South Africa: An Everyday Crime
A day in the life of a rape crisis center
BY Elena Ghanotakis
January 10, 2008
Links and Resources
More on ANC leader Jacob Zuma's rape trial and the "virgin rape" myth; plus links to organizations working to protect women and children against sexual violence.
Interview With Sister Fazielah Bartlett
Forensic nurse Fazielah Bartlett describes how the clinic treats each case, and how, as a staunch Muslim from a sheltered background, she deals with the daily cycle of abuse.
Interview With Dr. Sebastian Van As
Cape Town trauma surgeon Dr. Sebastian Van As talks about the social ills behind South Africa's high rape statistics and what it will take to properly addresss the problem.
Elena Ghanotakis has a B.A. in government from Dartmouth College and a masters in public health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. She has done policy and fieldwork related to HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases all over the world, including Argentina, the Caribbean, Denmark, India and South Africa. She currently works for the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS initiative. This is her first documentary project.
Editor's Note: This week's Rough Cut is a disturbing story. It deals with a sensitive and personal subject -- rape and sexual assault. We had long conversations with the producer, Elena Ghanotakis, about how to best present this difficult material. Our aim is to show the horrific outcomes of violence without exploiting the survivors. Having done women's health advocacy work for several years, Ghanotakis brought a crucial level of sensitivity to the story. Her close relationships with the patients and staff at the Thuthuzela Rape Crisis Center also reassured us. As Ghanotakis made clear, all the rape survivors and their guardians in this story were willing to have their painful stories filmed in hopes of educating others and exposing the troubled world they live in.
* * *
Fanning out from the foot of the majestic Table Mountain, Cape Town is one of South Africa's most prosperous and exquisite cities. It is also one of the world's most striking examples of extreme wealth and extreme poverty living side by side -- just one of the devastating legacies of apartheid, from which the whole country is still recovering. This inequality breeds tension and violence, and today, South Africa has some of the highest numbers of reported rape and murder in the world.
I went to Cape Town for the first time in 2004. I'd quit my job at a Wall Street investment bank and moved to South Africa to work with women on HIV/AIDS awareness. It was part of a post-graduate fellowship from Dartmouth College.
Cape Town's Table Mountain.
Working among the impoverished communities around Cape Town, I soon realized that this young democracy was not only struggling with an HIV/AIDS epidemic but a culture of rampant sexual violence. In 2006 there were nearly 55,000 officially reported rapes, almost half involving children under the age of 18. The National Institute for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of Offenders estimates only 1 in 20 rape incidents in South Africa are reported, which would bring the figure to more than 1 million rapes a year. The situation has also fueled the spread of HIV/AIDS, particularly among women. Those between the ages of 18 and 24 are three times more likely to be infected with HIV/AIDS than men in the same age group.
I met many women and children whose lives had been devastated by sexual violence and abuse. I was shocked by what I saw and decided to formally study the connection between gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS as part of my graduate studies in international public health. Once I'd finished my degree, I returned to South Africa to document the situation on video. Through my research, I became connected to Thuthuzela, a rape survivor center at the GF Jooste Trauma Hospital in the Cape Flats.
Facing the backside of Table Mountain and in stark contrast to Cape Town's wealth and beauty, the sprawling Cape Flats communities were set up during apartheid to relocate nonwhite South Africans several kilometers outside the city center. Millions still live there, most making home in tin-roofed shacks without basic amenities, such as running water, indoor plumbing and electricity. There's chronic unemployment and groups of men loiter on every street. Crime and violence in the townships are a way of life, exposing children to violence from a very young age. Many of the experts I spoke with say rape is an extension of this violence.
Crime and violence in the townships are a way of life, exposing children to violence from a very young age.
Thuthuzela was set up in 2004 to cope with the thousands of rape cases coming into the hospital from the surrounding townships each year. The clinic is run by an amazing group of women who not only provide medical care, but psychological and legal services, as well. Nothing fazes these resilient and compassionate women, who treat between 90 and 150 rape survivors a month.
I spent several weeks at Thuthuzela before I began to film. I wanted to establish a rapport with the women and make sure they were comfortable with the project and my presence.
It was devastating to see the nature and sheer volume of cases. I met many rape survivors at the clinic, from toddlers to the elderly. But the staff there helped me adapt to the traumatic environment and to understand why there is so much sexual violence here. At first, I saw Thuthuzela as a place of tragedy and suffering, but after a while I began to see it as a haven, where rape survivors are given back their dignity and offered support.
Sister Fazielah Bartlett, who runs the clinic, told me, "It is more than just dealing with the patient after rape. It is about preparing her -- empowering her and making her pick up the pieces and go on. And life can go on after rape."
-- Elena Ghanotakis
In her follow up story, "Inside the Cycle of Rape", Ghanotakis documents the work being done by a warden and therapist at South Africa's Pollsmoor prison to try and prevent convicted rapists from reoffending.
