Rape....we just don't get it do we?

David Bullard questions whether trendy white based activism is really going to save the next Anene Booysen

I'm still trying to work out why the gruesome torture and murder of a seventeen year old girl in Bredasdorp, with part of her intestines scooped out of her butchered stomach as a grand finale, has been repeatedly reported as rape by the media. The rape of Anene Booysen was just a small part of the horrific and gruesome process of death that this unfortunate young woman suffered. Did the newspapers want to spare us the details of her disembowelling or is it a simple matter that rape is the current trending topic among our media?

I'm afraid it may be the latter and while it is quite right that we should be outraged as a society by rape (as we should by all violent crime) the way the whole Bredasdorp story was handled by the media suggests a cynical chasing of newspaper circulation and radio listenership.

Some weeks ago I was urged, as were many others on Twitter, to contribute a comment to an anti rape page. I couldn't think of a single thing to write other than the banal "real men don't rape" or something along similarly unimaginative lines so I didn't contribute. This genuinely worried me at the time but on reflection I realise it was because the crime of rape is utterly foreign to me.

Of course I know of people who have been raped but I don't think that I can do better than that. If any of my friends and relatives are rape victims or rapists then I am unaware of it. It is, quite simply, not an issue that has ever touched my life. Which is why it makes it difficult for me and many others like me to understand the efficacy of the various campaigns against rape. To me they seem little more than politically correct breast beating which does little to confront the real issues.

Take the now ubiquitous Slutwalk for example. This started in Canada after a 24 year old police officer commented that two girls were provocatively dressed and were "asking for it". The two girls demanded an apology from the Toronto police department (according to the father of one of the girls who I met last week) but the police dug their heels in and refused to apologise. It was a PR disaster of note for the police and the result today is that there are now apparently 80 Slutwalks across the globe. But what does it achieve?

In Johannesburg there's a march from Zoo Lake through the fashionable northern suburbs by deliberately "provocatively" dressed women who are sending out the message that the state of their attire is not an invitation to have sex with them. Ja, well, no fine. The whole thing has a bit of a carnival atmosphere and gives the feminist activists a chance to let off steam but other than that it is largely pointless.

It is reported in the local knock and drop in much the same way as the gay parades are reported. Oh look, a lot of weirdly dressed people are holding up the traffic on a Saturday morning and showing the world that South Africa is a free and democratic society. The problem is that the Slutwalkers are preaching to the already converted. Rather dress up and march through the dodgier areas of Johannesburg if you want to get the message across. This is nothing more than recreational activism.

Last Friday the various Primedia radio stations in tandem with the increasingly nannyish Lead SA decided to play an annoying noise every four minutes during the day. This, as John Robbie assured us, would happen no matter what was being said on air.It was clearly the idea of some crazed pony tail who thought that the radio station would hold a special place in our hearts if it reacted in this way to the Bredasdorp atrocity which now symbolised the crime of rape in this country.

Apparently a rape happens every four minutes in SA. But what on earth was the point? Are 702 hoping that their listeners will hear the bleep every four seconds and rethink their plans for rape for the day? Surely not.

As with other Lead SA initiatives, the campaign is aimed at those who already find the idea of rape and violence towards women abhorrent. If it isn't then I'm afraid that Primedia should be very worried about its listener footprint.

The available statistics on rape in this country strongly suggest that the majority of rapists are unlikely to live on the Zoo Lake Slutwalk route or to be listeners to Talk Radio 702.  They are far more likely to be living lives of squalor in what are now euphemistically called "informal settlements".

Drugs, alcohol, gang bravado, unemployment and overcrowding are all contributing factors together with a culture that treats women as second class citizens and as chattels rather than individuals with rights. Our national rape problem seems very similar to India's rape problem and much of the blame lies with the authorities who either don't take rape charges seriously or genuinely believe that the women were "asking for it".

One thing is certain though and that is that trendy white based rape activism like Slutwalk, protest meetings with drumming, poetry readings and a free glass of broccoli juice and annoying noises played every four minutes on air by some bleeding heart radio station will do sod all to save the next Anene Booysen.

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