Stories Of Change: South African Survivors of Sexual and Gender Based Violence Speak Out.

Survivors of sexual and gender-based violence are central to We Will Speak Out SA. A programme funded by Amplify Change  is documenting stories of Most Significant Change (MSC) of the survivors and survivor champions since joining support groups initiated by Tearfund SA.

In addition to this formal process, we would also like to share some individual stories documented by survivors and survivor Champions thus far in the process.

The final MSC report will be finalised by end June/early July.

Names in stories have been changed to protect the identities of survivors. Read the stories:

Ada’s story

After my mother died I went to stay with my uncle who is a police man. At 12 years old, I was in boarding school. My uncle took me from boarding school and treated me as his own daughter, and he was a father to me, we would always eat together. I trusted him, because he was my father. One day, during lunch time, I was eating and drinking Fanta and started feeling drowsy. I fell asleep and later woke up in hospital where I was given medicine. My uncle came to see me and told me that if I speak of what happened he will shoot me, he then showed me his gun.

I did not go back to school after that and I didn’t go back to live with my uncle. I fled to Burundi. There I found family – my sister’s friend took me to their home but couldn’t afford to send me to school. Only later I managed to go to school in Burundi and I had friends. I was influenced by friends to get a boyfriend who can pay for what I needed.

I started having problems at school. Male teachers tried to convince me to sleep with them in exchange to pass my grade. Because I refused they gave me low marks and I started to fail. I felt like I was losing. My boyfriend who was paying for my school fees at the time left me after hearing rumours about the teachers. He thought that I had slept with them.

One day, my sister phoned to tell me she was selling my mother’s house in Rwanda. I left to Rwanda and we shared the money from the sale. I was 18 years old by that time. I went back to Burundi where I met a friend of mine who was staying here in South Africa. During that time, the war in Burundi broke out. We planned and travelled from Burundi to South Africa together.

In South Africa I started to survive. I met my husband who is a Christian. He introduced me to his church and I became a born again Christian. I was Baptised and my life started to change. But I couldn’t feel love because I hated men. I had no feelings for men, they were only financial security for me.

At church one day, there was an announcement that they were looking for women who would like to talk about their challenges. I was curious. I met Solange (Tearfund) but had no idea why we were being called. We were given the day to meet and I will never forget it – 2013. We were 12 women and I was waiting to see what they were going to say. They spoke about rape. I was confused…how am I going to share?

We started to continue the group meetings and it was always about talking, every time. The day I finished talking, I felt like the heaviness I have carried in my heart was now empty. That night I couldn’t sleep and thought of what happened, worried that people will take it outside the group or even tell my husband. He didn’t know.

But the women I shared my story with kept the secret. The more meeting days came the more I changed. I became stronger and able to teach other new members. Having a group is teaching me how to recognise problems other women or friends may have and I can talk to them about it.

Through the group, I started to find a way to survive by myself. I work now, running my own business. My business is going well. Before this, I was unable to do anything because of self doubt.

Now I have taken responsibility of helping other women who have similar problems.

Grace’s story

I suffered from depression and planned to run away. I was giving up and running, but my God had another plan for me. I met a lady from church who didn’t say much or even judge me, she just asked me to stay for a while. She introduced me to a women’s Bible study group (support group) and we grew close. I heard their stories which made me change my mind about running away. I have realised that my problem was small and I went back to my own community to start my own Bible study group with women who have been through similar problems as I have.

I thank God for this. It has pushed me to finish my studies because now I am able to speak out to my husband and tell him how I feel which makes me stronger. I now have my Master’s degree and I have rebuilt my relationship with my husband.

Mary’s story

My childhood home was a warm home. We were good hearted people who were welcoming to everyone with a problem or who didn’t have a place to stay. We would take people in as a brother or sister like real family members.