Nadeem sadiq - R.Y.Khan, Punjab
Excellent material. Even though it is heart breaking, it is important to know what is happening in the rest of the world. It would interesting to meet "this amazing group of women" [who run the clinic], unsung heroes in my opinion.
makula thembisa - johannesburg, RSA
I am visiting friends in the US, where I saw this film and I live in Jo'burg. It is not only in Cape Town where this is happening, and it is not a legacy of any past government or policy. This violence was not common before, but the attitudes of African males towards those weaker than them was. There is almost no law and order in South Africa, it is fast becoming like the rest of Africa, where this kind of violence against women has been common for a long time. Those neighbours defending the rapist, they show you how it is not just a "problem" that can be solved but a heart condition and traditional "privilege" of males in this culture. Anywhere that men are not challenged to be "real men" but given special status simply because they happen to have the body parts of a male (like muslim cultures?) there will be abuse and degrading of women and children. This is beneath animal behaviour. The poverty women and children are forced into is because the males disrespect the women to the extent that they impregnate and spread disease and then abandon them and the children, but this has always been common in the African societies. A boy is only considered a man if he makes babies with as many young girls as possible, but it is not considered a strength to follow through and provide for, love and protect them. The new paternalistic African government in SA is merely an extension of this. Women are exploited and left unprotected by the government just as they are by their males.What will it take to change? Look at countries in Africa that have had independence longer than SA for the answers: Sudan, Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Liberia, Kenya, Nigeria, maybe even Gaza, Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan? If you ignore history (and the present facts) you are doomed to repeat it, just as is happening in SA today. A bandage like the crisis clinic shows mercy, grace and humanity, but is not adequate to stop this hemorrhage of women's dignity.
I did not even watch your clip because it is common knowledge to all South Africans. Nothing shocks us anymore. What is shown and talked about does not only happen in Cape Town, but over the WHOLE of SA. This is heartwrenching.I was at a memorial service today. It was for a friend of mine who was raped, strangled and beaten to death this past weekend. She was only... with her whole life in front of her. She leaves behind a 9 month old daughter who will never have the right to know her mother.This all happened 800m from her home. She was found a day later, naked in the bush.I know rapes take place all over the world but there is a VERY BIG problem in SA. And what is the most frightening about it is that NOTHING is being done. Our government and police are hiding the true statistics and says crime is going down. They are lying!Please help us, thanks for this, but we are going to need more. The problem is we don't know how. HOW ARE WE GOING TO CHANGE THIS?
Bonnie K - Allen, TX
This terrible epidemic of sexual violence needs immediate attention. It is incredibly unjust that these children are subjected to this type of abuse simply because they live in South Africa. These little girls and boys are forced to grow up much too fast, learning survival skills at such a young age. I was shocked to learn the number of children that are abused on a daily basis, possibly contracting innumerous diseases through no fault of their own. What a despicable and hateful crime to rape a child who has no means of defense. The South African government definitely needs to enforce punishment when a man rapes someone. If only seven percent of rape cases result in prosecution, the government is essentially encouraging this behavior by making it easy for men to get away with such an appalling crime. The government of South Africa needs to wake up and realize that this behavior can not continue without consequences. It broke my heart to watch these innocent people suffering because a violent man abused them. However, I was very impressed by the women running the rape clinic. I can't imagine dealing with the stories they hear every single day. These strong women who have dedicated their lives to helping rape victims recover from the trauma are real life heroes.
Tyler A - Allen, TX
Wow. This story took me completely by surprise. In my mind for some time, Africa has been inherently linked to tragedy; but I guess I really didn't know. The fact that not only is the rape rate high, but that rape goes largely unpunished, just floored me. I got a sick feeling in my stomach when the neighbors defended the rapist. If only there were more like Sister Bartlett, then maybe South Africa would be able to shake this society of violence. Eye-opening video.
While I was watching this video clip, I honestly felt like I was watching a fictional movie. Although it is painfully obvious that this is a real problem and a very traumatic one, I had a hard time realizing that this really happens so many times daily. Because my life has been so very blessed and sheltered from this type of violence, I can hardly fathom that this is still going on at all, especially in such a rampant way. Between the video and the additional commentary and interviews, it just doesn't seem like reality. I hate the horrifying fact that this is a daily reality for so many South African women. This is truly a heartbreaking story, and yet there is so much hope wrapped inside of it. It makes me so happy that women are taking a stand against these crimes and making a difference every single day. Thank you so much for sharing.
This is a remarkable piece. What is so fantastic about it is the sensitivity of the filmmaker in exploring the ramifications of rape. She is very specific in providing the South African context, but this video likely is applicable to many parts of the world. Further, it shows us that rape is a violent act that can traumatize someone deeply, but that there is hope for recovery and strong people leading the way.
What a great and moving documentary. I have heard about South Africa's high number of rapes, but it was even more shocking to watch and learn about it from your documentary.
I'm South African, but first and fore most I am an African. I was born and raised in Soweto, I have 2 degrees and started my first company when I was 21. I detest violence, not every South African is violent and rapes women. The 15 minute clip is right on the money (sharing with the world our problems) but it does not do the justice of showing the world that we are doing something about it. Elena, you have done a great job in making this video, perhaps next time you can show us the remainder of video clip. Good work.
This is a very good insight into the reality of sexual assault in South Africa. Well done to Elena. Particularly relevant are the links made between current reality and our appalling history in SA.I do want to say though that some of the comments made on this site, particularly by Americans, confirm that there is little understanding of the complexities of South African society.Firstly, the castration argument falls into the trap of seeing rape and sexual assault as acts of sex. They are acts of violence and can be perpetrated by anyone using a range of devices other than a penis.Secondly, the reference to rape law in SA is now inaccurate. The Sexual Offences Act was passed late last year. Among other things, it widens the defintion of rape to include rape of men, anal rape, rape with objects and oral rape.Finally, make no mistake: I would rather be one of the "poor unfortunates" living in this amazing and vibrant country than in the country where the person who used that appellation lives - with George Bush as president!Would that things were so simple. In that Elena's documentary contributes to understanding South African reality, it is brilliant. However, in that it allows uneducated and ill-informed people to dismiss all of us, it is not OK.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
In reference to your comment about outdated information in the Rough Cut regarding the South African law and its recognition of male rape, you are correct. Since this Rough Cut was made, on December 16, 2007, President Mbeki signed a new Criminal Law Amendment pertaining to Sexual Offense and Related Matters. In accordance with this law,
male rape is now formally recognized by the law in South Africa.
