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Helen Moffett

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

You can shove “getting in line”, too

Dear Helen Zille,

I’ve been wanting to write to you as a follow-up to my Women’s Day roar of rage, but like the rest of the country, I have been too horrified by the Lonmin mine massacre to think straight. But the sexual violence that stalks this country isn’t going away, and so I have to say this.

You know that Rape Crisis is retrenching staff and shutting down most of its operations after 35 years of supporting women, children and increasingly men in their most desperate hours and months and years of need: reconstructing lives shattered by rape. As the Premier of the Western Cape, this is happening on your watch; and apparently the official response when you were approached was “Get in line – there are thousands of NGOs desperate for funding, all equally needy.”

This makes me want to bang my head against a wall. Do you not realise you need Rape Crisis as much as they need you? I know this is an unpopular thing to say, but not all NGOs and charities are equal. Many rely on volunteers. And if someone wants to donate blood, plant a tree, help at an animal shelter, read to the blind, make food for the hungry, even build a house, all that’s needed is time and willingness. No special expertise is necessary. If a soup kitchen closes down, it’s awful, but anybody can still make and distribute soup to the hungry. Civil society really can just get stuck in.

But training a Rape Crisis counsellor or court supporter takes months of intensive specialist work. They get more training than the average security guard or kitskonstabel. They are carefully supervised, and their training is constantly updated, because the treatment and forensic protocols and the legal issues surrounding rape change all the time. And the truth is that providing expert, professional support to a woman who’s been gang-raped, or a child whose uncle has sodomized her, is NOT in the same league as organizing a school outing.

People working for Rape Crisis represent an incredibly rich source of medical, psychological, forensic and legal expertise – especially because of their long history. If Rape Crisis shuts down, 35 years of desperately needed skill and experience, of community trust and participation, just disappears. Lost and gone. It’s an insane waste of capacity – that buzz word for people who actually know what they’re doing – that this country, this province, this city needs more than ANYTHING else.

I know you’re not personally responsible for the eleven billion rand local municipalities managed to waste in one financial year. I know it’s not your fault that the country is in hock unto the fifth generation for the mind-bendingly expensive pieces of scrap metal currently in dry dock at Simonstown. I also know that as Premier, you had an awful Women’s Day weekend, what with most of Cape Town’s poorer areas ankle-deep in water, along with riots and stonings that left five blameless people dead.

But I need you to understand how urgent this is. Cape Town is not the deaf/ leukemia/ malnutrition /diabetes capital of the world. But it IS the rape capital of the world. Not only are we Rape Central, we have the worst gang rape and child rape figures of any city in the world. The world! There is not a family on the Cape Flats that isn’t affected. And the only silver lining is that we HAVE an organization that’s been dealing with this since 1976, that takes a huge weight off your hospitals, police stations, forensic labs and courts. (Did you know that some prosecutors insist on working with Rape Crisis because their conviction rates jump by 80% when they do?)

Do you have any idea of the economic cost of sexual violence to the state? The medical and social fallout (injury, unwanted pregnancies, HIV and STD infections, depression, panic attacks, suicide attempts, marital breakdown, job losses, families torn apart)? By tackling these problems, organizations like Rape Crisis and the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children literally stand between the provincial government and a leaking dam of so much brutality and trauma and suffering, it makes my head spin.

But you want Rape Crisis to “get in line” with other charities, as if lifting a massive burden off the state by providing services to rape survivors is the same as stocking libraries or providing soccer uniforms. Aikona. I hate it (and so do you, I’m sure) that NGOs have to scrabble for the same crumbs from the table, but effectively telling women to “get in line” is unacceptable. It’s part of a centuries-old pattern of making women feel guilty for daring to demand attention or compete for scarce resources (“Think of all the OTHER needy people, you selfish hags!”). It’s the old trick of expecting women to be meek and mild and grateful even as we’re being thrown to the wolves.

