Purple Protesters Against Sexual Violence

Over 1500 students and staff members took to the streets of Rhodes University and Grahamstown, wearing purple and walking in solidarity with those who have been victims of sexual violence, particularly against women.

Silent Protest March

I say “particularly against” women, but really the march is only in solidarity with women, and gives very little thought to those men who have been victims of sexual violence. Let no emphasis be taken away from the fact that women are subjected to the cruelest treatment at times, but the event focuses on their silence after their traumas, and, as far as I’ve heard, it’s even harder for men to admit to being victims of sexual crimes. I was a bit put off by the fact that men were not sympathized with for this event.

"Defy Patriarchy!"... And embrace feminism...?

That being said, the event was a success. A 6am start saw everyone gathering in a hall to collect their purple T-shirts and listen to a short presentation. Those of us in “Sexual Violence = Silence” T-shirts had our mouths taped so symbolize the silence of rape victims,  who don’t speak out after their abuse, while those victims put on shirts taking them from the label of ‘victim’ to that of ‘Survivor’. Their shirts proclaim that they are ‘Rape Survivors’, and it is an extremely uplifting and brave thing for them to do. Having never been a victim to such a thing, I see those girls, and my heart goes out to them, I admire them because I know I could never tell the whole world that I’d been raped. I know people, particularly students, and they are mean, and they judge, and so often, a shirt like that will cause people to judge you and pity you.

Taped in Solidarity

We had no food for the whole day, and at the end of it we gathered and marched down High Street in silence to the Cathedral where we removed each others’ tape, and joined in a chant of solidarity, “Stop the war on women’s bodies!” The debriefing included participants going up and sharing their experience of the event. It was a platform for Survivors to admit and break the silence on their abuse, and some shared how the solidarity of others helped them to be strong through the day. Some other powerful and touching moments were when girls who had been taped in solidarity admitted to the fact that they were wearing the wrong shirts, and that they have been victims of sexual violence: for most of these girls, it was the first time that they had ever spoken aloud of the injustice done to them.

Lit candles along the walk to the cathedral, flames of hope

Michelle Solomon “I choose not to be ashamed by the words ‘rape survivor'”

Charlene van der Walt “Wake up, not only to the sound of birds, but to the sound of silence”
“We are our bodies”

Quoting Opperman (theologian) “Most of the time my default response to suffering and pain is anger”
“Lament is the language of protest when what is held dear to us… Is stripped?”
“May we find the truths of our narratives sets us free”

BP “I was young and invincible, rape wasn’t even a factor”

“A victim lives in fear, a survivor endures”
“Why should I pay for something he did to me?”
“Though I can’t change what has happened, I an choose how I react”
“I love you through time, thgh distance, and through our diversity”

“I can’t be brave anymore and I’m so grateful that you’ve been brave for me”
“You don’t understand unless you’ve stood in their shoes”

TN “I’m strong enough to say that I am damaged goods… But who isn’t”

“I will not hide wht happened to me”
“I will not be afraid of who I am”

“I didn’t want people to see me as a victim, not as a person”

“I didn’t know I had this much strength”
“Through your support, I’ve become stronger”

“I didn’t know there could be a happy ending, I didn’t know people actually cared”

“Show whoever did this to you that ‘I’m a success’, this is who I am”

“That’s when I stopped being. A victim and started becoming a survivor”
“Silent protest is a day where I don’t have to keep it together”

“Stand up in grahamstown and south africa”
“We need to be the people to stop this violence”

“I couldn’t make it, but now I can say I’m a survivor”

“It is good to speak and it takes a brave woman to do what you have done”
“It takes 2 to play a game, but only one to stop it.”
“You are still yourself, you own your body”
“If I ask for it, then what? Who can agree to rape someone?”

Breaking the silence

“What happened to me will make me a strong woman”
“He said to me, ‘they did not rape you enough, prostitute’.”
“The past is The way to my future”
“The church the channel of hope. It is an advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves”
“It is never too late, press on.”
“Rape has not taken anything from you, it has brought something to you”

“Silence can be a person’s loudest cry”

V “I said ‘no’. But people don’t listen when you say ‘no'”

MA “Maybe it’s part of rape culture that we think that there’s no life afterwards”
“I’m not trying to say that they haven’t suffered,I’m trying to say that they definitely haven’t died”

“This is for empowerment. And it’s not easy, but it will be ok”

“The heart is stronger than anything”
“Through it all just stand up”

DB “I’m a man but I choose to stand in solidarity with you”

“I feel so damaged and so vulnerable…”

“Rape survivors don’t cry out ‘rape!’ They forget about it”

“Today I wasn’t afraid because all of you are here for me”

“…So many people standing by her that it just gave closure….”

“I thought [speaking out] would be simple, but really it’s not”

“Where now is your God?”


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