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Litigation: Landmark ruling breaks culture of silence on rape

In a landmark judgment described as the ‘verdict to break the culture of silencing victims’, Reverend June Dolley-Major has won her fight to publicly name her alleged rapist. A Cape Times report says the Western Cape High Court found in her favour – stating that the fears of irreparable reputational harm by her accused, Anglican church reverend Melvin Booysen, were non-existent. Booysen had approached the court to stop Dolley-Major from naming him on social media, citing that ‘defamatory statements’ had been made against him in the public domain, after she named him as her alleged rapist.

The alleged rape took place at the Makhanda Seminary, then Grahamstown, nearly 19 years ago. But his application for a gag order was dismissed with costs recently. Judge Elizabeth Baartman said: ‘Since 2016 (when Dolley-Major first named him), no harm has befallen him, and the posts have moved far beyond him. The applicant is merely seeking to exert dominance over the respondent, considering the progress in the complaint against him. The pending inquiry, irrespective of the outcome, is a victory for the respondent and those who have supported her for 18 years.’ Following the judgment, Dolley-Major went live on Facebook and named Booysen. Women’s Legal Centre attorney Chriscy Blouws said the judgment ‘sets the precedent that the courts believe women who speak out’. ‘It is a landmark in breaking the culture of silencing victims. The judgment acknowledges that we have moved beyond just naming – 8 000 women have been encouraged to speak out because of Dolley-Major sharing her story.’

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