My Sister published a book about death recently called 'Before Forever After' – a "book we should all be dying to talk about" -said one reviewer. Years ago, when she started work on the book I recall the working title being 'I don’t want to talk about it' after a conversation my sister had with her elder daughter when she had broached the subject of preparing for her father’s death and her daughter’s reaction was that she really did not wish to talk about it.
If death is a subject we do not want to talk about then are Rape & Sexual Abuse similar taboo subjects that we avoid like the plague - Based on our recent campaign it appears so ?
Last month, the Joe Slovo Foundation took part with several other Non-profits world-wide in the GlobalGiving September Accelerator Campaign. The theme of the Foundations campaign, as some of you reading this blog will know was to ‘Prevent 3312 girls being raped tomorrow’ – The United Nations calculates that a female is raped in South Africa every 26 seconds – which I worked out to be 3’312 every 24 hours.
The campaign carefully followed the formula on how to run successful campaigns as outlined by GlobalGiving. Over Five Thousand E-mails – plus follow-up emails with a choice of the photo used and the title were sent out. Advocates / Ambassadors of the Foundation were contacted. We also reached out directly to around a hundred or more of Pillars of Society / Famous People / Hollywood Celebrities who had spoken out on the subject before. We wrote directly to people who had a soft spot for the late Joe Slovo and even messaged many South African Expats abroad.
We penned Blogs on the Web-site, clicked the Shares, Likes and Postings on Facebook and on Linkedin, we Tweeted on Twitter (though we admit we lack President Trumps panache at this) and even ran a Google Adwords Campaign. The whole thing was exhausting and whilst successful at raising the profile of the subject, wasn’t as successful as hoped at fundraising in that it only raised a few hundred dollars.
What struck me during the campaign, was how much people (other than close supporters for which we are truly grateful) avoided the subject, and especially avoided using the RAPE word. It seems we prefer to dress it up and call it Gender-Based Violence or similar language, or we pretend it happens elsewhere. The United Nations for example has a campaign to stop rape now – it’s against sexual violence in (war) conflict, but it as if it’s over there somewhere, that sexual violence happens in far off wars and does not happen close to home or to the workplace.
I am not a social anthropologist but it seemed to me during the campaign that we do have to change our own cultural attitude world-wide towards Rape and Women Abuse not just change the Rapists.
As I write, the main story from America this week is for once not about President Trumps’ latest Tweet but about, allegations of Sexual Harassment, Misconduct, and Abuse against film mogul Harvey Weinstein by many females. A few are comparing Mr Weinstein’s actions as not that far away from Mr Trump’s comments about pussy grabbing. If Messrs.’ Trump and Weinsten had said or done the same about Jewish people would they not immediately and rightly be condemned for being anti-Semitic. If, they said or did the same about black people would they rightly and immediately not be condemned for being racist - and when I say immediately i mean after only the first or 2nd occurrence, not after multiple offences.
However, when it comes to abuse against women instead we unconsciously do very good impersonations of the three wise monkeys.
And deep down we all know that itis not just Harvey Weinstein who (allegedly) uses position and power to obtain sex although some may try to pass him off as unique or that it’s a Hollywood thing but -it is not unlike cancer, for if we have not been touched by cancer directly then we know someone who has. Similarly, when we dare to think about it most of us know someone who has been the subject of unwarranted attention from their boss or colleague or neighbor. – Last year The Economist reported on a survey which indicated 38% of South African men admitted to using force or the threat of force to obtain sex – yet it is also reported that sadly only one 1 in 500 cases are successfully prosecuted.
Monty Python’s Michael Palin, last week raised over GB£ 3 million in 24 hours for the half a million women and children refugees of Rohingya – that the UK government matched. Over a million women and children are raped in South Africa every year, but less than GB£ 3 thousand pounds gets raised. We save the African Elephant, we save the African Rhino but we do not the African Girl – I like to run and I’ve run for Cancer Research several times but I have yet to run to stop rape ( I do plan on doing so next year) yet some say Rape is a disease just like cancer that has now reached Epidemic proportions and immediate action needs to be taken against it.
The top earner in the GlobalGiving Accelerator Programme was a deserving charity helping women to beat Cervical Cancer in Africa. I was reminded of a kind, warm South African lady who also built and ran a Charity that raised funds to purchase vaccines against Cervical Cancer. The vaccines were primarily given to young orphan girls around S.A. as they were the ones who suffered most from male sexual predators and therefore were at the highest risk of contracting cervical cancer. It seems ironic that we are happy to give to address the effect but not the cause- we give to treat the victims but do little to prevent the offence - not dissimilar to us at the Foundation raising funds to roll out a different preventative measure – a Free Mobile SOS / Rape Rescue Alarm for women and girls. Should we not be teaching men, women, boys and girls that as Charlize Theron once said that “real men don’t rape”.
I was born in the North of England – the youngest of war refugees from Eastern Europe. In my late teens, I ventured south for the first time to the University Town of Reading whose students in those days had a better reputation for partying than for academia. Arriving in the town centre, I asked a learned-looking elder gentleman where the university was – he thought for a moment and admitted he did not know, “the university is a bit like the sewage works – you know it’s there -but you try to avoid the smell’ – he said. Are Rape and Sexual Abuse also like the sewage works I ask myself.
Its October 2017, and this year the theme of the ‘Red October’ campaign in South Africa is “Stop Gender Based Violence – Red Card against Women Abuse” – hopefully because there are some heavyweight male politicians behind the campaign and perhaps because does not mention the RAPE word – and even perhaps thanks to MR Weinstein – this campaign will have far greater success than ours did.
If you would like to support the RED CARD AGAINST WOMEN ABUSE campaign – then click on the Red-Card button below.