Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Victim Empowering for Africa

By Lavinia Masters

Many of you know that being a victim of sexual assault does not bear any honor. As a matter of fact sexual assault is one of the most demeaning, destructive and heinous crimes that could ever happen to a human being. Normally after being a victim of sexual violence an individual is known to have no peace nor believe that their life or way of living cold ever be restored. I know and I concur because I was a victim of sexual assault…however I am now a survivor that has been given the opportunity to take the evil that has been stricken upon me and use it for the greater good so that others may know that there is life after the untimely mental, emotional and spiritual, death after sexual assault.

Recently Bode Technology and Inqaba Biotec held a Victim Empowerment DNA Forensics Conference throughout various regions of South Africa. I still remember the call like it was yesterday. Chris Asplen, the former Assistant US Attorney General for Janet Reno under the Clinton Administration, called and said that there was a need for me to share my victim story as I empower others of my survival and life after DNA. You see I was one of the victims that cases went “cold” over a period of time and was not solved until over 20 years later by the use of science and DNA Forensics. At first I was sure that this was a scam because why would someone be willing to fly me all the way to South Africa from Texas just to tell a story of sexual assault and my life after since DNA.

I later learned that the call for me to come to South Africa was not only legitimate but unfortunately so was the need. You see according to a survey for the period 1998–2000 compiled by the United Nations, South Africa was ranked first for rapes per capita. In 1998, one in three of the 4,000 women questioned in Johannesburg was raped, according to CIET Africa. Also South Africa has some of the highest incidences of child and baby rape in the world. A survey by CIET found 60% of both boys and girls thought it was not violent to force sex upon someone they knew, while around 11% of boys and 4% of girls admitted to forcing someone else to have sex with them. In a related survey conducted among 1,500 schoolchildren in the Johannesburg township of Soweto, a quarter of all the boys interviewed said that 'jackrolling', a term for gang rape, was fun. More than half the interviewees insisted that when a girl says no to sex she really means yes.

So you can imagine that the more I understood the growing issue of sexual violence in Africa and the thousands of cases that go unsolved and prosecuted… that I had to accept the call. This was not only an opportunity to go and convince the magistrates and powers that be that the use of DNA Forensics would not only help identify perpetrators of sexual violence but hopefully bring the number of incidences down by an alarming rate while at the same time empower the victim throughout the process. This is what I was called to do…being a sexual assault survivor is now my badge of honor.

Not only am I testimony that you can survive after something as heinous as sexual assault but I am a witness that having your crime solved through DNA can bring total closure for some and a peace of mind for others. I use to say that sexual violence has the same effects on victims no matter what race, color, gender or status quo and after visiting a country as beautiful as South Africa with the impoverished and wealthy citizens; I know that without a shadow of doubt that this statement is true. We live in a country that has made so many advances in science and technology and great movements for the rights and safety of our people that sometimes I wonder if we forget about those that are less fortunate than us. No one deserves to be violated and everyone deserves to be healed.

Proudly, I filled in my missing pieces to a much larger puzzle for the advancement and safety of all mankind when I accepted the call to Africa. I stood proud as an American that now live in completion because others sacrificed their time and talents to help in my healing process. I was once that victim that gave myself foolishly to men as I looked for love in all the wrong places yet now I am a victor that give of myself willingly to those that feel that there is no peace after their trauma. As that victim I questioned God as to why He allowed such a horrific thing to happen to me but as a victor I now thank God for He has not only given me the strength and courage to heal but to help others as He uses me as a vessel for an assignment such as this.

Overall I know that the conference was a success as the team that was assembled gave powerful presentations of the win-win consequences of DNA for Africa. My prayer is that all mankind becomes more involved for all mankind. There is no room for selfishness when it comes to protecting ones way of living or the freedom to be free. As a human race we need to remove all borders and tunnel vision if we want our world to survive. It is hard to fight an invisible monster but through the use and science of DNA, God has given us visibility and with this visibility we can expose, destroy and bring justice to this worldwide monster…the monster of sexual violence.

Lavinia B. Masters is the Founder of S.A.V.E. Ministry http://saveministry.org

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