Speech Delivered By Dr. Max Price As South Africa March Against Crime
Members of the UCT council, UCT senior leadership group, SRC leadership, colleagues and students.
I bring you greetings from the Chancellor, Mrs GracaMachel and the Chair of UCT Council, ArchbisopNjongonkuluNdungane, who are with us in sprit here today and have sent messages of support.
Our gathering here today, 20 February 2013, as the UCT community on the steps of our beloved Jammie Hall is extraordinary. We have, in the history of this great institution, chosen to assemble as a community only very rarely.
Only when the matter at hand has been judged as of the utmost concern – a matter literally of life and death, a matter that threatens our very existence as a healthy, progressive nation.
This was the case during crisis periods under apartheid. This was the case with HIV/Aids and in both cases it took ordinary citizens to say “Enough!” It will be the same with this dreadful scourge of gender inequality, sexual violence and abuse that claims the lives of thousands of women and children in one year in South Africa and injures, scars and destroys the dignity of literally millions of women and children with devastating consequences for our nation.
While we are making some progress nationally against other forms of violent crime, in particular murders, nonetheless, reported rapes have actually increased in recent years, with there being in excess of 56,000 reported rapes in the 2010/11 (over 150 per day; 46% of the victims were under the age of 18). In addition, there is consensus among researchers that rapes are significantly under reported in South Africa, with it being estimated that only one in ten rapes are reported to the police.
How do we make sense of this epidemic of sexual violence? And what can be done about it? More importantly, what can we do about it? Is a protest march a useful thing to do? Is it just to make us feel better about ourselves that we are seen to be doing something with no real hope or ideas about how to make an impact on the problem? Or can we make a difference?
First: Well to start with, I believe, in contrast to some critics of “another talk shop”, another expression of outrage which will be quickly forgotten and we will all carry on in a few weeks as normal” – in contrast to those critics, I believe it is absolutely essential that we gather in large crowds to protest. And clearly this enormous crowd of UCT community members signals that you think so too. But let's spell out why, even if we can have little impact on the problem, it is important to do this.
Anene Booysen died a horrible cruel and painful death. So have many others. Five women were raped while we were marching up to this assembly over the last 20 minutes. We need to mourn them, we need to console their families and each other since most of us know someone who has been raped or abused – we need to say we understand your pain and suffering, we stand with you, we share your outrage with what is being done to us.
It is an act of solidarity – yes a symbolic act rather than one that will have an obvious consequence on rates of violence, but no less important for being a demonstration that we want to be a caring society, and that we are a community that stands together in the face of such terror.
Second, we gather here, and do so repeatedly in protest to preserve our humanity. Because if we don't, we start thinking this is the normal way of the world.Violence around us is so common we become numb – we rationalise that things could have been worse, or we turn away and say “thank God it was not my child”.
More dangerously, other people, criminals, aggressors, abusers, start thinking this kind of society is an acceptable norm. We should never allow ourselves to become inured to these atrocities just because they are so common.
Repeated protest and outrage against these vile crimes is important to ensure that as a society, we establish that the norm, the sort of society we want to live in, is one in which we can walk safely alone at night, feel safe in our homes, feel confident that our intimate partners will not beat us or rape us, fee secure that our children will be safe in schools and not vulnerable to predatory teachers.
We are saying to perpetrators that they are wrong and we will shame them, we hold out hope for a different, non-violent society. Ensuring that we do not give up hope, that we do not normalise the violence we have today, is the second purpose of our gathering. WE SAY ENOUGH.
Third: in a rather conventional way, this is a protest aimed at government.We want to say directly to those in authority that we feel you are failing us. We have entered into a social contract with each other and the state that we will not go about with guns killing anyone we feel threatened by; we will not establish local community courts and executioners to punish wrongdoers, because we understand that this would lead to chaos and multiple injustices. But in return we expect the state to protect us through efficient and well-resourced policing; we expect a criminal justice system that works.