Thank you for pointing this out.
david reeves - Cambridge, MA
Elena, thank you for helping us understand this terrible problem. Well done.
I agree with most of the comments regarding the brilliant idea, and implementation of the documentary. It is heart breaking to show the pain and cruelty. It is sad. It encourages all of us to think. It makes us look for people and things to blame. But sorry it is not that easy! I am shocked by the comment of Randy saying she would castrate every man in South Africa. That is a rather uneducated comment. As if every South African man would rape! I lived there. I am dating a black South African for four years. His family is from Soweto and he is the most loving, smart and caring man I ever met. The other comment saying "poor unfortunates living in South Africa" is also something I find really upsetting. How can people judge a country just like that!? (As if the US was perfect) Why would so many people from abroad actually want to live in South Africa? We should all know a bit more background of the rape issue in South Africa and I hope that Elena can provide more of her footage, to give us a broader view!
Hi. I wanted to thank you for doing something I have always wanted to do. I am a film-maker and grew up in South Africa. I was fortunate enough to leave SA and move to the States when I was 15. But I have friends who have been raped, and I know people who have died of AIDS. If you need further help with your project, please feel free to contact me.
Very powerful indeed. It should be used to encourage the US government and other donors to provide far more funding for women's rights work in South Africa. I encourage Frontline to show and distribute it widely. For more on local responses to sexual and domestic violence--especially efforts to enlist men as part of the solution please view www.genderjustice.org.za.
Beatrice Hamusonde - Lusaka, Zambia
This documentary highlights the pain and abuse that women and children go through in our homes and communities. Zambia has also some gender based violence survivor care centers providing similar services.
Chennai, Tamilnadu, India
Well done Elena. What you have done is good work. But there may be more to do. Recently one of the TV networks put in AIR a programme titled "AIDS UNDER ARK LIGHT", showing how the poor women who come over to Chennai with aspiration to join film making industry are exploited by
brokers for sexual favours that make them realise that they have become HIV positive. It is a good subject to make a documentary film and more work
can be done on that. If you will be able to get the finance for such a film, I shall be only happy to work with you in making such a film in India.
I am associated with independent documentary film makers in UK and contributed for making award winning films. I hope to receive a reply from you against this offer.
Shelly Kapoor - SPringfield, VA
South Africa: An Everyday Crime
A day in the life of a rape crisis centerAfter research and reading into this matter, I am deeply disturbed to know
that such unfortunate incidents occur to children in South Africa everyday.
It is disturbing to know that the environment in which such incidences occur, are connected to the unfortunate apartheid system placed and enacted in
the 1940s, still has a disastrous effect today. The fact that the apartheid flats, set up outside of the community, at the rims of the city to separate non-whites, cause an environment today conducive to crime and violence,is appalling and horrible. My opinion on that is that if there were more safer and private, central locations for residence, instead of such shady and
unreasonable means of living for these children and adult women, such high
rates of rape would not be seen occurring everyday, or it would reduce their likelihood. This article points out that a million people still reside in the apartheid residential community, and groups of men loiter the streets. The fact that this living area is outside the city, isolated, and has many groups of unemployed men, as well as lack of basic amenities, all leads to very desperate and dangerous environment, and leaves the likelihood of stealing, violence, and crimes very high. Such areas need to be patrolled by police, and under protection, or eliminated altogether.
According to research, South Africa has the highest rape rate in the entire
world; This is a major red flag and alert to nations worldwide, to do something to help and aid this country, and help eliminate or heavily reduce this very disastrous problem: South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. The latest crime statistics showed 71,500 sexual offenses were reported to police between March 2008 and March 2009, a 12 percent increase on the previous year (Earthtimes). It is quite disturbing to know that it is quite the norm for women, and children under 18
to be raped in South Africa; This is not only appalling, it is ridiculous
and outrageous. It needs to be given immediate attention and action needs to be taken to stop and prevent the high amount of sexual violence women and
children are facing in South Africa today. Rape, including child
rape, is increasing at alarming rates in South Africa. Sexual violence against children, including the raping of infants, has increased 400% over the
past decade (Dempster, 2002). According to a report by BBC news, a female born in South Africa has a greater chance of being raped in her lifetime than learning how to read (Dempster, 2002). It is very sad to know that the apartheid system has had such long lasting effects, that members of
South Africa are suffering from its laws and guidelines more than sixty yea
rs later. This system of separation of whites and blacks, which called for
separate housing, separate living areas, separate jobs, and separate marriages for white and non-white folks, has caused problems in schools, as well as increased rapes and gang
related activity in South Africa as well today: The apartheid system and its removal have also had an indirect effect on the large number of
rapes occurring in schools; Gangs are growing in South Africa and intimidate teachers, disrupt lessons, and rape at will; The reorganization of schools after the apartheid system has created a chronic shortage of classrooms
and teaching materials, high student-teacher ratios, and no access to proper sanitation (Medscape).