I believe national government should fund crisis organizations that support rape and abuse survivors, and should provide the province with the means to do so, and I am writing some choice words to the Minister of Everyone Except Able-Bodied Men on the subject. But until then, I am begging you: do the right thing. Do not make us face the bitter irony of seeing this kind of capacity and expertise tossed onto the scrap heap under a female Premier and a female Mayor. Do not cut the few lifelines that exist for women and families devastated by a trauma for which we are notorious around the world.

To donate to Rape Crisis: http://rapecrisis.org.za/support-us/donate/

To tweet Helen Zille: @HelenZille Rape Crisis is shutting down during Women’s Month. Insane! Fund it now! #SaveRapeCrisis

 

Recent comments:

  • <a href="http://rachelzadok.bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rachel Zadok</a>
    Rachel Zadok
    August 21st, 2012 @14:10 #
     
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    I hope you sent this to Helen Zille's office as well as posting. Please keep us updated as to the premier's response, if any.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 21st, 2012 @14:18 #
     
  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    August 21st, 2012 @14:21 #
     
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    *stands up and applauds loudly*

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  • Aylens
    Aylens
    August 21st, 2012 @17:43 #
     
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    On the basis of pure logic, your argument fails to convince. Yes, you make the case that it's important and urgent that your cause receives funding. But in a world of limited resources, you need to convince that your cause deserves preference, and do you achieve that? Not at all, you just allude to the high rate of rape and it's collateral damage. Many causes can make a similar, if not stronger appeal for prioritisatin of resource allocation. Your passion is commendable, and you will attribute a lot of negative aspects to my comment, I'm sure, but I suggest I'm not a troll, just someone trying to get you to articulate your case in a more convincing way.

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  • <a href="http://rachelzadok.bookslive.co.za" rel="nofollow">Rachel Zadok</a>
    Rachel Zadok
    August 21st, 2012 @17:59 #
     
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    Aylens, do the words "Cape Town is the rape capital of the world" in the post above sound unconvincing to you? Besides that very obvious statement (based in well-researched fact by Ms M) I think the argument she makes is very convincing.

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  • Aylens
    Aylens
    August 21st, 2012 @18:12 #
     
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    Rachel, let me emphasize that I understand the importance, and I'm not a troll (I hope!). But does the rape capital statistic mean rape funding should come before, say refugee funding, or medical care for People with HIV/AIDs, or any of the zillion other causes we need to look after? I think behind the anger and passion, the argument is really 'look, it's one of many causes, but we do so little for rape, it deserves at least something more, because although we can't rank these things, doing almost nothing against rape just feels wrong, and it supports the societal attitudes and behaviour'? Apologies if my language isn't correct.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 21st, 2012 @19:06 #
     
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    Aylens, I know there are other very urgent needs (in the Cape, theTB/AIDS/HIV nexus and refugees are also obvious). The problem here is the deliberate choice to chuck highly specialist capacity, all of which the state will have to recreate/replace.

    Sexual violence is so deeply rooted at the heart of South African society that I believe the state should pay the running costs of expert crisis organizations that treat survivors (as happens in many other countries), if only because they save overburdened state institutions so much time and money. If you read my earlier blogs, you'll see that rape is a medical emergency first (i.e. the responsibility of the state) and then a criminal justice crisis (i.e. the responsibility of the state again). Obviously my logic can be claimed by other NGOs that do the work the state should be doing, and I hope they will. I articulate a very complex case at far greater length here: http://helenmoffett.bookslive.co.za/files/2009/01/07-chapter-6.pdf

    And it's clear that you're not a troll. :)

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  • cathyjb
    cathyjb
    August 22nd, 2012 @06:29 #
     
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    Helen (and I mean Moffett) for president. I tell people in Australia of the charming belief held in South Africa that sex with a virgin (preferably of the non-consensual and underage variety) will cure HIV and they are quite sure I have made this up. 'At least one in three South African women will be raped in their lifetime'? How can Rape Crisis NOT be first inline to be supported by the government? How soon can we vote them out and who can we vote in?

