South African Rape Victims SPEAK

At Wits today, we walked into a large protest led by female students who were rallying in solidarity for the “1 in 3” women who are rape victims in South Africa. The concept is familiar to Washington and Lee University students because of the SPEAK group’s activities on the Lexington, Va., campus. But the techniques used in a central square at the University of the Witwatersrand would’ve shocked many people on W&L’s historic Colonnade. Women, all black, some shirtless, some in bras, and others fully clothed, chanted and sang in solidarity for rape victims. For about 10 minutes a group of people stretched out on their backs on the ground, while others stood by in silence. Several women then told their stories—or those of friends and loved ones—who were raped. The speakers included the female leader of the Student Representative Council, the Wits equivalent to W&L’s Executive Committee president. The reaction from the crowd was mixed; not all watching supported the provocative protest. Throughout the event, I could not stop thinking about the differences in how the Wits students protested and how W&L students voice their concerns. On W&L’s campus we have a few posters on the back of the doors to bathroom stalls that present the disturbing number of 1 in 4 (1 and 5, according to most recent data). But nothing has been as loud or as bold as what I saw and heard from the women at Wits.

–Myers McGarry