It is also appalling to note the cultural influence of South Africans, regarding sex, and rape, which is in fact encouraging and conducive to rising number of rape victims in South Africa; It is such narrow-minded and backward thinking, that is leading to the rate of 1 million women per year being raped, and many others going unreported: Various cultural beliefs in South Africa regarding rape hinder the problem of decreasing and reporting rape. It is difficult to impossible for a woman to say no to sex. Many girls and women believe that if they know the boy or it is a boyfriend who rapes them, they cannot say no to sex, even forcible sex. Many men believe they are entitled to sex or even believe that women enjoy being raped (MedScape). This type of thinking of outrageous, but very real; Many African beliefs also point out that rape is ok because it will cure fatal diseases such
as AIDS, which again, needs to be stopped and it needs to be reiterated and
stated, that this in fact is not true, and rape is never justified or right: South Africa has the largest number of recorded child-rapes in
the world. This often is due to a widespread belief throughout Southern Africa among traditional healers see that raping a virginal child 'cleanses a
man of HIV-AIDS.' Others also blame the grossly overcrowded sleeping conditions in these townships, where extended families often sleep cheek-to-jowl
and the females have no privacy at all (Digital Journal). The over
crowded sleeping conditions, and extended families all again go back to the
apartheid system, and its lack of respect and trust for humanity and the negative living conditions it created for non-whites 60 years ago, and the violence and rape it is causing indirectly today. Not only does this type of backward and unrealistic thinking increase the number of rapes occurring
everyday, but it is increasing the number and percentage of HIV and AIDS sp
reading throughout the nation, and raping helpless victims in its trail:
Relatives who believe that raping a young virgin brings mystical powers or can even cure AIDS, is devastating families across much of southern Africa because it rapidly spreads the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV,
to otherwise sexually inactive girls - thus infecting most of the next child-bearing generation (Digital Journal).
This cultural viewpoint and evidence, is beyond shocking and very frustrating
to know. It is this mindset which must be changed amongst South Africans, both young and old, in order for change to occur, and this change is needed fast, and immediately.
Child Rape in South Africa. Pediatric Nursing. http://www.medscap=
40,000 rape cases brought before South African courts last year.
EarthTimes. Oct. 8, 2009.
Ghanotakis, Elena. South Africa An Everyday Crime. A day in the life of a rape crisis center. January 10, 2008.
I cried and then prayed.
Rahul Subramaniam - Fremont, CA
The process of empowering women is essential, but it depends upon women's faith in legal institutions. Women must have assurance that justice will be disseminated and that retribution will be unlikely. This depends upon effective policing of low-income areas, which currently appears inadequate. NGOs must demand that the South African government address this shortcoming.
Emma-Lee Chase - Toronto, Canada
The only thing that will save African countries is feminism, I'd imagine. We know that intense stress (poverty, violence, racism) fuels inability for children to bond ('attachment') so they are unable to see others as living, caring, breathing things. And tend to abandon or abuse their own offspring. Dr. Harlow did this type of research in the 1950s with his monkeys (we humans are pretty similar to primates). The victim blaming is not surprising either. Dr. Jennifer Freyd (psychologist) does research on victim blaming and calls it DARVO: "deny, attack [victim], reverse victim and offender." This seems to occur in all cultures. The only people who probably have it worse than those attacked by strangers are those who grow up being constantly attacked in a home they cannot escape (incest survivors) and prostitutes (who get regularly beaten and raped and are handcuffed by white powder/drugs, etc).
vishal veer singh - bristol, U.K
How long is South Africa going to focus on the dead-beat criminals and let the poor victims suffer?
Maria Pontiki - Athens, Greece
Elena, your film is excellent. Well done. I admire you for your courage to involve yourself in all this tragedy. I mean it was heart breaking for me to watch it on my tv, i can't imagine how difficult and heart breaking it was for you to be there and meet these people. People like you can make the difference and do something to help these women and children. Because you have the strength and you are willing to do it despite the dangers, the risks and the personal cost. Unfortunatelly you are not so many. So keep on.
Cape Town, South Africa
Though it will not please our government for this situation to be widely exposed, this documentary is true to the reality we are facing on the ground. This situation needs urgent action-I hope this will inspire a more robust response.The film does not do justice to the dedication and compassion of the filmmaker and the months she spent at our hospital engaging with the staff to make this film. She followed the survivors even after they left Thuthuzela to ensure that they had the best possible care. RC
Ann Seamans - Bedford, MA
A brilliant work documenting an evil problem - rampant in South Africa but not limited to that country. I cannot watch the opening scenes without nausea. My sadness at listening to her neighbors abandon her is overwhelming as I know this happens all too often elsewhere.
Sharon Dennehy - Billerica, MA
Having known Elena since she was a little girl I am now proud to say I know her. What an outstanding piece of work. Her documentary of the rapes of South Africa should wake the entire world up to look at and really care about the atrocities that these women and children suffer. I applaude you, Elena.
Linda Ferrara - Lakewood, NJ
I keep hearing how shocked everyone is. It shows the lack of coverage and the truth is not getting out to other countries. How little value are the women and children are in S Africa. This woman is doing a great job, but the corruption has taken this once beautiful country over. America needs to help address this horrible problem of crime. One thing that was not covered. They think if you rape a virgin it will cure the aids virus. It has been well documented. Why was this not mention in you coverage?
The report was a sad and sobering reminder of what can happen when people, forced to live in poverty, turn their hopelessness towards one another. I was also struck by the reporter's closing statement when she said in so many words that this was another example of South Africa's "legacy" of violence.
Correction: the only legacy of violence in South Africa is the years of violence black people were subjected to during the country's white regime. Black people were killed, beaten and mistreated, and I dare say raped too at will. Unfortunately, what your report revealed is that now black people are doing the same thing to their own, something that often happens when people have been treated in a cruel way and then have the chance to show that cruelty to others. What's needed is financial resources and the right ad campaigns. Men do not have the right to rape. But the reconditioning program must begin at the top, with the men who run the nation, men who may personally see nothing wrong with rape. Also, I would have found your report much more interesting if you had spent two minutes talking to the police commissioner or a judge about why only 7% of rapist are convicted. I feel that this is where the problem lies, in the justice system. Little children should never be raped and nothing be done about it. The moral responsibility to protect children should be any nation's number one priority, no matter where the children live in the world.