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  • Aylens
    Aylens
    August 22nd, 2012 @10:12 #
     
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    You know what Helen, I think I'd lost the your central point around the Rape Crisis Centre closing and the urgency of remedial funding to retain the skills, services etc. I'll go back and re-read your article later. Apologies if I was way of because that was your kick off point, because I completely agree that shouldn't happen.

    I'll take the comment about education funding being about school outings with a pinch of salt:). It takes all types I guess.

    Btw, is there no way that the title of Rape Capital can be put to good use? I'm thinking that surely international donors in this area should have Cape Town on their radar for funding support,research etc?

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  • MandiSmallhorne
    MandiSmallhorne
    August 22nd, 2012 @11:19 #
     
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    This is just a question out of interest, not nit-picking: as I understood it, from the figures I've seen, Cape Town's rape stats pretty much track the national incidence, rather than exceeding it, so I would love to see anything that shows it's higher.
    I have an article in the current Mail & Guardian about this issue - I found that other rape counselling and support services around the country are facing similar issues - and the concern is the same: we have such a pathetically tiny set of resources with which to confront this tidal wave of gender-based violence, but so much knowledge and skill resides within the few available services that we simply cannot afford to let them sink. And it IS up to government, not international funders: more and more funders seem to be taking the view that "Your government should be taking responsibility for that, our resources should be going to places that really have none, such as Somalia..."
    Final thought: I'll reiterate what I said in my article - the fact that we don't as a country fund and support high-quality and widespread services for rape survivors sends a message to perpetartors and survivors alike: we don't take rape seriously. The existence and expansion of such services (parallelled by the criminal justice system upping its game on this issue, one would hope) is a crucial part of getting the rape issue under control.

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  • <a href="http://tiahbeautement.typepad.com/quotidian/" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    tiah
    August 22nd, 2012 @12:47 #
     
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    International donors...

    I feel like this conversation (which began with Helen's original post) keeps going in circles.

    Then I want to beat my head against a desk.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 22nd, 2012 @15:28 #
     
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    Mandi, the catastrophic rape stats of the Flats cause the spike in Cape Town's figures. Try the Medical Research Council website -- they're fantastic at providing reliable numbers not just for the nation, but regions and specific areas as well.

    Sexual violence stats are notoriously hard to extrapolate, and another reason we need Rape Crisis, which has done stellar work at compiling figures arising from reports to crisis organizations, and dove-tailing these with reporting to medical facilities and police. When I think of the underwater iceberg of those who DON'T report to a crisis line, police or seek medical help, I have to go and lie down. And we want to axe one of those channels... donate to Rape Crisis!

    And yes, the bigger picture is that we don't take sexual violence seriously. Crudely, it's seen as biologically innate in men, and an inevitable burden women must bear. (The insult to both genders evident in this thinking is breathtaking.)

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  • <a href="http://www.highonreviews.com" rel="nofollow">Danteofdoom</a>
    Danteofdoom
    August 23rd, 2012 @09:52 #
     
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    Hi Helen,

    Interesting article. A few questions though.

    Where do you get your information?

    I have contacted Rape Crisis and they say yes they are definitely in need but are not planning on closing their doors at the end of the month.

    Also, I am looking at the Medical Research Council website and there are no figures that say Cape Town is the Rape Capital of the world. I do know however, that Interpol has called South Africa as a whole the Rape Capital of the world.

    I also cannot find an article that quotes Zille as saying that Rape Crisis can get in-line along with other NGOs seeking funds. You do qualify your statement with the word "apparently" and this is your personal blog but you do need to take some responsibility for the facts you put out there and the impact it has on your readers.