One day my mother wasn’t at home and left us children at home. She wasn’t worried as she knew there were older people to look after us. A man at home came to me and forced himself on me and raped me. I was a child. I was so confused and I didn’t know who to tell or what to do. As I was young, it was physically painful for me and I struggled to walk. When my mom came back she asked what has happened to me. She started crying because the man said if she reports him he will kill us – my mom and her family. My mother cleaned me and told me to have a rest. She went to confront the man again and chased him away from our home.

I am an older woman now. I joint the support group and realised more girls and women are experiencing rape every day and not speaking out because they fear being blamed or judged for it. I saw the importance of sharing and showing that even an old lady like me was raped. But it is important to speak out, report the incident and get help as soon as possible. For me, I took time to accept or report as it was back in the days where it was hard to speak about sex.

Lu’s story

Coming into a new relationship, I didn’t know I was bringing my hurt into the marriage, but my support group has helped me in a huge way. As a Champion, you speak to someone but then realise you are speaking to yourself as well and not only the group in your community. Most of all, the Champion group has played a huge role in helping me, the Champions may not realise this, but they have helped me rebuild my marriage and be open and loving to my husband – I was abused in previous relationships so when my husband tries to come close to me I would push him away. He would buy me things but I wouldn’t accept it because I will feel that he thinks he owns me. Even our sexual relationship was bad. By the time we have been married for 6 years he hasn’t seen my body because I was always told in the past how ugly I was.

I was so used to be beaten badly and even when the blood was dripping from beatings I had to still have sex (not ‘make love’). I am grateful for the support group, and mostly for the group of Champions.

Now, I have even taken a picture and sent it to my husband, he now has seen my body and our relationship is better. He even told me he was giving up but now he has his beautiful wife and he loves me. I really didn’t know love, because all my life I had to fight. I was abused, but now I can laugh.

Sarah’s story – in progress

I’m 21 years old, I live in Durban. I live with my mother my sister and my brother. My mother is a domestic worker and we survive only on her salary. When I was doing grade 11, I was not on good terms with my sister, she was jealous of me because I was slim and she was a plus size.

One day when my mother wasn’t at home and my brother was working night shift, my sister and my nephew came into my room. She made my nephew rape me in front of her while she was laughing – asking why can’t the beauty I always show off with fight for me. I was so hurt emotionally and physical mostly because I loved my sister. I couldn’t believe she had done such a horrible thing to me.

I woke up the following morning and went to school. It was a Tuesday. I couldn’t remember a single lesson at school as my mind was not at school. I decided not to tell anyone. I failed my grade 3 times and I decided to quit school.

In 2015, I joined the support group in Umlazi which was introduced by my friends. Initially I didn’t talk I would just come and sit and listen to other people sharing. Eventually I felt comfortable around these women and felt loved and supported by them. They encouraged me to go for counselling.  I am now doing my matric in IET and have realized that silence is very dangerous and can stop you living your life while the person who did the damage does not even care.

Siyanda’s story – in progress

I am a 23-year-old lady born and raised by a single mom in a township of Umlazi. I matriculated in 2012 and I was very passionate about travelling and exploring nature. My mother is a hard worker, a good hearted strong woman. She was my role model growing up. I’m the eldest daughter of her 3 children.

In 2013, my mother had a fight with her sister (my aunt). My aunt, out of anger, told my mom to tell me where I came from and why I don’t have a father.

I was very confused because my mom told me my father passed away while she was pregnant. That evening, my mother called me and told me who my father was. She said that he had raped her and as result, she fell pregnant with me. I have never felt so betrayed and upset in my life. I ran away from home and stayed with my friends for a week. I could not understand how a woman I love so much can lie to me and I was upset that I’m a product of rape.

Eventually I went back home but nothing was the same again. One morning I woke up and decided to go see my “father”. I was not sure what I wanted to hear from him but I just wanted to confront him.

When I confronted him, he said that he was sorry for what he did to my mom and he’s been trying all his life to be a father to me but my mom has been blocking him. This was more confusing to me and complicated things even more for me. In church I heard about the support group, so I went and shared my story. We then started counselling with my mom and we are still finding a way to normalise the situation. I enjoy the time we share as a group and the activities we do together. My mother has forgiven my father. I pray to God that one day I can be able to see him as a father and not as a rapist.

