Namibia: Sexual Assault Victim Recalls Traumatic Experience

It has been a year and a half since the night Patricia Reinsch's attacker allegedly lured her out for a drink, drove her to the outskirts of Katima Mulilo, and tried to rape her.

Reinsch (26) worked as a Red Cross International volunteer at the time.

She says the experience has left her shaken.

In a telephonic interview from her hometown Cologne, in Germany, where she is studying towards a master's degree in anthropology, Reinsch said she met her attacker in August 2019 and thought he was just a friendly stranger.

"We were just chatting on the street and exchanged numbers. But I made it clear from the start I was not interested in anything serious or sexual," she says.

Initially, Reinsch did not see her attacker as a threat.

She agreed to join him for a drink.

"He was driving and it was all good . . . but after some time, I found myself in the car in this field not too far from the main road. And he just stopped there . . . He told me I should know he is a good kisser; a good lover. I again told him I am not interested in that," she says.

After a while Reinsch found herself having to fight off his advances.

"I was hitting him in the face and crying . . . I tried to push him away and beat him. Eventually I forced the door open and somehow escaped," she says.

SOCIAL MEDIA TRAUMA

Reinsch says the days that followed were even more traumatising than the attempted rape.

She says she kept being confronted by her attacker through social media, where friends continued to share posts, images and videos of the seemingly well-known man.

"It really hits you when people are posting your abuser," she says.

SHAME AND BLAME

Reinsch began working as a volunteer for the Red Cross in the Zambezi region in 2013.

During the course of her volunteering experience, she taught on sexual health at different schools in the region.

"Katima is always developing, but it is mostly conservative when it comes to topics like religion, homosexuality, trans-sexuality, and sexuality altogether.

"I always felt like the role of the woman is still . . . seen very conservatively for many people. That's also what I found during my research in 2019 on women in the Zambezi region," she says.

Reinsch observed that men in rural areas continue to reduce the role of women.

She says when a woman experiences sexual violence, the general public is quick to interrogate her rather than the perpetrator.

"Although there are women in ministries, or in high [positions], men still think they can do what they want with them.

"Most survivors of sexual assault, rape or sexual violence do not report it, because they do not trust the system," she says.

While Reinsch did not register a case against her perpetrator, she sought assistance from a local police officer.

COLD CASE

However, after a few weeks, the case went cold and the officer stopped reaching out to her.

"I talked to that one police officer I trusted. I told him the story and he said we would do something, but afterwards, he didn't contact me any more, so nothing happened," she says.

The officer in question, Timothy Takomasato, is a member of the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) in Namibia.

Takomasato confirmed that Reinsch approached him and the Interpol office to open a case.

He says he advised her to open a case with the local police rather and assisted in putting her in contact with them.

"She asked for assistance and a station number. I passed that on to the station as well, but can't confirm what happened from there," he says.

SPEAKING OUT

Reinsch says she no longer wants to feel like a victim.

While her trust in the police has diminished, she believes she and other survivors can get a fraction of justice against perpetrators by speaking out.

"A few days . . . weeks later, these same people I talked to would again post videos and photos of him.

It gave me this feeling that sexual violence is so normalised in this society.

"It's always the victim getting attacked. I feel it is so important that we survivors speak about and act against abusers," she says.

Reinsch hopes that opening up would bring solace to other victims.

"Many survivors feel ignored and victim-blamed," she says.

VICTIM-BLAMING

Gender and child protection specialist at the Office of the First Lady, Veronica Theron, has previously said victim-blaming remains rampant because of the rape culture that exists in the country.

"Rape culture is simply an environment where rape is normalised and people use any kind of excuse to minimise this dehumanising, violent act," she said.

Young people and activists have in the past two years made concerted efforts to fight sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) through initiatives such as the Slut Shame Walk and the #ShutItAllDown protests.

These marches and protests aim to provide not only awareness about rape culture in Namibia, but demand that serious action be taken against SGBV.

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