EDITORIAL: Danny adds insult to injury
Rape can bring shame and stigma upon even the most confident of women, deepening the silence
Danny Jordaan has at last spoken about the rape accusation made against him 10 days ago, and his statement adds insult to injury.
The injury — his refusal to publicly engage and instead to say he will see his accuser in court — makes it clear that Jordaan either misunderstands the nature of rape or that he is pretending to. Rape is seldom an offence that is proven in court. That is the point about rape: a court can seldom unpack and lay bare the power relations at play that result in sexual violence. A rape trial very often comes down to his word against hers; in this context a court is seldom able to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
And this is assuming the case has made it to court in the first place. Victims of rape — mostly women but also men — frequently face opposition in reporting rape from friends and family, from the police who should protect them and from the officers of the court, who should not judge them.
They also face opposition from themselves. As rapists are often powerful in relation to their victims, there is almost always enormous fear over the consequences of turning to the law. Rape can bring shame and stigma upon even the most confident of women, deepening the silence.
It is this last element that the global #MeToo movement has now begun to challenge. While the phrase had been around for at least 10 years in activist circles, it went viral in October as a string of beautiful and accomplished women broke their silence on the sexual violence they had experienced at the hands of powerful movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
In the first 24 hours of the call to break the silence – led by actress and activist Alyssa Milano – the hashtag had been used by more than 4.7-million people in 12-million Facebook posts. The result is that in the US, the stigma and shame of rape is being turned on its head. Now, it is shameful to rape rather than be raped. Netflix has announced it will end its hugely successful House of Cards series after lead actor Kevin Spacey apologised for an alleged attempt to seduce a 14-year-old boy more than 30 years ago.
But this is not the case in SA. Here, rape and violence against women are endemic, so much so that it is not an exaggeration to call it normal. Crime statistics last week showed that 145 rapes were reported each day. It is a silent crisis about which we as a society do nothing.
Even for Ferguson, who lives far away in a global milieu in which #MeToo garners support and understanding, it would not have been easy to accuse a man such as Jordaan, having lived with her own silence for 25 years. But she did and she did so because the importance of airing the issue of sexual violence is much greater than her own pain.
Jordaan had an opportunity here too. He is among the most powerful of men in the country. Instead of the denial he made through his lawyer on Wednesday, even if innocent, he could have taken the chance to have a dialogue about that evening in the Port Elizabeth hotel.
Instead he added insult to injury by offering nonsensical and inane arguments for his behaviour. He had not spoken in the face of such serious allegations over the past 10 days "because of his empathy with the victims of gender-based violence", he claimed. And mediation, as suggested by Ferguson, was not a good idea because "the public will perceive there is a cover-up away from the glare of public scrutiny" and would conclude that "there is one law for the powerful and another for the masses".
If his comments were not so hurtful, they would be laughable. Jordaan has belittled Ferguson’s pain, but he has also belittled his own male stature.
It is incumbent on all of us, men and women, to lift the culture of omerta associated with rape for far too long, and make sure there are consequences, legal and social, for one of the world’s most insidious and horrible crimes.