Survivors new to support groups.

The two survivors below are new to support groups and will keep documenting their experience of the group and process of change over the next months. They are in the beginning stages of their healing and finding their voices in the groups they belong to.

Sophia’s story

In 2015, November 18, I was at a bar and had an argument with a local man. He slapped me. I got angry and wanted to phone the police. Another (local) man insisted that I lay charges. He offered to accompany me to the police. There was sugar cane and forest-like vegetation on the way. I knew this man, he is my neighbour. In the middle of the road he refused to take me home and said we were going to have sex in the sugar cane. I realised that he was serious when he pointed a knife at me. I tried to run away but he tripped me, beat and kicked me. He removed my clothes and raped me twice. Afterwards, he told me: “Do you know that I can dig your eyes out so that there will be no proof?”

He forced me to stand and dress myself. He then accompanied me home to make sure that I don’t go to the police station. On the way home, he asked me if I was going to press charges against him and I said no. He told me to tell my family that it was the man I had an argument with at the bar who did this to me. At home, I knocked on the door and my mother opened. He told my mother that the man I had an argument with at the bar had done this to me. As soon as he left, I told my mother the truth.

The next morning, I took the clothes I wore and phoned the police. They took me to the police station for a statement. They also took me to the hospital. At hospital, I was checked and cleaned. The police started to look for my rapist, and found him. He was arrested, taken to the police station and detained for 8 months. By that time, I was working at a convenience store and was always short in my till. I was unable to focus and couldn’t cope. I ended up getting dismissed at work.

The investigator brought me the dates of the case, I attended 3 days consecutively. On the first day, everyone felt sick in the courtroom. He was found to have 8 previous convictions but have always managed to win the cases.

When he testified, I was always taken outside, but when I testified, he was always in the courtroom.

On the 3rd day, the court called the man I had the argument with as a witness. Later I heard that my rapist was free, but there was evidence to support my case. I heard that he won the case. It is bitter that I still see him. I don’t know what he thinks about me – to this day he even greets me.

I received a call from Kwazulu Regional Christian Council (KRCC). We met at KRCC offices and I spoke to them about the incident, there were other survivors of rape and they also spoke – we all spoke. Solange (Tearfund), asked me to bring the case number.

I am still angry and I still want to appeal because I cannot stand watching him walk free. Since the case was finalised I have not been able to get into contact with the investigating officer. He is always out of the office.

What I wish is for the support group to help me to appeal because I cannot do it on my own and the man who raped me is a gangster. On the first day of the support group I found some healing in the fact that there are so many other women who survivor the same and worse.

Throughout my ordeal, I only received counselling once.

Lethabo’s story

I was 14 years old, on my way to church in the evening far away from home. It was my brother’s birthday. We passed by a shop, boys were shouting at us telling us to stop. They then started chasing us and we ran in different directions. One of the boys carried a golf club and he forced me to love him – he claimed that I was his girlfriend. He forced me to go to his place. He beat me with the golf club and took me into an empty room. He pushed me to his bed and took off his clothes. He gagged me with a towel and raped me.

Later on, women came looking for me. He escaped through the window. In the door, I saw people including my sister. They took me to a house. From there I went to my mother and she accompanied me to the clinic and the police station. I was examined and given medication.

I haven’t received any counselling. I have tried to kill myself with contraceptive pills. My neighbour’s sister was laughing at me, asking me: “how does it feel”.

We attended my case in January. He was arrested and I went to court to testify. The investigator told my sister that if she agrees to have sex with him (the investigator) I will win the case. She refused and the case disappeared.

In 2009 we heard that the investigating officer was discharged from service. He used to propose to me and tried giving me his money but I did not give in to his demands. I was scared to go to school because there was a man who looked just like him always standing outside the school with sunglasses.

