Rape survivor wants to lift veil of silence

AFTER surviving a brutal 15-hour gang rape in the sand dunes at Kings Beach and being left for dead, entrepreneur Andy Kawa has declared war on what she calls "the veil of silence” around rape and sexual abuse.

In the context of the alarming rape statistics which put South Africa as the rape capital of the world, the mother and businesswoman will be speaking on what she calls "tough moments” that can redefine your life at The Women’s Conference on Friday August 24.

The venue is the Church on The Way in Summerstrand.

"At this conference I will be talking about moments – moments that can change your life, moments when you are down or want to give up and critical turning moments in life when everything is going downhill and you think you can’t go on.

"I want to encourage people to take a lesson out of this and learn from the worst experiences. It’s time that we take a look at our values as a country and what kind of society we’re living in,” Kawa said.

"If at all we were to look at South Africa as an 18-year-old ... what kind of child would he or she be? There’s a lot of work to be done but it can be done.”

According to national crime statistics released in September last year, incidences of reported rape each year have increased from 54 126 nationally in 2008/09 to 56272 cases in 2010/11 – a 3.9% increase.

This makes South Africa the rape capital of the world despite the fact that the sexual offences ratio in general has decreased by 4,4%, from 138.5 per 100000 of the population in 2009/2010 to 132.4 per 100000 in 2010/2011.

Kawa, who lived in Nelson Mandela Bay before moving to Johannesburg, was raped during a business trip in December 2010 and has since decided to use the experience of being attacked and raped as a catalyst to help others and to speak out about rape instead of being silent.

She prayed while facing almost certain death at the hands of her attackers helped her make a commitment to helping other women, children and men get through the trauma of being abused or raped.

"There is a veil of silence and a stigma in society that allows rape and abuse to continue to happen.

"What I want and need to do is to mobilise people to talk about rape and sexual violence. Society must take charge and create livable communities where children can run freely without worrying so that they can grow up to be the kind of people their parents would like them to be.

"We must protect our young so that they can realise their full potential ... all spheres of the community and all spheres of society need to unite to stop this. Enough is enough of the silence, fear, intolerance and apathy that accompanies rape,” she said.

During the attack, Kawa said she "bargained with God” to spare her life and to reveal to her what she needed to be doing with her life.

"I faced a near-death experience and when they had a knife to my throat, I bargained with God to keep my life and asked God to reveal to me what I could do to help others.

"The whole of the first year after this happened, I was like a magnet to other victims who had not healed from their rapes or attacks.

"Society is full of these women, children and men who have not healed at all ... we are a wounded society and that is what drives me to help others”, she said.

  • Tickets for the conference are R120 per person or R100 per person for a group of 10 and can be purchased at +082-5703144 or 041-5832385.