Stephen Settro - Buffalo, NY
As the Bible says, no sin goes unpunished. And so it is going to be with South Africa.Their freedom fighters live all over Africa and the world, a situation that gave them an edge in that fight. If they decide to drive citizens from those very countries that helped them, so be it.I have known Hugh Masekella, Leta Mbuli, Philemon Hou whose son Zeti Hou went to St. Patricks with me in Monrovia, and Mariam Makeba whose properties are still in Conakry, Guinea, they ought to know better in treating an African brother or sister, these aren't part of those who colonized them. Africans aren't British or Dutch.
DENISE EARLY - OMAHA, Nebraska
I watched the film and like many, am appalled at the injustice in that country. To those of you in the US who ask the question "What can we do," write your congressman and demand our government take a stance. We need troops over there and we need the citizens of Africa to take a stance as best they can to assist in changing the political landscape in the region.
Darfur Lover - Khartoum, Khartoum
This is Africa in general, we need a lot to be improved,please forget about our governments, interference is a must, this is happening in Darfur also and every one knows it is happening all over Africa.A lot should be done to prevent people against that kind of inhumanity,in South Africa (never again) didn't serve the civilians, and you can easilly notice that on the the streets. God must bring some change.
Anastasia Pavlidou - Slidell, Louisiana
Very powerful but also very sad material. I hope this documentary gives people a better idea of how much further we need to go. Good job, sweetie.
Bravo, a very informative piece. Wake up, governmmet of South African!
Nicole - Greenfield, WI
I've recently been reading about these acts of horrifying violence in this country and am enraged and saddened. I wish there was more that we could do. I also wish that the children didn't have to deal with such things.
This made me cry. I could feel the suffering of the survivors. I would like to know what are the people living in this society doing about this? What is the government doing about this situation?
Hearing these women and children's stories is frightening to me. Rape is something I have always been afraid of but these women in South Africa put my definition of fear to shame. It is not even called a `problem' there, they have now labeled it an `epidemic.' Everyday! Someone walks into that Crisis Center as a victim. It's terrible that so many cases are left undone because they don't posses the technology to find the answers they need. Here in America we are so fortunate to have the capabilities to find rapists and find justice in our world. I feel so spoiled hearing their stories and knowing that it will never be that bad here in America. It is no longer a battle for the women over there. It is a constant struggle every day, all of the time and it's difficult to see and listen to. It turns my stomach having to think of what it would be like for me if I had to face such things everyday, I honestly don't know if I could take it. But it's so good that they have the Rape Crisis Center to help victims. It's a step in the right direction and more advanced than I was expecting with the antibiotics and treatments they provide.
Vanessa Rae - Fairview, Texas
I do not cry very often, but this video brought tears to my eyes. How can South Africa have one of the highest reportings of rape, yet only 7% of these assaults ever result in convictions? This is completely absurd and this video has brought a huge topic to my attention. Since 1 out of 5 people in South Africa has HIV, then even if these men and women are trying to protect themselves and having consensual sex with a condom, their whole lives can be destroyed by these heavily occurrences of rape. And not only are these rapists diminishing the victims values and innocence, they are also endangering them with the agony that comes with the HIV virus, and potentially death. In the United States it is illegal for one with Aids to have sex with someone and not tell them about their status dealing with the disease. If they do not comply with this, then they are heavily punished, and I believe should be tried with murder. This is equally true with what should happen in South Africa. These men continue to rape women because they know they can basically get away with it or at least have a high probability of doing so. If the stakes were raised and authority stepped in to charge these men with their rape crimes, and murder if they had the HIV virus, then I believe a majority of this violence in South Africa would discontinue.
Erin F. - Allen, TX
I was surprised at how few reported rape cases have enough evidence or substance to cause prosecutions and convictions. I was also surprised that so many rapes in South Africa involve children. This video was so eye-opening to me, because I had no idea how big of a problem rape was in South Africa, even to the point where they have the highest number of reported rape cases in the world. I really applaud the rape survivor center, Thuthuzela, in its efforts to help out victims of rape. It made me so glad to see that at least someone was concerned with the extraordinary number of rape cases in South Africa, and that they were willing to do something about it. I was more than appalled to hear about the 3 sisters getting raped at the threat of death, and also to see the girl that was beaten so badly she had to go to the emergency room. It breaks my heart to see those cases being presented, and I really hope that more steps will be taken in the future to help these rape survivors, and to ultimately end or substantially lower rape in South Africa.
This powerful documentary on not only girls being raped, but boys as well, has opened my sheltered life up so much. I had no idea that it was normal for this type of thing happening everyday in other countries. I feel so horrible for the victims and their families after seeing how upset and helpless they were when many of them found out that it was extremely hard to press charges. The story that touched me most was of the three sisters who got raped several times. I can not even fathom how the mother felt when she found out that the money that she was paying to get her daughters a safer way to get to and from school ended up paying for the cab rid that would end up taking away her daughters' virginity. Something needs to be done, because it is not acceptable for the rapists to be able to keep getting away with raping and physically and mentally hurting innocent people.
Destiny Osborne - Plano, TX
This video was unbelievably shocking. The fact that rape is treated so lightly by the government and more precautions about prevention aren't taking place is extremely disturbing. The amount of violence that is commonplace and even considered accepted because it is normal is so damaging. Half the rape cases involve children? That is such a tragedy....imagine having to live with such a brutal and life-altering memory at such a tender age. What really angered me was the fact that under South African law, male rape does not exist. That is such a strong case of denial. By saying that, the government is sending the message that rape is acceptable and will be overlooked if a case is presented. And the sad thing is, people are listening to that message and acting accordingly upon it.
