Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Due to a savage attack on a 12-year old cousin, a South African woman is gathering signatures to attempt to persuade her government to punish rapists more severely.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1999]
Origins: The appeal quoted above began circulating on the Internet in November, 1999.
When this letter emerged, its veracity was difficult to judge. Was it yet another Internet hoax? Or was it real? On one hand it contained fairly detailed information and, as is the case with many urban legends, sounded legitimate. On the other, there have been so many false "appeal for help"
As it turned out, this case is much akin to the "dying boy wants postcards" frenzy (a good idea that got out of hand) and to the petition calling attention to the plight of women in Afghanistan (an appeal which underscores the uselessness of
Yes, there was such a raped little girl, and yes, the petition is real. Signing it, however, won't help anyone. Because of the immense flood of
Nikki Botha did receive a huge number of responses prior to the cancellation of her
Will the petition do any good? In a word: no. Even the least talented of programmers can easily code a subroutine to generate lists of names and/or
Petitions written on paper and signed in ink in a variety of handwriting styles receive scant consideration; their cyber-equivalents don't get even that. When it comes to effecting social change,
E-petitions do serve two very real positive purposes — they both give the morally outraged an outlet for their anger, and they open uninformed eyes to situations the evening news may perhaps be giving short shrift as it concentrates coverage on local matters.
Addressing the issue that perhaps this petition will at least open the eyes of the South African government to the horror now afoot, we should point out that those in charge could scarcely be any more aware than they now are. Weekly — sometimes even daily — articles about the rape epidemic run in Africa News. New stories, announcements of programs to combat the problem, outraged letters, a plethora of wild-eyed suggestions — they're all there. Not a week goes by without headlines trumpeting a chilling "Every
Interpol says that based on reported rapes, South Africa has the highest incidence in the world. In 1998, the official rate was 104.1 rapes per 100,000 people, compared to 34.4 per 100,000 in the United States.
The country's first court dedicated exclusively to the handling of rape and sexual abuse cases was opened in December 1999. An initial
Lawlessness in South Africa has reached epidemic proportions. Citizen response to judicial indifference ranges from pinning on white "Take a Stand" ribbons and festooning business with "No to abuse and violence against women!!" signs to participating in vigilante groups which have dangled thieves and murderers (or those believed to be same) over crocodile-infested rivers, whipped, or dragged them behind cars. Vigilantism is growing rapidly, with groups such as Mapogo-a-Mathamaga (Colours of the Leopard) swelling to 40,000 members within just three years. That its leader and eleven others stand accused of beating two lawbreakers to death in 1996 does little to dim the lustre of such groups — many are now willing to embrace a credo of desperate times allowing for only desperate solutions, and they see such groups as providing a remedy the South African police and judiciary fail to supply.
Those tempted to take comfort in the notion that, as abhorrent a concept as it is, street justice groups are attempting to protect women and children from violent rape should note that groups like the Mapogos concentrate their efforts on murderers and thieves. Rapists aren't seen as a priority.
Some South African insurance brokers have recently included policies for rape victims among their services.
The "chemical castration" solution referred to in the
The main question raised by discussion of castration (chemical or surgical) has to do with what impels a rapist to commit sexual assault. If one judges that rape is sexually-motivated, then suppression of sexual urge appears to be a solution. If, however, one views rape as an abuse of power over the helpless, the sexual elements (and thus the urge which prompts them) are incidental to the assault. Those who hold that rape is about power and not sexual gratification fail to see what protection decreasing male drives will afford. Even lacking a penis, a man will find a way to rape, humiliate, and physically assault his victim, if indeed the desire to harm is what motivates him.
Last updated: 5 January 2008
This material may not be reproduced without permission.
snopes and the snopes.com logo are registered service marks of snopes.com.