The 2013 Alice Drum Summer Research Award winner was Danielle Roth, ’14, who spent the summer of 2013 doing public health work in South African townships. Dani graduated from F&M in May 2014 with a degree in Chemistry and is currently teaching English at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, through a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. She wrote the following about her summer research experience:
“When I was 5 years old, my father’s friend raped me," Sisipo said. "One day, when my parents were out, my father’s friend came to our house. He gave my two younger siblings money and sent them to go buy candy. He locked the door behind them. Then, he raped me. I told my parents, and they went to the police, but the police didn’t do anything.” As I listened to this testimonial, I felt disgust towards the grown man who had raped a 5-year-old girl, anger towards the police for dismissing the crime, and admiration towards the girl for sharing the account of her sexual assault.
I heard this testimonial while I was conducting a research project in Khayelitsha, a black township outside Cape Town, South Africa. I generated questions that examined the types of violence prevalent in the community, then posed those questions to focus groups. Khayelitsha, like many black townships in South Africa, experiences an alarming level of violence, especially sexual violence. Through my research, I was able to see how South Africa’s turbulent political history, racism against non-white South Africans, traditional cultural values, and the AIDS epidemic affected gender dynamics. Researching violence in South Africa felt extremely rewarding because it encompassed violence against women, a topic I am very passionate about, and provided me with the opportunity to compare and contrast gendered violence in the U.S. to that in South Africa.