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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Breaking the silence and education is the key to dealing with violence and rape

An interview with Alison Botha by Zara Majidpour

“It was in December 1994 when I was abducted at knifepoint, raped, attacked and left for dead by two men who were later caught and jailed for life. My injuries were severe - 36 stab wounds to my abdomen and 16 cuts across my throat. Holding my intestines in with one hand and my head on with the other, I crawled and stumbled to a nearby road.” Quote from Alison’s Facebook page.

It is hard to believe that Alison could survive from such a horrific attack but she did. She survived to share her story with a wide range of audiences in over 20 countries.

Alison Botha was born and raised in Port Elizabeth, a small coastal city in South Africa. She married in 1997 and in 2003 she gave birth to her baby boy. She has written two books. Her first book “I have life: Alison’s journey”, published in 1998 and second book “For the tough times: Alison’s survivor’s journal” published in 2002.

I interviewed Alison Botha recently and I ask these questions:

Question: You were one of the first South Africans who inspired people in South African and around of the world with your story. What inspired you to talk and write books about it?

Alison Botha: I am lucky that I never felt guilty about what happened to me – I knew I was a victim. I also realized that others could learn from my experience if I shared it with them. This grew to a full-time speaking business and my books. I now know that far more GOOD has come out of what happened to me than the BAD of the actual experience.

Q: South Africa has the highest rate of murders and rape in the world. As a South African, what do you believe are the solutions for that?

Alison: Education is key – women have traditionally been taught to keep quiet about such abuse. The more we force society to face the reality of what is happening by talking, educating and announcing, the more society will understand that it is a problem that cannot be ignored. I also believe that murderers and rapists are people who have little value for themselves or humans in general – we could use the school system to educate youngsters of the unique and valuable importance of each individual.

Q: In many countries, especially traditional countries, when women are raped, they fall into sin and some believe that the rape was their fault. They never break the silence of what happened to them. What is your advice?

Alison: Some societies can be very cruel and unaccepting of certain crimes. These beliefs should be challenged in order to give these women a voice and recognition. Even so, my advice in the immediate to such victims, would be to make the personal choice to be greater than the trauma they have suffered – to not give the rape any more power over their lives than it deserves.

Q: How can you educate these traditional societies about rape and assisting rape victims?

Alison: It is difficult to change a society with its beliefs are based on tradition or religion. However, there is so much information available these days and studies that have been done that there is really no excuse for a lack of knowledge. Un fortunately, it is often the victims themselves, or their immediate loved ones, who will be passionate enough to insist that this information be seen and considered by the leaders of their society.

Q: What are your goals with your rape education program?

Alison: I think you have misunderstood - I do not have a ‘rape education program’ as such. I share my own story of rape and overcoming adversity with a wide range of audiences, which I hope brings more awareness of rape to the society in general. It is something that I feel should be able to be talked about just as openly as any other crime. However, my primary goal is to teach people that they have control over whatever adversities befall them – that they have the CHOICE how they respond.

This interview was translated into Persian (Farsi) and published in Shahrzadnews website