"You should be angry. You must not be bitter. Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure.

"So use that anger. You write it. You paint it. You dance it. You march it. You vote it. You do everything about it. You talk it. Never stop talking it."

— Maya Angelou
 
Expressing anger is cathartic.

Anger helps survivors of sexual violence reclaim their power. And expressing sorrow provides us with the opportunity to mourn violence's victims and, for those of us that survive it, we are given the opportunity to mourn the loss of our former selves.

For once sexual violence has touched a life, the trajectory and destiny of that life changes forever. The anger and sorrow resulting from violence must find expression however, lest it becomes toxic, twisted and bitter.

Maya Angelou warns against this bitterness, describing it as a cancer that metastasises and taints all aspects of our lives. It is a blight on our work, our relationships, our sense of self. 
 
And yet, rape survivors are relegated to silence.

We are told not to speak out for fear of humiliating ourselves or our family.

We are threatened with further violence when we do speak out.

We are blamed for the violence meted against us by another's hands.

Sexual violence is silenced in South Africa through a senseless, heartless public discourse about rape, where survivors are listed as mere statistical figures - or beeps, as the case may be. And where there is national outrage, we make our children parrot the Constitution in the hopes of teaching them empathy.

And the broken body who sparked the outrage? She is forgotten, her torture, rape and death only one of thousands every year.
 
Angelou calls on us to express our anger and sorrow through art, dance, marches or a vote. The evolution of the symbolism of the Silent Protest makes it all and none of these. 
 
Silent protesters stand in solidarity with rape survivors and seek to understand the toxicity of society's silencing of rape survivors by being themselves silenced with black gaffer tape for as long as 12 hours - without drinking, eating, smoking or speaking during that time.

Rape survivors, on the other hand, wear t-shirts declaring themselves to be just that, are free to speak and are tasked with silencing the silent protesters by covering their mouths with the black tape.

Once the protesters have gathered, they are led by the rape survivors in a march, with the rape survivors linking their arms together to make a human daisy chain.

And so 1700 people march in silence - the only sounds the tread of their shoes on wet tarmac and the shuffle of their bodies moving forward.
 
The protesters then go their own ways, only to meet at Rhodes' main administration building at midday for the "die -in". 
 
The Silent Protest's objective is not only to stand in solidarity with the survivors of sexual violence, but also mourn those we've lost.

And so at the die-in hundreds of protesters lie scattered, as if hit by bomb, across the entrance to Rhodes' main administration building.

It is an eerily quiet scene, this time the only sound is that of gaffer tape being snipped and stuck onto the face of silent protesters who need their tape refreshed.
 
The die-in's effect on many protesters is visceral as they come to terms with the massive scale of violence suffered by South Africans every day.

It is such that, as organisers, we have counsellors on stand by to assist anyone who is overcome with emotion.
 
At 5pm, the Silent Protesters gather for a final march to Grahamstown's Cathedral. Having participated in the protest for almost five years now - three of them as a rape survivor - I know that final march to be a gamble.

In 2011, I was exhausted and distraught. In 2012, I marched alongside my best friend and other rape survivors carrying a "Defy Patriarchy" sign and I was beaming. Last year, I skipped the march altogether. 
 
The Cathedral is packed full of people by nightfall, each person holding a lit candle in solidarity with those who lost their lives to sexual violence.

Traditionally, we open the 'Ceremony of Reflection', where rape survivors and protesters may come forward and tell of their experiences, with a chant lead by the rape survivors, who stand huddled together at the Cathedral's pulpit. 
 
"Stop the war on women's bodies!" 
 
"Stop the war on women's bodies!" 
 
As the rape survivors chant, the silent protesters remove their tape and join the chant, which grows louder and louder as each new voice joins in.

By the time all the protesters are no longer silenced and the chant has reached a crescendo, many men and women are in tears. And so, the emotions silenced by a piece of black, gaffer type find expression in the chant.

The emotions silenced by rape myths, victim-blaming, slut-shaming and heartlessness are unleashed in the Cathedral that evening, as survivor after survivor tells their story, knowing that each listener has pledged their solidarity, and believes him/her.

While Angelou calls on us to express our anger and sorrow through art, dance, marches or a vote, the Silent Protest has found catharsis in the reclamation of silence. 

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