How many women relate to this topic? South Africa is among the highest in the world with the rate of sexual violence. Statistics may be challenging to be accurate because a large number of rapes are still not reported yet they still show that a woman is raped every 26seconds in South Africa. The reasons for not reporting may be fear of the rapist, fear of the reaction of family members, or feeling shame.
A TRUE LIFE STORY
We are moving into being a country whereby each and every household has a rape victim. This article is a real story of a rape victim and how she still painfully suffers the consequences. Meet “Naledi Nene” (not her real name), a woman who has led a miserable life each day without an end after she was raped. Please note that “Naledi Nene” is a pseudonym I will use throughout for her protection.
“Life is not easy” as she starts a short story of her life from 2016 to date. “I remember very clearly and it was 6 October 2016 the day I got raped. From that moment onward my life started to be on a high level of difficulty. That day marked the beginning of all my hardships and that’s when I started to see that life is not easy.
I was raped by a total stranger and from that moment, all I could think of was that taking my own life would be the best and the only solution. Ooh, believe me, it did not just end as a thought because I attempted to commit suicide several times but my attempts failed. I have kids and other times I would try to kill myself but the thought of leaving them behind in this cruel world would stop me from trying again.
My husband started to behave out of character and that moved the difficult situation from bad to extremely worse. You can imagine when you need someone the most and they are not there for you. He started to drink excessively, stayed out till the early hours of the morning, and stopped caring about eating and a few other things.
My failed attempts at suicide made me have so much anger and after all that, I have never had peace in my life. I grew so much hatred for men that I wanted nothing to do with them. It was the worst time ever because my own husband’s behaviour was adding to the stress. As time goes on I started to think that maybe he is acting up because he doesn’t know what to do so I had to understand all by myself. I guess it was too much for him to handle. I started to isolate myself so I became a loner because I could not talk to anyone or say anything to anyone about general things. I couldn’t even sit with anyone, my mind was just blank that all that was left in it was that ‘there is no use to live anymore’. Even when I was sitting with people around me, I would hear them talk but I couldn’t really hear what they were saying. It was just voices or noise that never made sense. I fell into depression.
Life became more and more difficult and that was only the beginning. I must say I was blessed to have a husband who came back to his senses and apologized. His apology was sincere and genuine because after that he never repeated the same thing till now. In the midst of all that I started to have a very bad smell and I mean a very foul smell. Now at that moment, I started to believe there is no God. As I have mentioned I have three kids but I couldn’t go anywhere anymore. I became the laughing stock of everyone around me, I was mocked and laughed at with no remorse.
All I could think of was the kids who were looking up to me for protection and their wellbeing yet I was not in a space to handle myself, the talks were piercing and extremely painful. The smell made me think of all the horrible diseases I possibly got from rape so I went to the hospital to get checked. All I was told was that I need to remove my womb but with no clear understanding of what exactly went wrong. I did not remove the womb so after a year of all the incidents I became pregnant and gave birth to a baby boy named Katlego(not his real name) who is now healthy and 3years old already.
The gossip continued, wow people talk and they can say hurtful things. My baby boy was called a rape child but I had to throw the lies under the carpet and move on. Now the smell is on another level that when a person comes near me they have to close their nose. I only remember that God exists when I hear my family talk about him other than that I feel I am just feeling up space and I still feel I need to leave this world. I have been everywhere because of this smell trying to get help and I drank everything I was told will help. 5 years straight of an extremely difficult life, I love to be with people and be happy but the biggest problem is that I can’t go to either weddings, funerals, social or family gatherings, or malls. When the smell gets worse you would believe there is a dead animal right next to me. It is one thing when people talk about you but it is another when your own family that you suppose to gather strength from also join in to mock you. One woman in my family has gone to an extent of accusing me that I am acting up because if I was really raped I would have forgotten about it a long time ago. All I can say is that she is forgetting that she is a woman and she also runs the risk of going through all this.
All I was told was that I need to remove my womb but with no clear understanding of what exactly went wrong.