In 2013 I met my boyfriend and we had a baby together. He cheated on me while I was pregnant, and made another woman pregnant who used to threaten me. There was no support at home which is why I found myself dependent on this relationship. I nearly had a miscarriage.

Later on, I used to be absent at school because I had no one to look after my baby. A friend connected me with a woman who then introduced me to a Champion in Durban and also to Solange (Tearfund).

I started to trust again and had people to talk to. My life was changing.

My baby boy is 3 years old now. But I’m still angry.

The investigating officer was found shot dead in a ditch.

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We Will Speak Out at Sizimbokodo Meeting. 14/6/2017

We Will Speak Out South Africa, together with women from many different NGOs, faith organizations and activist groups came together yesterday to discuss actions they will take to address the pandemic proportions of violence against women and LGBTIAQ people in South Africa. This meeting was organized by a new social movement— Sizimbokodo. The movement is dedicated to smashing the patriarchy and ending violence against women and queer people. The meeting aimed to plan and strategize a national shut down, to bring the country to a standstill, in order to demand that the state and other duty bearers take urgent action to address gender violence across our country .

One of the many issues raised in the meeting which is of concern its how Faith communities and other independent organisations struggle to work together, and this is because there is lack of communication on issues such violence against women. There is a belief that the faith community is not having focus on ending violence against women because its not of concern.

This is not true because many faith organisations and churches  are active when it comes to fighting patriarchy and ending violence against women.

There is a huge need for dialogue between the faith community and other organisations like Sizimbokodo so that we can all work together as a unit. We need to make efforts in involving all involved parties and add all voices then our work will move forward successfully.

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Church Leaders’ Training by Sonke Gender Justice

One of the key pillars of the shared We Will Speak Out strategy is to mobilise church leaders to speak out, and to consider ways to make their churches safe spaces for survivors of SGBV. Sonke Gender Justice opened a safe and powerful space for gender activists, survivors, youth leaders and church leaders to come together and grapple with questions related to the church’s responsibility in the light of the increasingly common and cruel, both amongst churches and in wider society. Rafael Cazarin of Sonke reports on this workshop, below:

In June 2017, the Social and Structural Drivers (SSD) Portfolio of Sonke Gender Justice facilitated a five-day workshop on sexual and gender based violence with faith leaders from Kwazulu-Natal, supported by Amplify Change, Tear Fund and the We Will Speak out Coalition. Sonke’s team was comprised by SGBV activists and experts Bafana Khumalo, Vusi Cebekhulu, Mpho Mabhena and Rafael Cazarin. Representatives from faith communities came from both rural and urban areas, across various Christian denominations, both women and men.

Throughout the week, participants and facilitators engaged in group discussions and thematic sessions on the socio-cultural construction of gender in relation to emotions, sexuality, media, and the LGBTIQA perspective. In particular, gender sensitive bible studies were held through interactive reflections on biblical passages and their socio-cultural contexts. The workshop concluded with the joint development of action plans by participants to be implemented in their faith communities in the following months. To perform these plans, the We Will Speak Out Coalition will help to articulate networks of support amongst those faith leaders committed to gender justice.

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Brief Summary Report on the High Level Provincial Gender Machinery Meeting, hosted by the KZN Premier’s Office. 25/5/2017

Elangeni Hotel, 25th May 2017. Written by Daniela Gennrich, WWSOSA Interim Coordinator

The purpose of the meeting was to bring together multiple government and civil society stakeholders, to talk about SGBV in KZN, what work is being done, what gaps there are, and plan a strategy for the next few years.

The programme was divided into two parts: Prevention and Post-violence care – PVC’.

Apart from messages of support from the Men’s Sector, Traditional leaders sector and Pepfar, Minister of Social Development Ntuli, expressed her expectation of 2 outcomes of the meeting:

  1. A planning team to put together a massive KZN and SGBV march, and
  2. A planning process for a 365-days strategy.

Neither was achieved, but many people voiced their concerns, and/or profiled their work.

