Rapid City, South Africa – It is a town that has had its share of rapes, and the recent spate of violence has only served to highlight the need for change.
Rape is rampant in Rapid City – there are reports of dozens of cases a day.
“I was walking home at night one night and two of the men, both white, started following me.
They were not aggressive at all,” said Rieke Wessels, a member of the city’s indigenous community.
He was taken to the city police station, where a police officer informed him that if he wanted to report the incident, he would have to provide the identity of the man who had done the attacking.
Wessels was told by the officer that it was “a rape culture” and he could not report the assault.
While the incident is an alarming example of how rape and other forms of sexual violence are often underreported in Rapid Cities, Wesselss and other local activists are calling for more attention to the issue.
“We need to stop giving this sort of treatment to people who are in need of help,” said Wessel.
One such activist, Riek Nel, is the founder of the Rapid City Rape Relief Centre, a nonprofit that helps victims of rape and sexual assault in Rapid, Johannesburg and Cape Town.
It was founded by the family of a woman who was raped at the age of 13 by a man from her home village in the city.
After years of being told she had no other choice but to leave the country, she took refuge in Cape Town with her mother and siblings.
Now she has set up a shelter to help victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, child abduction, and forced marriages.
Nel, who also works as a human rights activist, has seen the need to address rape and violence in Rapid grow over the years.
“It is happening every day,” she said.
In the early 2000s, the city experienced an outbreak of violence after the police station was stormed by a group of youths in retaliation for a series of murders.
The following year, a number of rape cases were reported, including a 14-year-old girl who was kidnapped and raped.
Police arrested several men, and then released several of the accused, who were accused of raping the girl.
Over the years, a series was reported of police officers harassing, assaulting and even killing women.
Then in 2016, there were several high-profile rapes involving teenage girls and young men, including one in which a young man was shot dead by police in broad daylight, sparking mass protests in the South African capital.
For several years, there has also been an uptick in violent incidents involving black people.
According to the National Police, the number of African nationals in South Africa is at a record high of nearly 3.4 million, while the country has a black population of 1.8 million.
Despite the high number of crimes, the rate of police brutality has become more prevalent.
Last year, police officers were found to have used excessive force in a series with the death of 17-year old Malik Gabor in Pretoria.
Gabor was shot by the officers while he was handcuffed in a vehicle.
Since the start of the year, the police have been accused of shooting at at least eight people, including two unarmed civilians, in the capital.
A week earlier, a police shooting that killed a woman in the country’s second city, Johannesberg, sparked massive protests in both cities.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council has raised serious concerns about the continued use of excessive force by police.
At a recent meeting, South African President Jacob Zuma said the police force was “inadequate” and needed to be reformed.
A recent report by Amnesty International also stated that South Africa’s criminal justice system is “totally broken”.
“It’s time for a serious, thorough, and independent review of the police,” the report stated.
This is not the first time Rapid City has faced the issue of rape.
In 2016, the local authorities issued an emergency order that called for a special police unit to be established to tackle rape.
On Thursday, the council passed a resolution condemning the attack on the young woman and calling for the immediate dismantling of the law enforcement apparatus and its replacement with a civilian police force.
Local activists are also calling for an overhaul of the legal system, calling for judicial independence, greater transparency, and greater accountability for police.
The country’s legal system has been plagued by corruption, racism and impunity, and its lack of transparency has created a climate of impunity.
As a result, the country faces the potential for an increase in cases of rape, which is often the trigger for mass protests.
During the first two months of 2017, a total of 2,700 people were arrested in Rapid.
Some activists have