On Wednesday, victims and gender activists gathered at Wits University for the annual #SilentProtest against incidents of sexual violence on campus. The protest demonstrated the need for universities to take a more progressive role in addressing issues of gender-based harm. The work done by the #RUReferenceList, #Rape@Azania and the #IAm1In3 movement have made this year’s protest part of a growing conversation around rape culture.
This womenâ€s month, the #SilentProtest, in solidarity with movements across South African campuses demandsÂ that just systems are put in place to ensure first-contact support, counselling and clear instructions on how and where to access medical assistance. The Daily Vox asked some protestors why they chose to speak out.
Refiloe Lepere, 32, lecturer
The silent protest is a very important aesthetic. Seeing someone taped retells the experiences of other people who are being silenced every day. I think itâ€s important to start the conversation in order to break the silence. Students have already started asking about what we are doing. Some of the stories are quite upsetting, but we are getting to the point where people are starting to think about gender based violence, the need for rape survivors to get medical attention and the need to get rape cases reported.
Faith Tsotetsi 21, student
Rape exists because we live in a patriarchal society. I think if we start dealing with the patriarchy we might start seeing where we are going with the rape issue. Patriarchy is something that is neglected here in South Africa. Women are the majority in this country, and if we donâ€t address the patriarchy then we compromise the majority.
Xolile Mazibuko, 24, student
Iâ€m tired of this 1 in 3 every hour statistic. It shouldnâ€t be a norm. We shouldnâ€t get used to the fact that women get raped. We need to stop saying that women must stop dressing a certain way because it might get them raped. I am here to say No. I stand in solidarity with women who have been sexually abused because I know a lot of women who donâ€t believe rape victims. Canâ€t we just be free?
Maneo Mohale, 24, volunteer
I am participating in the protest because I am a survivor of drug-facilitated sexual assault. Today I am showing up for the person who was silent 3 years ago. The person who was afraid and who thought that nobody could understand. I thought I was the only one. Now I know that I am not alone.
Hans Dladla, 21, student
I think itâ€s crazy that we have silent for so long, that rape has developed into a culture. This conversation shouldnâ€t just happen in comfortable spaces. The protest should move to the townships where victims are made even more vulnerable by their communities.
Fumani Moeketsi, 22, student
I was harassed as a child and never spoke about it. I was told that harassment is a sign that I have grown and that I am beautiful. The was not said in words but it was implied in the way that it was dealt with.
Momo Matsunyane 28, actor
â€œI am here because I am tired of swopping rape stories with my friends.â€