We expect criminals to be kept locked up until they are rehabilitated. We expect preventive programmes that reduce the likelihood of violence and rape. The state is failing us – worse – when e.g. the Social Justice Coalition persuades the provincial government to investigate these failures, we end up with court cases with one level of government fighting with another over whether to investigate the problem or not.
How is that evidence of putting crime as a top priority? We stand today to say once again, ENOUGH! The state, all branches of government, must get its act together and ensure that this occupies the highest priority, that the excellent laws passed are implemented, that the national committees established make time to meet urgently, that they have resources to implement change, that they are accountable.
Fixing the underlying causes of sexual violence is a long term effort with slow results. In the mean time, there are hunderds more survivors daily. We call on government to show its concern, by immediately supporting these survivors.
• Government should provide urgent and sustained funding to credible civil society organisations that deliver critical support to the victims of sexual crimes.
The recent dramatic reduction in foreign donor assistance to South Africa has been catastrophic for numerous civil society organisations. Some have closed, while others have scaled down their operations considerably. Organisations that have provided essential legal, healthcare and psychological support to rape survivors and their families have been particularly hard hit. Some, like Rape Crisis, maintain skeleton support activities largely through the commitment of volunteers. The reduced outreach work of these organisations will leave the victims of sexual violence even more traumatised and marginalised. Therefore given the high number of incidents of sexual crime in South Africa, it is vital that government make funds available for these organisations.
• Government will provide additional resources to create more social worker posts to support victims of sexual violence and to work with individuals and families that are at risk of sexual violence (as proposed in the National Development Plan).
There is a critical shortage of social worker posts that provide support to victims of trauma throughout the country, both in state facilities and centres managed by non-governmental organisations. UCT is in the process deploying final year social work students to hospitals in Cape Town where there is an urgent need for their support, but university resources are severely limited. In addition, UCT and MRC research has indicated that many social workers do not have the necessary expertise to provide adequate trauma counselling in complex family situations, as well as proficiency in legal and police procedures around sexual violence. Hence, there should be a firm commitment from government to allocate additional funding to create extra social worker posts, while universities must offer these social workers more specialised training in order to enhance support to victims of sexual violence and families that are at risk of such violence.
• In addition we call on government to put funding into implementing some of the preventive interventions that our research has shown can break the intergenerational cycle of violence.
Research findings in the area of violence prevention indicate that 'primary' community-relevant educational programmes for children and youth that target the origins of sexual violence can mitigate such violence. Successful programmes typically target aggression linked to social norms of masculinity and male sexual entitlement, and tend to include: interventions on attitudes towards sexual assault; gender norms, roles and inequality; sexual consent; healthy relationships; parenting programmes and conflict management skills training. Some schools in South Africa have undertaken such initiatives, but they are far from mainstream. Concerted support from government for primary prevention programmes in schools is essential if we are serious about sustainably reducing the level of sexual violence in the future.
Fourthly: But we can and must take individual responsibility for some of this problem and commit to acting to change the world.
When I talk to students and staff at UCT – a community most of whose members live in safer environments than the townships, where they have street lights, travel in their own cars rather than walking from public transport long distances in unsafe alleys; where the risk of violent crime and rape is certainly lower – many say this is not really our problem – so what can we do?
Well, the so-called culture of violence and culture of sexual entitlement and patriarchy that allows men to feel they have rights over women's bodies is around us all and often because it is more subtle and nuanced, we don't see it flashing red lights at us. But domestic violence is common and its normality is the first step to legitimising rape. I call on you, especially the men students, not to be silent when you discover that a friend or someone in your circle has raised a hand to his girlfriend – speak out, ostracise him, make it clear that you find that unacceptable. We believe date rape is common but we don't know because it is the least likely to be reported. But men who signal that they expect sex as the outcome of a date even when their partner does consent must be outed and shamed. They must know it is not OK. When you go to a club and go home with someone who might have had enough to drink to impair their judgement about whether they really want to have sex or not, as a man with integrity and commited not to abuse yoru partner, you need to avoid pushing the boundaries or taking advantage of someone just because you can – even if no coercion is involved. You need to be 100% sure that having sex is her positive choice. And if the next day you are in a crowd where other men are boasting about their conquests, you need to condemn such language – “conquests”, you need to challenge them on whether their partners really consented. Speak out when you hear others using coercion in order to have sex. Speak out when you hear others making sexually derogatory remarks about others. Speak out when you hear your friends objectifying members of the opposite sex. Talk seriously and honestly with your partner about what you and they expect, about what is negotiable and what is not. Do not make assumptions based on their gender. There are many more – perhaps most importantly in the language we use. Be careful how we use the word “rape”. We diminish the seriousness and insult the survivors when we use the word “rape” to describe defeat on the sports field, or a difficult exam.
