Honing in on youth and rape culture
Namibia has been awash with painful stories of rape and sexual abuse, with more and more victims opening up about their experiences.
This month posts have gone viral on social media, as victims spoke out against sexual predators, and nearly over 200 cases have been reported.
This started after members of the community, especially young females, protested against domestic violence and sexual abuse in the Slut Shame Walk (SSW) march that took place in early April.
Although many people frowned on the way the messages of sexual violence and stigma were being portrayed, this did not deter victims in their efforts to expose offenders.
Several actions have since been taken in an attempt to create a safe platform for victims to speak out, some of which include @WomenSpeakingOut, #WeAreDone, @SlutShameWalk and #MeTooNamibia.
What started off as a casual post on social media has left many reeling with shock, as many found out their relatives or even their own sexual partners were involved in abuse.
In response, First Lady Monica Geingos has reached out and offered a safe space for counselling and supporting victims through her office.
“I have an excellent team in my office who deals with sexual violence. They give free physiological and case management help. We are willing to be supporting a brave young woman to open a case today (sic),” Geingos tweeted.
Speaking during a media conference, Geingos said: “This constant negotiation amongst families, sweeping things under the carpet, is the reason why this keeps happening.”
She was referring to offenders and their parents approaching the parents of the victims, saying “let’s not make a big deal out of this, which causes unnecessary, extra trauma for victims.
Advocate Rohlisang Ramakhutla, who is also a victim of sexual abuse, said she knows what it feels like to have someone walk in and take power over the one thing that is yours in this world; hence she started helping others who have been sexually assaulted.
“I also know how difficult it is to move past the trauma, especially when you have a weak support system,” she said.
She said as a law student she learned a number of things.
“If you gave your consent prior to the act and change your mind - retracting your consent whilst in the act and your partner does not stop - it is rape,” she said.
Ramakhutla added your partner can rape you, and that your no is always no, regardless of your relationship with the person.
Thus it is vital know that being forced into giving consent is not okay either.
John Lenga, founder of the #WeAreDone movement, said he started the movement when someone close to him was impacted by sexual abuse.
The therefore creates videos to create awareness. He said guys also get raped, although there may not be a huge number of male rape cases.
“Last week I got a guy tell me his story about how he got raped by a girl,” he said.
He added that rape is not only about physical hurt and sometimes victims are afraid to speak out because of the shame people heap on them.
“It is difficult for guys because if your own friends laugh at you, what will the police say?” he said.
Lenga said we need to empower victims of sexual assault and should take their cases seriously.
“We judge women by their sexual behaviour, which is not right, and we don’t know what happened to guys who become womanisers. Sometimes it is just pain manifesting in a different manner,” he said.
Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) SRC president Juno Angula said while he cannot comment on allegations, which have not been proven to true, they do offer support to students who report harassment.
“In the instance where a student reports harassment, the council can offer support and encouragement to the student; in a case where the student perhaps gets into a cab and ends up encountering unfortunate circumstances, it may be difficult to identify the perpetrator,” he said.
He said sexual abuse cases are placing young girls in a position where they are afraid of men, which shouldn’t be the case.
He added that a balance should be created where men and women can co-exist, and women are not afraid of men and being harmed by them.
The #MeTooNamibia movement, which is an alliance of organisations that share the same vision to provide support for victims of sexual and gender-based violence, has also come to the fore. #MeTooNamibia is comprised of partners such as Regain Trust, Lifeline/Childline, the Namibia Women Lawyers Association, the Nixon Marcus Public Law Office, Sister Namibia, Bel Esprit, Slut Shame Walk, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Office of the First Lady, the Namibia Coalition Against Gender Based-Violence and the Legal Assistance Centre, as well as many others.