Allie M - Allen, TX
This documentary is heart breaking, and proves how low the world's economy as well as social and moral standards are falling. Women and children mercilessly being beaten and raped is an unexcusable crime, and one worthy of extreme prosecution. It is extremely disappointing to me that the South African government is not opening more care centers such as Thuthuzela to prevent such events from occuring. What is even more shocking is the fact that rapists are often not caught and punished... If this continues, than South Africa will remain the highest in rape percentage... It was also shocking to see the number of children come into Thuthuzela. Their lives are forever altered because of their experience with rape, and some will end in HIV and other incurable diseases. This epidemic is inhumane and horrible, and South Africa needs more efforts such as Thuthuzela as well as a cooperating government in order to begin alleviating this intolerable act of crime.
Jerry wilson - golden, colorad0
Surely a sign that this world system must be brought to nothing by God's kingdom for which we have been taught to pray. This government will also imprison demon forces which are obviously behind such conduct.
Violence against women has been named a worldwide epidemic by the World Health Organization and I am so sick of hearing about it. It makes me so disgusted at the human race. At the same time, I know I need to hear about it and wish more women would get informed and take action. I do not understand what is wrong with men worldwide. It's as though they are all born with a deficiency that makes them less than human. How else does one explain the worldwide sex traffiking of women and children, all to serve men? wtf is wrong with men, that so few of them have any real empathy for women? And how is it that we allow them to be in power EVERYWHERE?Please include a way we can DO SOMETHING, such as donating to that clinic!! Include a link, a bank account, something...thanks.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Take a look at some of the organizations involved in this issue that are included in our links and resources section.
Well done Elena, it was an excellent documentary! Let us just hope that more spotlights will now be pointing in that direction and will help bring about some desperately needed changes.
- Allen, TX
It is truly heartbreaking how the rape epidemic has exploded in the country of South Africa. I agree with the clinic that the key to prevention of the rape epidemic is through the empowerment and education of the women and children there, but I'm afraid that will be very difficult as the problem continues to grow. I find it very sad how many women there are blamed for their own rape when they're simply trying to survive. I think it's great that the clinic has such wonderful treatments such as antibiotics, the morning after pill, etc., because I can only imagine how difficult it would be to get a hold of those drugs provide them to so many people on a daily basis. It's simply a very sad thing over there that really needs to be stopped, but hopefully with an increase in clinics like Thuthuzela, something can be done for these poor, innocent people.
I am shocked by the horrors displayed in this video. I almost feel ashamed at how unaware I was to what has been going on in South Africa. I am disgusted that the government does not pass laws to harshen the penalty of the males convicted of rape. Because they get off with few consequences, they rape women, often little girls, with good chances of getting away with it. The violence and the danger that surrounds everyday life in Cape Town, or any local area of that region for that matter, should be intolerable, and immediate actions should be taken. The high 20% HIV rate is only multiplied because of reckless men who have no respect for their fellow neighbors. I applaud the reporter for making outsiders aware of the violence and intolerable circumstances females of all ages (and even some males) endure in the region, and hopefully with enough effort, strides can be taken to improve the conditions and decrease rape rates.
Lucretia D. Rhodes - Wellesley, MA
All the world should know about this horror! Thanks for an excellent documentary exposing the rape crisis in South Africa, Elena. Bravo!
carmith Shai - Boston, Ma
This is a wonderful documentary unfortunately we did not end the need to communicate about HIV AIDS. Showing all these facts are essential for this fight against this plague.
This piece was very moving and eye-opening. Thuthuzela is a great place and I hope and pray that South Africa can find a way to make more rape crisis centers. Although it seems like a long shot, this center is a great opportunity to cure HIV, as well as rape. I was stunned to learn that under the South African law, male rape does not exist! Rape is rape, male or female. I truly feel for these poor victims and I thank you for documenting such a controversial issue.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
As our update states, male rape is now recognized under South African law. As you say, rape is rape.
This story which is happening in Cape Town, South Africa, which has some of the highest number of reported rapes in the world, is a touching story and very upsetting for one to watch and see that these rapes our happening in our world. I believe the Thuthuzela Rape Crisis Center is a wonderful way to help those who have been raped to get help and treatment.
Very well done. Quite an eye opener to the horrors in South Africa. Best of luck to you with your work. You are doing a wonderful thing.
a Catsoff - Brookline, ma
Bravo! A very informative piece. Wake up, government of South Africa.
Maryellen - Jupiter, Fl
Elena- I had no idea how terrible it really is in Capetown. I hope your work helps to end these injustices. Excellent work!
I've heard of the sexual violence problem in South Africa, but the personal accounts in this piece really highlight the gravity of the situation. It seems that an important step in the path to "overcome the legacy of violence" in South Africa is to educate not only those within that country, but also those of us in the developed world that can affect change. Well done.
anonymous - nyc, ny
Counseling and education of the males? Perhaps, but I can think of a much better treatment that would work not only as a deterrent but would also prevent anyone from raping twice. For those who think the US is better off, let's see in a few decades (I'll skip my argument so that I'm compliant with political correctness).
Hariklia Dimitropoulos, Ph.D. - Gaithersburg, Maryland
I sincerely congratulate you on your courage, compassion and thoughtfulness on reporting this very sensitive subject. The barbaric acts occurring in this part of the world are not discussed or known much about in the U.S. and I believe your documentary sheds light on the subject. Further coverage would definitely inform the public further and I think this is necessary. Action must be taken somehow to PREVENT the actions from occurring, although the safeway home in place there is definitely an excellent start. Once again, excellent work on the coverage and I look forward to hearing more about the subject and HOPEFULLY the progress in that area. Thank you for your work.