    My researching skills could be lacking in some areas and I am in no way denouncing that South Africa does have a serious pandemic with regard to rape but I just really would like to get the facts right.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 23rd, 2012 @12:27 #
     
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    Going to find the links for you now, Dante, but meantime, STOP PRESS: Nancy Richards will be interviewing Kath Dey, Director of Rape Crisis, AND THE MINISTER, asking the latter to present the case for another council when crisis organizations desperately need the money, TODAY. Tune in to Otherwise between 1 and 2 to get answers!! That's in half an hour, folks!

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 23rd, 2012 @12:47 #
     
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    Dante,

    1) Rape Crisis has retrenched all its staff except the Director, and will become a volunteer organization only. Here's the Director's letter explaining the situation: http://www.myggsa.co.za/news/3850/

    Here's the Daily Maverick's report: http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-07-23-the-great-ngo-funding-crisis/

    2) Crunching stats is a cat's cradle: Mine are drawn from: the Medical Research Council (numerous papers); University of Cape Town’s Unilever Institute of Strategic Marketing; Rape Crisis itself; Human Rights Watch (although their report is over 10 yrs old, but if you look at the graphs, things keep getting worse, not better). Can't dig all my sources up right now, because of paywalls and link rot. The Interpol report appeared in the Cape Times last year, and was confirmed by the research bodies, but the CT doesn't link, so I can't give you the direct article. As a region, the DRC is probably on a par with us -- so a city in a peaceful democracy has similar rape stats to a region in the grip of civil war.

    3) The Director of Rape Crisis told me personally that when approached for help, Zille (and Mike Waters too, I believe) used the words "get in line". I told her I would be writing this blog post, and checked that those were the words used, and she repeated the info. It hasn't been published anywhere that I know of. Listen in to "Otherwise" on SAFM in 15 minutes to hear it direct from the horse's mouth.

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  • <a href="http://www.highonreviews.com" rel="nofollow">Danteofdoom</a>
    Danteofdoom
    August 23rd, 2012 @22:12 #
     
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    Thanks for the reply helen. I completely missed out on the radio chat.

    For me the original article seemed a bit angry which is understandable. Especially after reading those links. Our country needs to seriously start addressing this issue if we want to step forward and be seen as a first world country. Personally I believe to effectively fight this (plus so many other issues) we need to fight poverty as well as educate people more. Which sometimes seem like a losing fight when you see what the president's budget is or how much money goes to waste because of corruption.

    I have loads more to say on this issue but really it is a touchy subject and I don't like being hated.

    Thanks again.

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 24th, 2012 @00:20 #
     
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    Dear Dante, "a bit angry" is a tactful understatement on yr part. I'm FURIOUS. If you read other posts on my blog, you'll see that once upon a time, I wrote many polite, reasonable, academic works on GBV and its very complex roots. And not only did nothing change, they got worse. So now I'm letting it all hang out. Thanks for commenting.

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  • MandiSmallhorne
    MandiSmallhorne
    August 24th, 2012 @10:42 #
     
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    One of the things that drives me to drink online is the number of posters like strad who get het-up over an exchnage they HAVEN'T EVEN READ. OK, that's me getting furious.
    Dante, nobody is going to disagree that many things in SA would improve vastly if we could lift people out of poverty. But I'm not sure that that is the answer for rape. If you look at rape stats the world over, they don't drop with the level of poverty. The rate is pretty high in some of the better-off countries of the world - like the UK and USA (but interestingly, they're also many of them the countries where inequality is high - which applies to us too.) It's a cultural thing. Rape is about power, it's about lack of respect for women, it takes place in a context of lawlessness and corruption - thus concluded the Soul City survey years ago. Even truer now, I think.

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  • cathyjb
    cathyjb
    August 25th, 2012 @10:40 #
     
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    I am having some trouble with the promising links in the article - about the subs in dry dock and the municipalities criminal spending. Why would that be?

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  • <a href="http://helenmoffett.book.co.za" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    Helen
    August 25th, 2012 @11:16 #
     
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    Cathy, the links are now fixed. As I am a prize Luddite, the original errors were mine.

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