Never joke about rape...

Because, you never know when a rape survivor might be listening.

It’s 2am and I’m having a wonderful time having a few drinks in Long Street; the usual talking of passionate nonsense and good-natured ribbing with my best friend Andrew and a few of his colleagues.

Then a drunk man in a hooded jacket wanders over to our table and tries to strike up a conversation. He’s swaying and doesn’t really seem to know what he wants so everyone ignores him.

Everyone except me.

Six months ago, that man, a friend of a friend, raped me. I never told a soul.

Suddenly I can’t breathe. I shrink down a bit at my end of the table, trying to hide behind Andrew. I find myself looking around for an escape route that won’t force me any closer to the drunk, and finding none I simply close my eyes and hope he’ll leave.

But he doesn’t. He stays. And in a moment where the forces of the universe seem to be conspiring against me several members of our group start making rape jokes.

What they were, I’ll never know. But with every laughing repeat of the word, I can feel the panic rising along with a rush of adrenaline that starts my hands shaking; I’ve lost control of my body and it’s all I can do to stop myself from curling into the foetal position under the table. I don’t even realise that I’m clutching Andrew’s arm.

Thank god he does. He leans down and softly asks me if I’m okay, and I lean my forehead on his shoulder and hoarsely whisper no. Then I feel a strong arm around me and I don’t even need to open my eyes as I’m shepherded out to the sidewalk.

What followed was a halting and tearful confession, where I forced myself to say the word that I never wanted to.

Human rights organisations have estimated that as much as 40% of South African women will be raped in their lifetime. In the simplest terms, if there are five women in one place, it’s likely that two of them will be raped at some point.

And they’ll never say, because fewer than one in nine rapes are reported.

Please think of that the next time you make a joke about rape. You never know who’s listening.

Read what to do after you are raped here.

Always seek medical attention.

What happens after you are raped part three.
 
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