Former Anglican reverend June Dolley-Major has ended her week long hunger strike for now, but will not be deterred in her pursuit of justice. The ordained minister staged a hunger strike to draw attention to her alleged rape by a priest in Grahamstown in 2002, after accusing the church of covering up the alleged sexual abuse. Major staged a similar form of resistance in 2016, but pleas for the church to hold her alleged perpetrator accountable fell on deaf ears.
For the past week, a determined Major camped outside Archbishop Thabo Makgoba’s Bishop’s Court residence, saying this time “he cannot avoid me”.
While still in physical pain due to the lack of nourishment, Major was in high spirits during an interview with VOC on Tuesday morning – adding that she had been overwhelmed by the support from family, friends and fellow activists against gender-based violence.
“It really ate away at me that my perpetrator is still a minister but I’m ousted from the church. I’ve been through depression and so much pain. This time around, I decided I wanted to mobilise more…” she explained.
“Every time I would hear the Archbishop speak against gender-based violence it would hurt me. I needed to tell him to his face what their (the Anglican church) actions have done to me at a time when our country is facing a femicide.”
The two came face to face last Wednesday when Major demanded a meeting with her alleged rapist and an internal investigation into the sexual abuse. She also asked that an investigation be launched into other churches where the alleged perpetrator presided at.
“Things got ugly that day and some of the witnesses there accused him of patriarchy. He said the Anglican church is committed to GBV yet not once has he reached out to me over the past four years.”
Major opened up a case of rape at the Bellville police station but it was later referred back to the Grahamstown Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit. According to her, the docket had disappeared three times.
Following another meeting with the Archbishop and several members of the clergy on Saturday, Major reiterated her demands. She was asked to lodge her complaint in a formal email.
By Monday, there had been some sign of progress when she received a response stating that the Anglican church will commence a disciplinary hearing with urgency and approach the prosecutor in Grahamstown to reopen the case. Major, however, contended the Archbishop’s decision not to investigate other abuse cases by the alleged perpetrator. Major says this will be dealt with through her attorneys.
Major was cautiously optimistic with the response by the church and has given the leadership until 9th August on Women’s Day to respond with the course of action that will be followed.
“Last night was the first time in 18 years that I slept without nightmares. It feels like a heavy weight has been lifted from me. Eighteen years is a long time to be fighting for justice.”