- London, UK
Ms Ghanotakis.Congratulations on your accomplishment. Incredibly professional, well explained and filmed, at no point I felt you and your team were exploiting these stories for impact, and this is a rarity in today's media.
A number of these facts are known, but the different angles to this story make it stand out from anything we have seen before - this work is relevant to South African slums and a number of slums worldwide.
Ms Ghanotakis do not stop telling the world these stories.
Mary McGrail - Worcester, MA
Extremely well done! As I was watching this documentary, I felt outrage, pain and sorrow all at once. It has opened my eyes to the horrors that are happening in Africa. I never knew how truly bad it was. This is a must see.
joe mahoney - brookline, ma
Elena: I just wanted to tell you how powerful and moving this documentary was. It's a riveting piece of work, presented with sensitivity, on a topic that's almost unthinkably brutal. I hope it's widely seen and has an impact on people's lives. Thank you.
Marquis williams - denver, colorado
Wow, this is very shocking to me and I think that we must all help and stop this. This is a big issue and it should be seen by everybody!
marquis williams - denver, colorado
Wow, this is very concerning to me and I feel their pain.
Aaron Holley - Washington, DC
Excellent work! You did a great job of communicating the pain and suffering that the victims in S. Africa experience.
Richard Morris - Honolulu, HI
Knowing just a little bit about the severe difficulties and challenges you faced in creating this movie, I wish to offer hardiest congratulations for a troubling statement eloquently made. When one considers the courage, perseverance, and personal sacrifices that went into making up thirteen minutes of education and alert, one has to wonder, "Was it worth it?" If you can get your message widely disseminated, the answer will be a resounding "Yes!" You have now established a base from which I hope you will generate increasing awareness for the rest of the world. Elena, congratulations for a job well done!!
A new anti-rape commercial has started airing in South Africa...http://allafrica.com/stories/200712190647.htmlSouth African men rape over 500,000 women every year in South Africa. This is the sobering thought that well known SA Kwaito musician, television presenter and actor Zola leaves viewers with at the end of the latest 'Real Men don't Rape' commercial, which flighted for the first time at the weekend.The latest 'Real Men don't Rape' advert was commissioned by Women Demand Dignity, Rape Crisis and the Trauma Centre for Survivors of Violence and Torture. The campaign has been running for the past six years and has featured well-known South African celebrities like Charlize Theron, Romeo Khumalo and Tinah Mnumzana.
That was powerful. It is such an important issue, and Elena covered it very well. Bringing attention to this issue is a very important step toward bringing change . Well done, Elena!
Elena - We are friends of Alex's and he shared your film with us. What is happening in S. Africa is shocking, if not horrifying, yet your documentary is very well done and must be shared with the world. How can we help?
Christina Bethke - Cambridge, MA
Bearing witness is such an important part of working towards healing, prevention and, ultimately, resolution. Thanks for your honesty & courage in telling this story-- you do so with great respect for the survivors and bring dignity not only to their stories but the thousands (millions?) of untold stories of rape in South Africa.
Outrage at what is allowed to transpire to these women and young children! If men are not educated in a way that they are made to understand the implications of what they do, how can women possibly ever "prevent" rape? It appears that there are underlying issues and problems here. Is there really hope for the survivors? I would think following up on the survivors is a must in the telling of their stories. I would like to have had this story in the longer version I originally saw; have the perpertrators explain their actions (and (possibly) be consulted for solutions) and made to make ammends in ways that would benefit the healing of both and thus hopefully lead to being productively preventive to this disgrace of rampant rape. Jail time doesn't cut it!
Myrna Offen - Newton, MA
Elena's sensitivity and observations of life here are an important chapter in the story of the women and children who live in this violent and hostile community, almost without hope. The support that they are receiving at this center is amazing and life affirming. I know how stressful the work can be. Bravo Elena for your passion and your willingness to further the cause of the women here. Your support will hopefully bring additional emotional and financial support to all the people here.
Shirley Wilson - Seattle, WA
Eleana has taken on a formidable task and one that truly needs to be brought to the attention of the larger world. I hope that she is able to garner the support needed to finish the work she has begun. It appears that there are many parts of Africa that have fallen prey to the rampant and savage terrorism at the expense of women that her work touches upon.
Susan S. - Bolton, CT
Elena, Congrats on your finished work. This was hard to watch, but extremely well done. It was not only emotional, but done with great sensitivity. I hope this makes it to TV, so more people can be informed of what goes on in some parts of the world.
Amanda Cochrane - Lawrence, MA
This is a well-done and professional documentary. It is rare that the average person is able to see the reality of rape against children and women going through the crisis. This film allows the audience to bear witness to the atrocity of rape-- which is too often depicted only in statistics. This look puts real experiences at the center and exposes the brutality and horror of rape, and in particular the experience of women and children in South Africa. This should be shown to as many people as possible.
This is just part of what goes on in Africa. Very informative work you've
done, Congratulations. My Niece is on her 4th Tour of Duty in Madagascar. She has been an Acting Ambassador many times... She loves Africa and will be
retiring in the next 2 yrs.
This film is eye-opening. Something more needs to be done about this situation. Can Frontline put this on TV?
This documentary was unforgettable on so many levels. Although the work of Thuthuzela [the clinic] is so commendable, national policies should be enacted and enforced that seek to mitigate such horrific acts from occurring on such a regular basis. This most undeniably warrants national concern, which I'm sure it's already garnering. Thanks Elena for this illuminating glimpse into a South African reality!
