Turning a red spotlight on rape

Survivors, Darian Ryan and Hayley Rautenbach, don their red lipstick for sexual assault awareness.

APRIL marks the start of the Red My Lips campaign, an annual international project launched with the hope of creating awareness around sexual assault. The initiative encourages men and women to don red lipstick throughout the month to facilitate discussion and awareness.

However, not even a week into the start of the initiative, the Northglen News had already reported on two sexual assault cases, namely the attempted rape on eMdloti Beach and the rape of a woman in uMgeni Park.

In an effort to highlight the major social issue as well as the awareness campaign, we met with local survivors, Darian Ryan and Hayley Rautenbach, last week. Ryan was abducted and raped at the age of 16, while Rautenbach’s assault took place last year after she was drugged in a Durban North bar.



More education is needed
The brave women both agreed that a lot of education was needed to combat rape myths, victim blaming and gender roles that they said were perpetuating a rape culture.

According to Ryan, people must focus more on getting men involved in these initiatives, as she said, “Rape is not simply a woman’s issue, but a human issue.”

“Often people focus on women, giving them advice on how not to become victims of sexual assault, but this is a social issue and we must reinforce healthy values among our men,” she said.

Rautenbach echoed her sentiments, saying that more emphasis must be placed on the definition of rape.

“There is a major difference between ‘no’ and a vehement ‘no’. Often women eventually give into sexual advances. This is coercive,” she said.

“The majority of rapists are people the victim knew – a boyfriend, husband or friend. So, I always say no one has the right to pressurise you into anything. Unless you are giving an enthusiastic ‘yes’ you are being coerced,” added Ryan.



Victim blaming sustains the silence
Both Ryan and Rautenbach expressed initial fears of speaking out about their ordeals and recounted seeing the same response in other victims.

“Rape survivors don’t want to come out and be seen. They don’t want to be judged, blamed or tainted by their ordeal,” said Rautenbach.

What’s more, Ryan said, the first response from a majority of people is to seek out discrepancies in the victim’s story, which often leads them to discrediting their accounts.

However, she said the trauma of a sexual assault can scramble the victim’s brain, making it impossible for them to recount the incident in chronological order.

“Police and other members of authority, I feel, need to be given sensitivity training on how to deal with victims and how the trauma effects them, so that they can assist these victims, rather than add to their trauma,” she said.

Mariclair Smit

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