[LISTEN] Prison rape: A survivor tells his story

A documentary Taking off the Mask tells the story of Isak Sass - how he survived prison and how the justice system failed him when he was raped.

Convicted for a crime he says he was not responsible for, Sass was imprisoned in 1999 when someone in his community was murdered.

When he first entered Allandale Prison, the ex-prisoner describes how he knew he would be a target.

That first moment, I was terrified because when I got to the reception area the warden already marked me and I think in a way he made the other prisoners aware of fresh blood.

Isak Sass, ex-prisoner

I didn't know what was going to happen but in that particular moment I knew something would happen with me.

Isak Sass, ex-prisoner

On that particular night when the rape took place, I went into the shower, he said I must undress myself and he forced me to have sexual contact with him.

Isak Sass, ex-prisoner

Opening up about the days following the rape, Sass says the first person he opened up to was a nurse who did nothing about the matter.

They actually told me that I must go and wash my stinking body.

Isak Sass, ex-prisoner

He says a prison warder laughed in his face while a priest told him to 'repent' from his supposed sins. When he spoke to a social worker, he was told that he could not be assisted because he was awaiting trial.

Sass says he thought a lwayer would be able to help him.

The lawyer talked to the judge and the judge had told me he is sorry but these are things that happen in prison and that I have to deal with it.

Isak Sass, ex-prisoner

Just Detention International (JDI) South Africa co-director Sasha Gear says a culture change is needed.

The people who are entrusted with authority, with the duty to care an manage people in prison and elsewhere are people who haven't necessarily historically been given any skills, been helped to understand the problem...

Sasha Gear, Co-director - Just Detention International - South Africa

It is a culture change that is needed, to change what happened to Isaac.

Sasha Gear, Co-director - Just Detention International - South Africa

Prince Nare, who is also a co-director at JDI-SA, says there is a huge gap between what is written in the Constitution and the reality or experiences of many people.

What happened to Isaac makes our Constitution quite meaningless when it is not the lived experience of people in prison. If you are locked up you cannot protect yourself, that duty then comes on the state and when the state does not fulfil that duty, then what is in the Constitution is just words.

Prince Nare, Co -director - Just Detention International - South Africa

Click on the link below to hear what needs to be done to make prisons a safer place....


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