Some key concerns included:

  1. Although there is an existing Strategic Framework 2015-2019, this was never mentioned, unfortunately. WWSOSA requested that it be reviewed and revised, to account for the needs in 2017ff and to build on the good work already achieved. This was perhaps a reason why the 2nd objective of the meeting could never have been achieved.
  2. Most frequent, and most vehement, were concerns about lack of collaboration between sectors, and the work in silos. I proposed a strong focus on process, communication, and collaboration in establishing the proposed Provincial work plan.
  3. A strong criticism links to the lack of respect for the many community based initiatives that already exist – which should be learnt from and where possible, scaled up.
  4. My sense is that the Provincial HIV work is much more well developed and effective, and that there are attempts now to bring the two together. This is not a bad thing, but the GBV unit in the Premier’s office may need to be beefed up for success, as they currently have only 3 staff.
  5. Several gaps in the system were critiqued – eg. Between SAPS and the Justice system, when perpetrators are arrested and never brought to book; referrals from clinics and hospitals to Thuthuzela Care Centres far away mean many women cannot get there, psycho-social support for survivors is totally inadequate and stigma is still rife.
  6. Interestingly, researchers from Wits and MATCH reported on reviews of the Thuthuzela Care Centres and survivor support at other health care facilitiesbut the research did not involve survivor perspectives. I wonder if we should send in some of the WWSOSA research done thus far – even though it did not focus exclusively on their experiences at these facilities? **
  7. Many initiatives are directed at girls and women – not enough on boys and men.
  8. There are no widespread initiatives with faith communities.
  9. Spending huge funding on a provincial march has never been shown to bring real change. WWSOSA suggested an alternative process – perhaps having parallel marches/ consultative meetings in different regions – to really hear what people’s concerns are, what they are already doing – and their ideas for a provincial strategic work plan. Although the Premier’s Office restated their commitment to a march, this alternative idea may also be rolled out.

The MAIN BENEFIT of attending this consultative forum was NETWORKING, with useful contact made with many people from diverse backgrounds and doing really good work. This is likely to help the faith sector’s ability to make a meaningful impact.

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Lessons from Act Alliance Gender Solidarity Platform for WWSOSA Strategic Thinking. 16-17/5/2017

Kopanong Hotel, 16-17 May 2017, Daniela Gennrich, WWSOSA Interim Coordinator

A number of Southern African Faith based partners working on gender and sexual and gender based violence were invited by 4 members of the Act Alliance (Christian Aid, Church of Sweden, Norwegian Church Aid and Brot Fuer die Welt) to reflect on our practice, and consider ways that collaboration might open opportunities for new ways of working and collaboration between North-South and South-South partners for improved impact of gender work in the region.

Session 1 involved partners reflecting on what has and has not worked in their gender work;

Session 2 considered some key contextual factors that influence our work;

Session 3 opened up conversations about key learnings from our practice, ideas for collaboration and suggestions for practical action steps.

I thought to share some key insights that we might wish to draw on for our own WWSOSA process of coalition-building.


  1. Resource mobilisation is key (as if we didn’t know that!), and it is vital to understand the changing aid sector.

The power relations between the traditional Northern donor NGOs and the South are beginning to change, with the northern donors actually needing our wisdom and experience, as they are facing for the first time the sorts of things we have faced for years, such as funding shortages, social upheaval and increasing violence.

We need to find alternative ways of accessing necessary resources to fund our work, which is becoming increasingly urgent as social and economic upheaval impacts increasingly on the materially poor. Two thoughts:

  • Can we enter into more mutual relationships with northern funding NGOs, where we offer our experience and expertise gained from years of working in difficult circumstances, while northern partners offer more technical expertise and knowledge of the global aid sector.
  • Coalition-building and joint fundraising efforts can avoid duplication of work, strengthen our technical expertise, and offer a more streamlined approach to funding contracts for the funders.



  1. Engagement with faith communities has to be complemented with engagement with traditional and cultural beliefs and practices – particularly because they collude in resisting gender transformation and enabling, condoning, or perpetrating SGBV. We may need to consider approaching possible technical members to offer technical support in this? Or simply opening some shared learning platforms?