Be aware of the power that each of us (and especially men) has in popular conversations about sex and gender – for example in shaming people as “sluts” – when you call someone a “slut” you come very close to legitimising taking sexual advantage of her.
These are the things we can do within our own communities to change the patriarchal attitudes.
We can also make some sacrifices for this cause - Make a donation to organisations that support people who have been raped, and their families. Even R50 a month can make a difference. Donate your time by volunteering at shelters and crisis centres.
Our fifth commitment through this gathering is to change our campus. Over the past two weeks there have been intense discussions, debates and internal reflections within the university on how UCT, its staff and students can constructively respond to the crisis of sexual and related violence in our country. The issues range from sexual violence and abuse on campus, and UCT's policies and support mechanisms; to UCT research and teaching, and how it can be more effectively used to bring about change. The University is committed to providing an institutional environment where sexual violence is not tolerated, where we support and respond to victims of sexual violence, and where all may pursue their studies, careers, duties and activities in an atmosphere free of any threat of unwelcome sexual attention. The University treats allegations of rape or sexual assault very seriously, and has established policies and procedures to deal with these matters. We have structures to assist the UCT community in matters of discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape. The Discrimination and Harassment Office (DISCHO) is comprised of a group of highly supportive people who can help you if you have been sexually harassed, assaulted or raped. UCT also has a 24-hour phone, sms and email reporting and advice hotline where anonymity is guaranteed. We have blue routes for safe walking at night and you can always call CPS for assistance if you are nervous.
Researchers from this University have a long history of ground-breaking research on sexual violence. Those that have been involved include: the African Gender Institute, the Gender, Health and Justice Research Unit, the Law, Race and Gender Research Unit, the departments of Anthropology, Psychology, Psychiatry, Social Development, Sociology, Public Health, Surgery, Paediatrics and many others. Some of the research findings have been used to bring about changes to policy and legislation. In addition, some of our researches have been involving in designing and developing violence prevention programmes. We have also established the Safety and Violence Initiative, (SAVI which operates across faculties and seeks to harness the intellectual resources of the University of Cape Town to finding solutions to this plague that is destroying South Africa, through research, theory development, and then translating this into practice. Guy Lamb was recently appointed the director of the SAVI.
However, we need to do better.
• We have an extremely low rate of reported rape. We suspect there is more than we know. So we will undertake a survey of the frequency of sexual harassment and rape, and get views of students and staff about UCT policies, processes and systems that are in place to prevent and respond to sexual harassment, abuse and violence, and how they can be improved. I am particularly concerned that many victims of date rape and coercive sex may not reporting such incidents and seeking support from UCT.
• Make recommendations on how teaching at UCT can better promote gender equality and challenge the norms that underpin sexual violence.
• Make suggestions on how to prioritise financial support to the excellent and diverse research on the various dimensions of sexual violence, including a focus on violence prevention interventions and their effectiveness.
• Formulate proposals on how UCT can work more closely with non-governmental and community-based organisations that provide essential support to victims of sexual crimes and engage in violence prevention work.
I thank you all for joining us here today. It is meaningful for the survivors, for our consciences, for our effectiveness as citizens making demands on government, for examining our own personal practices, and for revisiting what we as a campus university can do.
We Say ENOUGH