a little nametag on your shirt pocket.
  2. Carry a rape whistle. If you feel “rapey”, feeling entitled to a woman’s body and might force yourself onto her, give it a blow to warn any potential victims.
  3. Lastly, always use the buddy system. Ask a counsellor/ psychologist to be your “sponsor”. You need someone to shun the abuser in you each time he rears his ugly head.
  4. Stop calling us hoes, bitches and any other derogatory names you would not dare call your mothers. Just stop.
  5. Stop using women as objects to promote your clubs and events. I would like to believe you are a little more creative than that.
  6. Stop taking our no’s as a cue to try harder. Trust me, “no” is the most absolute word in the English language.
  7. Lastly, PLEASE lay off the cat calling. Studies have shown that it has a 0.00% success rate. Cat callers never get the girl.

We need to put an end to the rape culture that is so prevalent in society. Until we have an elaborate plan to change the world, we can change the way we treat women in our own circles. These actions may seem habitual and harmless but it’s really society’s little nuances that perpetuate rape culture. We need a new “normal”, a normal that shuns misogyny and gender-based violence. Hell, I just want to go empty my bladder without needing a friend to hold my hand.

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