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TEARS: Transforming Education About Rape and Sexual Abuse

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In South Africa, someone is raped or sexually abused every 17 seconds. This shocking statistic comes from TEARS, a non-profit organization that aims to Transform Education About Rape and Sexual abuse. The TEARS foundation was founded in 2012 and uses technology innovatively to fight against domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse. The logo of the foundation, which is – fittingly – a teardrop, is “a symbol for weeping at the violence and degradation suffered by rape and abuse victims; but, more importantly, it is a symbol of cleansing, healing and hope.” The teardrop, like the organization, acknowledges and grieves for the pain that sexual assault causes its victims, but it also signals hopes that can come with education and awareness. By broadening the conversation about sexual assault and getting accessible help to those people that need it, TEARS is making strides in South Africa.

The foundation works with technology to get help to the people affected by sexual violence. It sources and collates a database comprised of a network of services, from medical and legal to psychological. This database is currently available through all of South Africa, and is accessible to South Africans free of charge through web or mobile sites. The use of an Unstructured Supplementary Service Data mobile interface and location finding software will allow every South African with a cell phone to receive an instant referral via text message. The combination of technology and the noble goals of the organization makes for an incredible use of cellphones and texting!

TEARS does not plan to stop here, though. The foundation has future plans to produce pamphlets that educate people on sexual violence, to create programs at schools and communities, to hire ambassadors to act as role models, and to expand its current product range.

The foundation was founded and directed by Mara Glennie, who has been a worker for social issues for the past two decades. She spoke about how her own experiences led her to begin this initiative: “My motivation comes from a deeply personal space. I myself was a victim of violence and tried to report it at the local police station. I was told to come back on a Monday between 8:00 and 4:00. It was 6:00 p.m., Friday! I felt helpless and desperate and did not know where to turn.” Glennie’s horrible experience reflects many of the attitudes towards sexual violence that she is seeking to change through education. It is never okay for a victim of violence to be brushed off.

Glennie continued, “The memory of that feeling has never left me. Each of the women involved in this initiative, or someone close to them, has had their own experience and understands how it feels to be powerless and hopeless.” Glennie and her incredible team work tirelessly to make sure that no one else has to feel this way.

You can work with Glennie and the TEARS team by volunteering, donating, or spreading the word about the incredible work the foundation does!

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