I don’t usually speak about issues not related to an edition, but this week I want to continue the discussion about gender based violence (or GBV) and the atrociously high numbers of rape in South Africa.

Why is this not at the centre of our discussions? Women and children are being brutally raped and murdered daily, and aside from several days of protests this time last year, not much is done to make this stop. Sexual assault, violence and rape continue to go unreported and predators are allowed to continue hurting people, with only the occasional news report making the rounds. Every single case of sexual assault or rape should be headline news, because these crimes are some of the most heinous acts of brutality humans can commit. Yet it is normalised by the lack of reporting on it in the news, and by the going-strong system of rape culture, difficulty reporting incidents, and victim blaming that flourishes in our society.

Perhaps if every case was headlines news, we would begin to recognise how rampant GBV is in our country. The rape of and violence against women and children is not a rare or isolated incident. It has become ingrained in our way of living to accept this brutality, and move on, because it seems like too much to face – or, I suppose to some people, not important enough to face. But we should face it, and confront the reality of being a woman in South Africa.

I recently spoke to a family member about the fear involved in living as a woman, and he was genuinely shocked. He had no idea that as a woman I am always afraid of men, and always aware of their physical strength and ability to easily over power me. His shock echoes many men’s sentiments, and this is due in part to the lack of open communication about violence against women. Do men realise that we are afraid at almost all times? We are acutely aware of being alone with men, of the danger of walking anywhere alone, of our inability to speak up to a man when alone out of fear of retaliation, of our constant awareness of our safety. I know this sounds like sweeping statements, and I know that not every man will react violently or be violent. But the fear is largely because we cannot tell which man will be this way. So, of course,
we are afraid of all men, and it sucks. I don’t want to live in fear, but the rapist isn’t a scary man in the dark or a stranger in an alley, the rapist is anyone.

I get frustrated trying to write about this, because where am I going with it? I suppose I just want people to be open to understanding, and to want to change the fear so many women live with. I want people to feel comfortable reporting incidents, and know that they will be heard. I don’t know how this is done. But I think it starts with being open, and speaking about our experiences. The more people who can find the courage to speak up, the more we all realise this is a problem that needs addressing. And hopefully, we can begin to challenge rape culture, ‘boys will be boys’ mentality, the patriarchy, and gender based violence. This is my hope, which I hope the vast majority of people share. If you have something you would like to say about this, write a letter to the editor and send it to me at editor@pdby.co.za.

In more specific news regarding this edition, SRC elections are opening in October – read about it on page 3. While campus seems far away and student politics may be the least of your concern, it is important to vote for your representatives. The SRC is our main representative body and it is our responsibility as students to elect candidates that will serve the student body as we need them to. Ask questions, read campaign documents and election ballots, and ensure you know who will be representing you for the next year.

We each have a voice, and the platforms to share that voice. Share your opinions, your experiences and your thoughts and have them published in the next edition of PDBY. You can read our letter policy below.

Kayla Thomas

PDBY is the official student newspaper of the University of Pretoria.
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