  1. We talk about ‘involving survivors’ and taking seriously their voices, as if we are separate from them.

Would it not be more helpful to challenge ourselves to recognize that WE (both women and men) are survivors and/or indirectly affected through abuse existing in our families and close circles. Like with HIV – SGBV is amongst us: about 1/3 of us as women are survivors (and perhaps more men than we currently know have experienced violence)


It is true, of course, that our practice needs to find creative ways of listening to the experiences of those who are most vulnerable to SGBV amongst us. Would this enable us to all start from a much more inclusive and safe place if we started from acknowledging that we are all affected?


  1. There is a huge need for shared learning spaces in general, and perhaps for creating ‘communities of practice’ in the NGO world. WWSOSA thus offers something that people need.


  1. Recent events indicate that what we have been doing to date just has not had the impact we had hoped for. The shared reflection and learning approach would help in identifying innovative ways of working.


  1. We need to develop more conscious methodologies – through introspecting more – (See-judge-act offers a simple but powerful approach). Some considerations:
    • The problems and our responses have multilayered dimensions, and so we need to build in a consciously reflective practice
    • We cannot solve SGBV without tackling patriarchy and exposing it in all its guises – including in Scripture and religion. How do partners go about challenging patriarchal society, practically? How do we know whether / how our diverse contributions help to dislodge patriarchy (or inadvertently reproduce it)? If we respond to symptoms only – what are the consequences?
    • How we use language matters – it is the main means of transmitting oppressive norms, challenging them, or re-imagining new ones.

Are we conscious of how women, women’s bodies are reflected in language choices? Even violence can be normalized by our language choices (note that we ‘fight’ against GBV, local government has created ‘war rooms’ as spaces where people and government officials are supposed to work together to solve key social problems).

How we talk about our work, and how faith communities use language in liturgy, worship as well as preaching have consequences for women’s bodily integrity / sovereignty, and men’s entitlement


  1. Advocacy:
    • A key message is that there is NO social justice without gender justice. Many churches and NGOs have excellent social justice programmes, but are blind to gender injustice. We need to develop critical lens to call this bluff, as WWSOSA in our advocacy work.
    • Policy Advocacy in SA has been very successful in shaping national policies. But monitoring implementation of policy is much harder – it requires a combination of data collected by people on the ground and those with expertise– review and also implementation – need collaboration and cooperation for this to be more than a series of public statements. This takes us back to the importance of being conscious of our blind spots and working with great care on the power dynamics between us. We need each other – those working on the ground, and those making higher-level contributions.


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#NotinmyName March on the 26/5/2017

A number of people gathered to participate in the #NotInMyName march against gender based violence at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus to Regina Mundi Church. There were more than 500 people who participated in the march. Various church leaders, organisations and Government departments were visible and making noise against Gender Based Violence.

Faith communities were also visible in their various church uniforms. I was there to represent Thursdays in Black and We Will Speak Out SA. Bishop Adams officiated the Soweto #NotInMyName march.

MEC for Community Safety: Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane and Minister Susan Shabangu were also part of the march.

The marchers chanted, ‘Not in my name’, with many thrusting their clenched fists towards the sky. Men were on the forefront holding banners and standing up against the brutality against women in our communities.

Organisers of the event said all women who had been attacked and killed by men would not be forgotten, and that their names would not be buried with their bodies, but remembered as the powerful women they were.

The #NotInMyName campaign could become a non-profit organisation in order to start helping all women who are marred by the violence of men in South Africa.

Written by Nonceba Ravuku

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Nicholas Supa Mutuku

Posted in Interfaith Signatories and tagged . | Tagged

Nicholas Supa Mutuku

Posted in Interfaith Signatories and tagged . | Tagged

Friday’s march #NotInMyName a day of protest against abuse

The Open Disclosure Foundation, Sonke Gender Justice, the Buhle bolwazi Foundation and partner civil society formations are calling on government, communities and individuals to join a march this Friday, May, 26.

