Rape cases mount

Following harrowing accounts of rape and sexual assault experienced by Namibians, victims are finally finding their voices.

08 May 2019 | Local News

Seven cases of rape are being investigated by the police, stemming from the more than 200 stories of sexual assault shared on social media over the past week, which gave rise to Namibia's #MeToo movement.

The #MeTooNamibia movement has highlighted that while statistically, one in three women are sexually assaulted in Namibia during their lives, most survivors remain silent about the abuse.

“Time and time again, our systems show us how victim-blaming and slut-shaming are embedded in our culture and in our systems,” Arlana Shikongo of the Slut Shame Walk (SSW) organisation committee said at the launch of the #MeTooNamibia movement alliance on Monday.

The alliance was launched to provide a host of specialist support services to survivors, including legal and psychological support.

Shikongo underlined that Namibia “harbours a culture of fear and intimidation, in which women are almost always rendered voiceless when it comes to their experiences with sexual violence”.

Alna Dall underlined that the hundreds of stories shared online have further proven that Namibia has a “huge problem with how men perceive women and their bodies”. She said the “most painful part of this revelation is that a majority of those accused of sexual assaults are indeed young men”.

“Young men who should be groomed to become the leaders of the country.”

The accounts further revealed that some of the perpetrators have been accused by multiple women.





Alliance support

The Office of the First Lady, a #MeTooNamibia movement alliance partner, assisted women who came forward by arranging for dedicated officers from the police's gender-based violence investigation unit to meet the women in a safe and enabling environment to make statements. All cases to date are rape cases.

Further, one adult male approached the organisation in the wake of the #MeTooNamibia online accounts, in need of psychological support.

Dr Veronica Theron, technical advisor to the Office of the First Lady, said yesterday, in addition to assisting women and men to make statements to the police, the organisation has referred five people for psychological support to private and government organisations and shelters.

First Lady Monica Geingos over the past week has shown support for the movement, highlighting that while similar abuses have long plagued Namibian women, the new generation is brave enough to tackle the issue publicly.

On her social media account she wrote: “Support them and believe women. I certainly do.”

She also posted a number of educational factsheets and information on sexual abuse and violence.

Theron emphasised that a core goal of the alliance is prevention, including educational talks and outreach programmes.



Harrowing

In the accounts shared on social media by Namibian women and men, many recounted being raped or sexually harassed by close family or friends.

One woman told of the abuse her mother suffered at the hands of her father, including beatings and controlling behaviour.

At the same time, the women stated she was being sexually molested by her nanny.

Others told of the abuse they suffered at an early age, including one woman who said a family friend of a neighbour sexually abused her while she was between the ages of five and seven.

Another wrote, anonymously, “my earliest violent experience was with my dad”, who she said was physically violent in the home.

Another woman, who said she had been raped at the age of six, was beaten and raped when she was older, by another man.

Many young women shared stories of multiple rapes, often while in their teens or twenties, at the hands of men they say they knew and trusted.

Critics of the movement have raised concerns about false testimonies against alleged perpetrators.

Theron pointed out on Monday that in her experience, false testimonies accounted for 1% of these types of accounts.

She said those who are falsely accused have the same legal and criminal recourses as survivors of rape.

Moreover, #MeTooNamibia alliance members and others are concerned about the “toxic backlash” from some quarters, and the threats faced by many who have shared their stories.

They have advised they are available to assist in addressing these threats.







JANA-MARI SMITH

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