Jen Thorpe
Jen Thorpe

Never tired enough to stop

I am tired of rape in South Africa. I am tired of thinking about it, reading about it, hearing about it. I am tired of the fact that last year more than 60 000 women (enough to fill the Greenpoint Stadium) reported a rape to the police, and hundreds of thousands more women were raped but did not report.

I am tired of a criminal justice system that is failing women. Of a police system that fails women — traumatises them, blames them, and rejects their right to bodily integrity. Of a police system that drops cases, fails to investigate or fumbles investigations to the point where the information is not useful in court. I am tired of a court system that doesn’t fund enough support rooms so that many survivors must walk into a court room alone to face the magistrate who is meant to protect them, but often does not. Who would want to report a rape in conditions like this?

I am tired of people asking me if most women become lesbians because they have been raped, and of reading stories where men rape lesbians to make them straight.

I am tired of women leaders in government who spend more time defending male politicians’ reputations, than acting with integrity in the interests of women.

I am tired of law and policy that doesn’t serve women, isn’t implemented or is useless against the public opinion that a woman’s body is not her own.

I am tired of violence against women being ignored at key opportunities. I am tired of male political leaders who fail to condemn rape at every opportunity, or who jump on the women’s day bandwagon as though this is meaningful.

I am tired of the rape of girls and boys and babies and the elderly. I am tired of magistrates who don’t protect these vulnerable people and others by imprisoning rapists because their victims did not show any physical injury. Rape is an injury.

I am tired of knowing that if a male celebrity, sports star or politician is charged with rape, he will get away with it.

I am tired of bigots who say all feminists believe sex is rape — as though we are so fucking stupid to want rights for women that we must not be able to tell the difference between having pleasurable, stimulating sex and being violated.

I am tired of trying to convince men that rape is not only a woman’s issue. It is men who are raping. Rape is at its core a men’s issue. It is the failure of men to accept that their manhood need not be founded on violence. It is the failure of men to accept a woman’s right to say no, to ask them to stop. It is a failure of good men to bring up rape and sex in discussion — discussion, not jokes — and to talk about what they can do to stop it.

I am tired of media reports that say things like ”forcibly raped”. One in three women across the globe has been a victim of rape. Some have survived, others have not. Some spend their lives in fear, waiting for their turn. In all cases force was used — psychological, economic, physical — the force of a system that will not listen to them.

I am tired of rape jokes. There is nothing funny about rape. I am tired of advertising that portrays rape as glamorous or woman as sex objects. Rape is unwanted, violent, soul destroying. It is not sexy. Women are not objects.

I am tired of having to plead for changes. Of having to frame woman as mothers, sisters, daughters or as in relation to men — ”what if it was your girlfriend?” I am tired of having to make it seem as though you shouldn’t rape women because they are nice.

So on February 14 I’ll be supporting One Billion Rising — a movement that will voice its frustration with all of these things. Because I am tired, but I will never be tired enough to stop fighting for women’s right to sexual pleasure, sexual freedom and sexual equality.

Inspired by this piece.

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    • GrahamJ

      Get the ‘leaders’ to set a suitable example. Until then, your job may eventually over tire you because of its futility.

      “Don’t do as I do, do as I tell you”, works very well for the bigwigs in the ANC, it seems.

    • tuiweni

      I love this piece. So honest. So true, so damn enraging and am so relieved someone has put this all into words. This mixture of feelings of anger, anguish, fear, insecurity, hopelessness,depression,etc that I’ve wanted to put into words but just thinking bout it depressed me and left me drained.

      Thank you for having the strength to.

    • Michelle

      Fantastic piece, Jen.

    • Sarah Britten

      Thank you for this piece Jen – one of your best yet. I’d love to see more men speaking out about this. Though it’s not South African, the Steubenville rape case exemplifies many of the ways in which society colludes in covering up sexual assault. The comments on this report are very interesting, suggesting that anyone who testifies for the rape victim will themselves be victimised:

    • Larissa Klazinga

      Amazing piece Jen. I couldn’t agree more and I really hope women and men step up and rise on the 14th of February because at some point we’ll get tired of asking nicely.

    • Momma Cyndi

      Thanks for the heads up, Jen.
      I’ll be one of those One Billion Rising.

    • Mariano Castrillon

      We live in a brutal society where machismo is admired and courtesy and civility are looked upon as silly things. I still give way to females and open the door for them ,including a car or taxi, but I have stopped standing up when a female gets up from the table and comes back to it. Until such time as children (boys and girls) learn at home and at school to respect each other and to believe that their freedom ends where the next person’s freedom starts, we shall have males believing that they are superior to females and, being physically stronger, there is little to stop them from forcing themselves on females. Having a president who openly diminishes the role of women in society, who is a profligate and proud of it does not augur well for the future of women in our country.

    • Concerned

      A whole category of rape has been excluded – the rape of males in prison. Innocent, guilty whatever. Held overnight, life sentence. And ever heard of a case making it to court? And how many males can resist and how long?

      All rape is despicable. All assault is despicable.

      We don’t need new laws. They are there. We don’t need new rhetoric. Enough has been said. We need the Government, the police, the prison warders and the justice system to do their jobs. Today!

    • The Critical Cynic

      Definitely one of your best articles Jen – and a subject close to my heart as a man.

      I like to think I am one of the good men who has taken our 5 children (4 boys, 1 giirl) and taught them the meaning of respect and consideration towards others. I have engaged my children and male firends in serious discussions about rape

      My lover and life partner for the past 5 years was repeatedly raped by a family member as a young girl (6-12 years old), and was abused and raped over a 15 year period by the father of her boys. In 5 years we have never argued or raised our voices to each other in anger.

      My ex-wife was raped

      several ex-girlfriends related tales of being raped and at least 2 ex-girlfriends were gang-raped, one of them more than once!.

      The day I catch a rapist in the act will be the day I commit murder, for a rapist deserves NOTHING less.

      I agree Jen, I am also tired of this – some telling comments too.

      Yet again the governments given the mandate to provide a safe environment for all are completely failing their citizens. This is no more glaringly obvious than here in SA where the failure to meaningfully reduce or prosecute rape and murder have given these crimes an air of legitimacy to the offenders.

      I maintain that if it weren’t for my immediate family I would redirect the remainder of my life to eliminating the scum that are involved in human traficing – they are the worst as they rape and often provide victims to rapists

    • Mike Green

      Good piece, Jen

      One more man heading off to support One Billion Rising….

    • Yvonne Fontyn

      Well said. I have put my name to 1Billion Rising.

    • Samantha

      Great piece Jen. Do you know of any Rise events happening near Joburg? I have looked at the map on th website but would be great if you knew of any personally. Thank you for your powerful words.

    • Momma Cyndi

      One Billion Rising, Constitutional Hill, 11 Kotze Street Braamfontein. I’ll be there with my dance shoes on at 4pm sharp!

    • Sakina