The march – #NotInMyName – will serve to register collective anger about how women and children are raped and killed in our society. Whilst noting the existence of government’s policies, strategies and programmes, the #NotInMyName campaign was borne to point to the fact that we live in a violent society, where women and children are brutalised daily.

This morning, Xolani Gwala spoke to Shoki Tshabalala from the Buhle bolwazi Foundation, one of the organisers:

“I think what we also need to acknowledge as a collective, is that we seem to have normalised the abnormal in terms of issues of issues of gender-based violence.”

Shoki Tshabalala from the Buhle bolwazi Foundation

“We have come up with a draft program of action that we hope government will embrace…we are appealing to government to say we here here. As civil society we want to join hands with you, we want to work with you, we acknowledge the programs that are in place, the policies, the strategies, but let’s take a look t what exactly is it that we can do to enhance intervention on the ground.”

Shoki Tshabalala from the Buhle bolwazi Foundation

Join the march on Friday and stand up against gender based violence in your community. The march will leave from UJ Soweto Campus at 10:00, and will end at Regina Mundi Church.

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PRESS STATEMENT: South Africa’s Gender-Based Violence Crisis. 19/5/2017

The Jesuit Institute is appalled and deeply concerned by the Gender-Based Violence in our country. This has been highlighted again in the past two weeks, by devastating events dominating the headlines.

A 22-year-old pregnant woman, was kidnapped and gang raped on her way home from work in the Johannesburg inner city. Lerato Tambo Moloi was stoned to death after she had been sexually assaulted. The LBGTI community believe this is an incident of so-called “corrective” rape where a woman is targeted because she is a lesbian. Two young women from KZN, Popi Gumede (24) and Bongeka Phungula (28) who were living together in Zola, were murdered and may also have been raped. Three-year-old Courtney Pieters was raped twice and murdered by a supposed family friend. A young woman, Karabo Mokoena (22), was murdered and her body burnt by her ex-boyfriend.

Because of the recent media attention, we know the names of these women. The experts, however, say that this kind of violence is ubiquitous. On social media, in response to these incidents, many women have shared horrific experiences of abuse, often suffered at the hands of their partners. According to Childline, one in three young people experience a sexually abusive incident, most often by someone known to them. Sonke Gender Justice says that femicide in South Africa is five times the global rate.

There are multiple social factors which create the context for this kind of violence. South Africa’s history is one in which the dignity of men and women was systematically undermined. One consequence of this may be that many women came to expect the abuse inflicted on them. Simultaneously, some men who feel disempowered, may seek to gain an interior sense of power by abusing those more vulnerable than themselves, namely women and children. We are also grappling with poverty, drug abuse, a ‘culture of violence’ and a society which is deeply patriarchal. The sexist and offensive posters which were held up at a residence event at the University of Pretoria recently, are indicative of a culture which denigrates women and sees them as sexual objects.

The situation also points to a moral and spiritual bankruptcy in our society in which the value placed on human life, and women’s lives in particular, has been eroded. The fact that people can inflict such torture and harm upon another human being, and sometimes on someone they claim to love, can only be the result of a deeply distorted sense of self and the dignity of the other.

As faith-based organisations we need to work together to provide support to women, children and men affected by sexual violence. We need to create a counter-culture in which the dignity of each person, created in the image and likeness of God, is seen and honoured. We need both to act by challenging the status quo and by working to address the multiple root causes of Gender-Based Violence within society and within our own organisations.

Furthermore, we must critically examine the often-patriarchal church language we use and the ways in which women are often treated in church contexts as this too contributes to a culture in which Gender-Based Violence can flourish. We need to pray for all those affected by Gender-Based Violence and for the conversion of those, whose sense of self has become so distorted, that they have lost all sense of the value and dignity of the other.

For more information contact:

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell: Tel +27 82 828 4548
or email
Dr Anthony Egan SJ: Tel +27 938 4553
or email

#LGBTI #Violence #Crisis South Africa

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