Forced genital stimulation - masturbation- and orgasm are the two great unspoken secrets of rape, and although women forced to experience this have the highest rate of suicide of all rape survivors, the South African Law Commission ignores them in its discussion document on rape released this week.However, Namibia which enacts its new rape legislation soon, criminalises this terrible secret of rape and includes "cunnilingus...oral stimulation of the female genitals" and "any other form of genital stimulation:, which would include simulation of the genitals with the hand, or forcing the rape victim to masturbate himself or herself."

One trial of a serial rapist in SA ignored the gravest offence he committed: he not only raped and badly beat up the women he attacked, but masturbated them, not all achieved orgasm but those that did experienced profound psychological trauma, difficult y in maintaining relationships and an inability to tell anyone including their psychologists or lawyers what happened. A woman who was gangraped withdrew from her husband because she believed an orgasm during rape had betrayed him (she did not tell him either), he left her and she committed suicide. In children, forced genital stimulation leads to deep psychological trauma including multiple personality disorder as the child tries to conceal its shame and confusion.

During rape, women are in such a state of terror that they have little or no control over bodily functions, some may laugh hysterically, others weep, some urinate or even defecate, some experience acute vaginal dryness while increased adrenalin in their body causes some to orgasm. Rape is not sex and orgasm during rape is not pleasure, it is the ultimate terror and shame. The woman's body betrays her and appears to succumb to the rapist, even as her mind may remain aloof and strong.

The Commission notes: "Rape is ... not comparable to any other form of violent crime... rape violates a victim's physical safety (and) their sexual and psychological integrity. It is ... sexual terrorism. Rape is invasive, dehumanising and humiliating. It is a crime akin to torture." Rape is (itals) torture. It notes police estimates that only one in 35 rapes are reported and notes that using this rule, in 1998 there were 1 636 810 rapes in SA. Using the lowest estimate, that of NICRO that one in 20 rapes are reported, in 1998 there would have been 934 960 rapes. Interpol says, "South Africa remains in an 'undisputed first place' as far as reported cases of rape are concerned." The Commission fails to encourage judges or magistrates to evaluate the tremendous long term torture a survivor experiences, her terrible fear, the long wait for her first HIV result, and the months that follow for successive tests; the harm to her closest personal relationships - it is not just a woman that is raped, her family is raped too. Namibia, however, provides for survivors to give impact statements to courts.

The SA Law Commission maintains a fixation with penetrative sex -which ignores what most rape survivors would tell them - that very many rapists battle to maintain an erection, which often sees the woman severely beaten to compensate for the rapists inadequacies. And sees rapists use other means, which the Commission notes, such as objects, animals, bodily parts (or forced genital stimulation).

The SALC has failed to grasp the impact of rape - the SAPS Child Protection Units in KwaZulu Natal in their submission make the astounding suggestion, that there must be a distinction between penetrative and non-penetrative sex (a suggestion the Commission agrees with). The KZN SAPS argue "that the penetration of the penis into the mouth of the child must not be seen as rape as this will diminish the present public and legal opinion on rape... penile penetration (into the mouth) will automatically bring about a lower sentence." Clearly none of the SAPS nor the Commissioners have been raped, or they have been smoking one of KZN's export crops - oral sex is rape, think about it. And if not, ask anyone who has been raped. Later, however, the confused SALC calls oral sex rape: In Namibia and SA rape will become gender neutral - men and women can be raped, and can include 'penetration or attempted penetration with a penis, object or body part without consent into the vagina, anus, or mouth of another person.' However, both ignore an aspect of rape that repulses women - kissing. While many women are able to psychologically disassociate from their genital area, kissing for many is a far more intimate, disgusting invasion. While this is not rape on its own, coupled with rape it is most certainly an assault. Both Namibia and South Africa persist in using the term rape "victim" which victimises those raped, not only in terms of their perceptions of survival, but also in a demeaning attitude toward them by police and even medical officers.

The term "survivor" - preferred by most survivors - not only gives positive reinforcement to those raped - they can survive if they choose to and are helped to do this, but demonstrates that they have already been victorious - they have survived the most traumatic crime any person can experience. And in a country where 75% of rape is gang rape, particularly in areas like the Cape Peninsula and Gauteng, gang rape is not referred to once by the SALC. They seem unaware of "tournaments" where a boy invites a girl to his home to "study" as an example, and there other boys will force her to have sex. Or a prevalent 'punishment' where girls or women who refuse a boy or man's advances are raped by him and his friends. Or the 'sport' of men forcing women off the road and raping them. Or stabbing them with syringes of rohypnol ...need I go on? The SA Law Commission also makes some dubious assertions in its 284 page discussion document. It suggests, "restorative and rehabilitative alternatives shall be prioritised and applied unless the safety of the child and the community requires otherwise."

The Commission ignores screeds of evidence that shows rapists and child sex offenders cannot (itals) be rehabilitated. Once a person has raped, he will do it again, and again, with increasing violence whenever desire and opportunity coincide, as numerous studies have shown. In the UK it has been found that one of every five rapists released from prison will rape again and kill on that occasion.

The Commission opposes the inclusion of a specific clause on women's rights in the constitution, "we do however, support the principle of equality legislation" - which has everything to do with workplace rights and nothing with a woman's right to live free from fear. In SA not one of the men who ran naked down the race track after the Durban July feared he would be raped, no woman would dare do the same.

The Equity in Employment Act will ensure equality in the workplace - maybe we should live in our offices, because home is where 60% of women will get raped, and where most will be abused or murdered.. In trying to keep track of the medical implications,the Commission notes that women are at risk of pregnancy, venereal disease "or the deadly HIV virus" - it omits to note they are also at risk of the equally deadly hepatitis virus. In explaining low reporting incidence the blame is put on the survivor; "fear of not being believed; self blame; the anticipation of secondary victimisation by state officials..."

Why has no-one set up a toll-free line so those women who don't want to lay a charge but want to point out (and this is true) that a gang of four rapists are patrolling the Observatory East area of Cape Town and forcing women off the road and raping - so police can track incidents, and keep an eye out for suspicious behaviour?
With stalking, the bill places no onus on state agencies, for example, Telkom fasttracking telephone traces - this could have prevented me being raped.
The Law Commission provisions wait for women or children to be raped before it can spin into action, it contains no thoughts as to prevention, and often tired repitition of other legislation - it is simply not good enough.

Charlene Smith

Speak Out Terms of use