I work as a nanny now, it’s not easy as I have to use public transport and I come across different people every day. Some people talk about me openly while others use some sort of sign. I stayed longtime indoors but now I have to work and whenever I get on public transport it is always a bad experience due to the smell. I have to endure the hurtful words and pray to get to my destination as soon as insanely possible. Sometimes I find myself crying all day but I am my only consolation so I try to stop as difficult as it is. I can’t cry out to my family because they are the ones who are more disgusted, they say more hurtful things and they even call me names. I also started to sell used clothes because I know the pain of going to bed hungry and I told myself they can continue talking because what is important is to feed my kids.
At times I feel extremely down when I hear how people just make a topic out of me saying all the bad things without an inch of remorse. They say things that make me believe my life is not important as a rape victim with no positive encouragement to help me through it. All the talks I heard made me realize how easy rape is further encouraged as well as GBV, murder and all other criminal activities in our communities.
People need to realise that rape is seriously tragic and ruins lives. My male neighbour has gone to say out loud to others that it serves me right that I was raped and I should have been killed as well. This is the same neighbour who came out when I started screaming when the rape happened. I am also called a witch by my fellow women because apparently, I bewitched my husband to stay with me irrespective of the foul smell. I like to sing and I listen to the gospel as well as wedding songs while loudly singing along. Whenever I do so they also say I seek attention and want them to feel sorry for me so my life has now turned into a case of an everyday cup of tea all day for everyone. It got that worse that I ended up managing to ignore it all and just do me. It is a never-ending story as I am not given a chance to at least forget and enjoy the day. I am staying strong for my kids and husband. My only issues are my short temper and the anger I have.
I never allow my kids to go play anywhere because I am thinking the person who raped me might come to do the same to my kids. They also have something to say about the way I keep my kids away saying things like I am mistreating my kids but no one loves them more than I do. All this comes from a place of fear and desperate need to protect them. I grew up poor and under so much pressure that I need to teach my kids to do better.
Since 2016 this is the life I have been living, i have turned into the community topic and at every gathering, hated by men, women & their children. Kids on my street fear me as I have been known as a stinking witch. My only prayer now is to live for my kids and be there for them so they can live a life without oppression from society. Every little move I make becomes a topic as if there is this need that I have to be discussed.
What I need to say to men out there is, please stop raping because you toying with our lives and making us live in fear. Rape brings us too much misery and painful experience. I am struggling to forget this rape issue and years after it still haunts me. How I wish South African men and women can see how painful this is and start to support each other and stop encouraging our brothers /husbands/uncles to rape and get away with it. Our people are not supportive, they rather see you suffer. I also like to encourage all rape victims to find a way & continue living their lives, avoid suicidal thoughts, avoid those women who also encourage all this by feeding your mind with nonsense, avoid those who make you feel worthless, fake friends and seek help somewhere else.
I still have so much anger, sometimes I hate men a lot but I try to control it. I would also like to thank my husband for sticking to me throughout, he really tried hard to stick around. he managed to be there for me and realised that it was not my fault that I got raped. May God bless him for me, he is one of a kind and I love him so much. I would also like to add that in the end my family also started to be supportive and now I also have them on my side so a big thank you to them as well.
I am sharing my story to give others hope of changing things around. I might still be sitting with a huge problem but my story is not your story and I pray it gives you hope, I pray it gets you to say ooh wow my journey is not as hectic so I can still pull through. most importantly I hope it gives you courage to talk if you are dying alone. Thank you and may God protect you.”
As an author of womenissues, let me tell you this was never an easy task, I felt numb, I felt weak, I felt helpless, if you could see how many times Naledi Nene kept on saying ‘Life is difficult’. this is a cry for help and a voice trying to make a difference in other victims’ lives. Rape is a pandemic that destroys life, it is not an unfortunate incident but a painful battle. Rape has turned our country into the most unsafest place for females young and old and GBV has further turned it into one of the most unsafest countries in the world for most women and children.
We are turned into sex slaves, we are forced into prostitution, we are forced into marriages, we are forced to do abortions, we are forced into pregnancies, the list is endless. This violence hurts and humiliates and it takes away. “Naledi” felt weak and defeated but to me, her story says ‘I am brave and strong, you can bend me as far as inhumanely possible but you can’t break me.’
**STOP TEACHING WOMEN HOW TO DEFEND THEMSELVES AND START TEACHING MEN NOT TO RAPE**