It would be really interesting to assess how governments and policies are responding to this issue, both nationally and internationally. This documentary is definitely an initial step forward.
Good work Elena !
Scott Wilson - Seattle, WA
Elena Ghanotakis is to be congratulated for her strength and courage in creating this documentary to put the face of real people to this broken part of humanity. Knowing about the problem is the necessary first step leading to positive change. I encourage Frontline to make the resources available to complete this documentary and show it to the world.
Wow. That was so very powerful and heartwrenching...and artfully done. This South African epidemic of sexual crime needs to be addressed. This video provides an important snapshot of the day-to-day reality of those who work to treat the problem. Sister Bartlette's comment about the partial shift in focus from treatment to prevention is a necessary idea. It is the responsibility of the world to intervene in situations like this. Let's prevent the shattered lives, instead of picking up the pieces after-the-fact.
Like other reactions here I was disturbed by the amount of barbaric behavior and the attitude of neighbors of the accused rapist. (Who said if he was a rapist then why hasn't he raped my 3 year old yet? and suggested the victim was asking for her assult!) I strongly believe that film and photography can create an effective vision of awareness and can be an excellent form of education.I would be delighted to see this broadcast widely.
This is an excellent documentary showing and telling the terrible situation of women and children in South Africa and many other places in the world. This should be shown on PBS to inform and educate all people to these crimes.
Ingrid Fuerstenberg - Muenster, Germany
Your very sensitive report cries out for action. Now it is everybody's business to do something to stop such violence against women - and not only in South Africa. Where is the golbal outrage against societies that tolerate such violence? It seems that only women will eventuelly make a difference, as men have proven that they are not interested in any change. EMPOWER WOMEN! Carry on the good work of showing the world what you have witnessed, Elena!
Mary Ann Miller - Estes Park, CO
Your passion to delve into a very violent society and report on the extreme crimes of rape is phenomenal. I can only hope that your message will be televised : for awareness of the problem is a start to solving it!
Lotus McDougal - Cambridge, MA
What a powerful story, Elena. Thank you for helping to publicize a problem about which there is so much need but so little being done.
Ben Mandelker - Los Angeles, CA
Great work. This was extremely powerful and highlighted an important issue in South Africa. People should be aware of this ongoing problem.Furthermore, Elena, you did what was most important as a filmmaker. You took a large, imposing issue and highly personalized it in only minutes; thereby, creating an effective and moving message. Congrats.
brenda white - Concord, MA
Elena - Hello.
I just finished watching your documentary. First of all - congratulations on your accomplishment. The telling of this story, the varied perspectives, your words,
your voice, your compassion, your insights - all beautifully done.
Second of all :) - it was really wonderful to watch the documentary
from the perspective of having met it's creator. Very cool to see your
work and what interests you - to get to know more about what
makes you tick.Thanks for sharing this story.
Elizabeth Hutson - Gainesville, Virginia
This was an excellent video documentary. It really drives in the message about how extensive the problem is, reminding people that these horrors are a very real thing. You did a good job of giving case by case examples and explaining the over all problem.Thank you so much for taking the time to educate people about this problem.
Anne Byrnes - Lexington, MA
Excellent material. Even though it is heart breaking, it is important to know what is happening in the rest of the world. It would interesting to meet "this amazing group of women" [who run the clinic], unsung heroes in my opinion.
Jonathan Alpert - New York, NY
Your documentary was excellent! It illustrates the horrors that I've only read about. It is my hope that FRONTLINE continues to disseminate your documentary to raise the awareness of the crisis. Thank you for your hard work and dedication towards this very important issue.
Billie-Jo Grant - Charlottesville, VA
Excellent video. Very informative and moving. I liked how the video followed a story line while also incorporating national statistics. A tough subject, but presented very well. This video will create the awareness and prevention I think our world desperately needs. Great cut, hope to see more.
Randy Green - Lexington, MA
I found this excellent documentary rather disturbing to say the least. It is horrifying that such violence still exists on an every day basis and without a viable solution. If I was in charge, I'd castrate every man in South Africa, and start educating young men for a new beginning.
sheila alpert - manchester, ct
Very well done. It makes you think how sad life can be & how cruel people can be. One of my thoughts is that the males in South Africa are the ones that should be educated. Otherwise how will they ever learn? And it would best be with another male [doing the educating]. It seems to me that this act [rape] is accepted by the majority of the people!
Very nice; nicely done, easy to understand. Can you put this on PBS tv?
God bless America. Poor unfortunates, living in such a society as South Africa. I understand one cannot even walk alone there, especially in some places, without getting attacked. This documentary was very powerful and gave a good picture of the horrible life one can experience in South Africa. Good job. I would like to see more. I always look forward to what you show on Frontline on TV. You should put this on TV. It would bring a lot of viewers.
Natalie Gann - Boston, MA
Very interesting and almost unbelievable that this can go one with no involvement of the government to do much about it. This would make a good program for TV. It should be broadcast in South Africa too. That might make the government do more. You have a powerful program. You could do something.
Kara Strait - Hoboken, NJ
Elena - This is amazing. Really makes me want to do all I can do to educate EVERYONE on the facts and needs regarding HIV. The transmission rate in S.Africa is terrifying!
Ariane Hundt - New York, NY
This film sent shivers down my spine. The graphic details truly expose the pain and trauma these women face.
John Ghanotakis - Minato-ku, Tokyo
Good for you Elena. Excellent coverage! It is about time someone shows us the various angles in the whole problem.