Rape in South Africa

Rape in South Africa


What do we know?

  • Over 41% of rapes reported in South Africa involve children under the age of 18.
  •  84% of girls under the age of 12 are raped by someone they know.
  • 57% of girls between the ages of 12 and 17 are raped by someone they know.
  • Almost one in five women report being raped by their partner or an ex-partner.
  • A survey conducted in KZN and the Eastern Cape found that about 9.6% of men interviewed had been victimised sexually by other men in the course of their lifetime.
  • Sex workers are often victims of rape by both clients and police officers.
  • Rape in South Africa is under reported. A 2010 study finding that only 1 in 13 women raped by a non-partner reported the matter and one in 25 women, raped by their partners reported the matter.
  • Of the 62,649 sexual offences reported in 2014, only 5,484 resulted in a conviction.
  • 56% of men interviewed in a 2016 study in Diepsloot reported that they had either raped or beaten a woman in the last year. Out of the men who had been violent recently, 60% committed multiple acts of violence against women.

What prevents rape survivors from reporting rape?

  • Fear they will not be believed.
  • Fear that the offender will retaliate.
  • Fear that they will be treated with disrespect by the police.
  • Feelings of shame.
  • Feelings of guilt.
  • Feelings of pity and love towards the offender.
  • Fear of upsetting the stability of the family.
  • Fear of economic loss if the offender is a breadwinner.
  • Fear of legal processes.

Who is being raped?

  • Women and girls are at the highest risk of being raped. Women are raped no matter how old they are, what they wear, where they live, or what they do.
  • Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and transgender people are also at risk of rape as a hate crime because of their sexual orientation;
  • Men can be raped. About 3.5% of men have been raped by a man;
  • Male and female children are at high risk of rape. Forty percent of victims who report rape to the police are girls under 18 and 15% are under the age of 12. Over 20% of boys in one research study have experienced rape.

Why do we such a strong rape culture in South Africa?

  • Our cultural practises, social norms, values, belief and history create an environment that enables our rape culture.
  • We support the rape through how we think, speak and behave.
  • The way we joke about women, treat them as sex objects and degrade women in media and on the streets contributes to our rape culture.
  • The way we favour men who have many partners contributes to our rape culture.
  • The way we see men as more powerful and more deserving in society contributes to our rape culture.

This culture does the following harm that perpetuates rape:

  • It blames the victim and often stigmatises them.
  • It makes excuses for the rapist.
  • It normalises rape and makes us complicit, because we accept it. It deters her/him/they from going for help.

Why do we need to change the rape culture in South Africa?

  • To build a country in which all people are safe from violence.
  • To replace fear with well-being.
  • To give birth to a society in which we love and respect ourselves and each other and honour our common humanity.
  • To heal ourselves, individual rape survivors and everyone who lives with. To change how survivors are treated.

Why do we have such high levels of rape in South Africa?

  • South Africa is a very violent society – we have had a violent history, and many South Africans continue to use violence as a way to respond to challenges at home, in their relationships and in the community.
  • Poverty is a problem in South Africa, which contributes to rape. Overcrowding in homes, unemployed men who often get involved in substance abuse, outside toilets, girls and young women getting involved with older men to have their material needs met, are some of the different ways that poverty feeds into high levels of rape.
  • We live in a very unequal society in which many South Africans are made to feel abused and inferior as a result of our gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. Not feeling good about who we are as human beings often results in using violence as a way to take back the power we don’t have.
  • High levels of unemployment make men, in particular, feel inadequate to provide for their families, which can make them feel angry and/or depressed.
  • Excessive drinking and drug taking happens in many of our communities and homes, often as a response to the ongoing trauma people face every day.
  • Problem drinking and use of drugs contribute towards the high levels of violence, and sexual violence.
  • Domestic violence and abuse, teaches children to be violent.
  • Rape is often not reported, and accepted, making it seem ‘ normal.’

Rape, Alcohol and Drugs

  • South Africa has one of the highest per capita (per person) alcohol consumption levels per drinker in the world.
  • In a recent study in Diepsloot, 38.5% of men interviewed were problem drinkers i.e. people who drank so much that it interfered with their daily lives.
  • Many acts of violence including rape take places after the consumption of alcohol and drugs.
  • Many victims of rape become vulnerable if they have consumed alcohol or drugs.
  • Victims of rape may use alcohol to numb their trauma, and the alcohol itself contributes to more and more violence in their lives.
  • Significant underage drinking contributes towards making the community more prone to violence and rape.
  • In a study in the Northern Cape it was found that rape of minor children took place after excessive alcohol consumption
  • Venues serving alcohol are spaces that make women particularly vulnerable to rape, given the consumption of alcohol by both potential perpetrators and victims, and the belief that men feel entitled to sex after buying a woman drinks.