Despite all odds, Zintle Khobeni (32) from Edgemead, Cape Town has survived two incidents of domestic and sexual violence in four months. In June 2019, she established the non-profit organisation, The Great People of South Africa, to help eradicate gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) in Mzansi.
The Great People of South Africa is an women-led organisation advocating for gender justice, equal and quality access to the justice system for victims of violence and abuse, human rights education, and the eradication of gender-based violence and femicide in South Africa.
Her goal is to make sure that people who have been raped or sexually assaulted, or who have had their human rights violated because of their gender, get the help, comfort, and care they need.
Khobeni is enthusiastic about children’s and women’s rights, and highlights the fact that, despite South Africa’s progressive laws and numerous studies on violence against women, women still have very little protection.
Domestic and sexual violence experience
Khobeni was gang raped on 14 February 2015, in the West Rand of Johannesburg, in the Tshepisong neighbourhood.
After she screamed and fought them off, one of them struck her in the forehead with a sharp weapon, leaving her with a scar.
“I stopped fighting and said they can do whatever they want, but they must please not kill me because my mom and my younger brother needed me.”
The case was reported to the South African police, but Khobeni says she hasn’t heard anything about it until today. She moved to Cape Town in June of the same year.
“After I moved to Cape Town, I was staying in Observatory where the NGO I was working for had booked me in. I was assaulted after a night out by my then manager, who worked with me at the NGO.”
A need for change
It was because of these brutal events that she knew she needed to make a change, not only for her well-being but for that of many other women and children who are faced with the same GBVF challenges.
After she was failed by the criminal justice system, Khobeni went on to pursue a legal career through the University of South Africa (Unisa). She then founded The Great People of South Africa organisation.
‘Helping others brings joy’
Being a victim and survivor of GBVF herself, victims are close to Khobeni’s heart. Over the past year, the organisation has started a court support programme to help victims and survivors of GBVF to navigate through the criminal justice system.
The organisation provides marginalised communities with free basic legal aid, psychosocial support services, and facilitates a post-school paralegal training programme for young women living in vulnerable communities.
She says that as a society, we must develop a culture of believing victims when they speak up. Any relationships we may have had with anyone accused of these offences must be ended, she adds, and society must stop questioning victims since coming out and reporting these crimes is already challenging.
According to Khobeni, society must avoid subjecting victims to secondary victimisation since it discourages others from coming forward.
“I learned that perpetrators will always find a way to commit their crimes against victims. Perpetrators in South Africa are extremely confident because of the failing criminal justice system,” she says.
Dealing with pain and healing
Khobeni says after learning more about GBVF and sexual violence, she knew that she couldn’t paint all men with the same brush. “I learned that it wasn’t my fault but that of the perpetrators.”
A while later, she decided to seek professional help through therapy. She adds that she also experienced domestic violence when her ex-boyfriend abused her physically. On top of that, Khobeni also witnessed her aunt being abused while growing up.
“I used to be with an abusive partner. At the time, I thought he loved me, and he would often beat me. Thankfully I realised that being assaulted by a person who insists they love you does not exist.”
Through the organisation, Khobeni has met several people who had been subjected to various sorts of abuse. She says helping people cope with their pain is therapy for her.
Sexual violence and assault: What happens next?
Mzansi, did you know globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime?
The trauma following sexual violence, or a sexual assault is significant. They may experience feelings of shame and fear, but help is available, says Sister Edna Plaatjies, a staff nurse who works at the Thuthuzela Centre based at Karl Bremer Hospital.
Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs) are a joint effort between the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the department of health. The TCC serves as a one-stop service for victims to report cases and for the NPA to do the necessary collection of evidence, to ensure the successful prosecution of these perpetrators of sexual and GBVF cases.
Plaatjies says they know visiting a police station or health centre can be intimidating, but staff will do their best to support you.
“If you don’t feel comfortable visiting your local police station, you can go to your nearest Thuthuzela Centre or health facility. We will ensure that the help you need is brought to you. Our centres are open every day, including public holidays, 24 hours a day. This service is free and open to all.”
Follow this procedure after a rape or sexual assault:
- A survivor can report the case to SAPS, a Thuthuzela Centre or a designated health care facility, who should contact the specialised detective unit (FCS).
- The investigating officer from the specialised unit will take statements from the survivor (or parent/guardian in case of a minor).
- The survivor will be taken to the relevant healthcare facility for a medical examination, collection of forensic evidence and further medical treatment. If you visit a Thuthuzela Centre, your medical examination and statement will be taken there. You will receive treatment, which includes provision of post-exposure prophylaxis against HIV infection and other STIs, as well as pregnancy prevention. It is important to take your medication as advised by a healthcare worker.
- If the survivor decides not to lay a charge with the police, the survivor still has the right to be examined and receive free medical treatment and advice at the clinic.
- If the alleged incident occurred less than 72 hours ago, the survivor should be advised not to wash/bath or change clothing until the evidence collection has been completed.
- You will receive appointments for follow-ups at a healthcare facility.
Get the Health For Mzansi newsletter: Your bi-weekly dose of kasi health, wellness and self-care inspiration.