When the terrifying ordeal was over, Ms. Radebe called a friend who happened to be a TAC leader in the town. Together they went to the police station and to the hospital so that Ms. Radebe could be examined. ...
The women soon discovered the police did not have any rape kits. The kits, which provide the forensic instruments and legal documents necessary for a proper rape investigation, are supposed to be stocked at every police station in the country.
“The doctor at the hospital said he couldn't do anything without the rape kit,” Ms. Gqamane said. “So it was our duty to put pressure on the police.” At the urging of TAC, the police agreed to get a supply of the kits from another town, and the kits arrived the next day. The problems, however, were just beginning.
“After six days, the TAC people came to me at home and asked if the police had visited me yet,” Ms. Radebe said. “But they hadn't come yet.” The TAC volunteers went back to the police and insisted they investigate. But after two months, the first investigator in the case was transferred to another town. The second investigator went on vacation, and then on a training course, and nobody replaced him.
The police claimed they didn't have enough resources to investigate all rape cases. Court appearances in the Radebe case were repeatedly postponed because of the investigator's absence. The TAC activists went to the police station repeatedly to look for the investigator, but he was never there. They spoke to his supervisor and warned him that they would publicize the inaction. ...
Meanwhile, the TAC activists were holding rallies – known as “mobilization days” – in the neighbourhood where Ms. Radebe and her rapist both lived. With loudspeakers, they urged the residents to break their silence and report any evidence of rape. They handed out leaflets and talked to anyone who came out to the street.
South Africa's epidemic of rape, which has raged for decades with near impunity for the attackers, has finally triggered a revolt. Sexual assaults, often dismissed as a ritual of manhood, are no longer ignored so routinely.
Women's groups and other activists are breaking the code of silence and insisting on police investigations and convictions. With more than 50,000 rapes reported annually – nearly 150 every day – and many more cases that are never reported, South Africa has one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the world. The incidence of rape in South Africa is the highest of any of Interpol's member states, yet only half of the rapes lead to arrests, and only 7 per cent result in convictions.
In a recent survey, 28 per cent of South African men admitted they had raped someone at least once in their lives. Almost three-quarters of them had committed their first rape before the age of 20. The study, which surveyed a representative sample of men from 1,700 households in two South African provinces, concluded that sexual assault is linked to South Africa's strongly patriarchal society and is “deeply embedded in ideas about manhood.”
The study shocked many people in this country and around the world, but it was no surprise to those who lived in Lusikisiki and similar towns across South Africa.
"I have come to believe over and over again, that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood....
My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.... and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us. The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken."