Thursday, November 25, 2010

She Said No; A Rape

Hers is a typical rape story, isn’t amazing that the phrase “typical rape” story exists? A testament of the age we live in; and the abnormalities that have become the norm. Someone she knew, someone she would have allowed inside her house in the dead on night on a stormy night, turned on her. He was deaf to her screams of, NO! NO! NO! He did not care that she begged him to stop. And when it was over, he asked her if she had enjoyed herself; while she struggled to make the world stop, so she get off.

On her Matric Dance night she braved the farewell and after-party without a partner because her boyfriend (someone she had promised herself to) could not make it. It was a day to celebrate the end of her high school career, it was more important she commemorate the journey with friends than it was that she show up with a gorgeous boy on her arm. She intended to have a good time. She was a virgin.

“I was sitting and chatting with a guy friend when the friend who had brought asked us to organise a ride home. She had brought me and my best friend. The guy I was chatting to offered to drop us off. I was flattered that he was even talking to me – he was very good looking and well known in our neighbourhood, was a part time house music DJ and had no shortage of girls. We continued drinking together and I remember I was knocking back red Sambucas at his invitation. When we were ready to go home he asked me to walk to his bakkie with him as it was parked a bit far from the club; claiming he felt tipsy and wanted some fresh air before he got behind the wheel.

By the time we got to the bakkie I was feeling seriously woozy and it was only after we had driven off that I realised we were heading away from the club and not towards it. He told me he just wanted to take a short drive with the window open to sober up.

Looking back now I feel stupid but then I was just a short, fat girl with glasses; I was also wearing a floor length black dress that just about covered me like a sack – the last thing I thought was that someone like him could possibly be thinking of me in any way other than a friend.

He pulled up at a parking spot overlooking the beach and asked me if I wanted to take a walk on the beach. I said no – by this point, I was getting a bit uncomfortable but he assured me he was still trying to sober up and he just wanted to talk. Then he asked me for a kiss – at which I told him that I had a boyfriend.

So he said, “Why did you come with me then? Just give me a kiss and then we can go get your friend and go home.”

So I kissed him, because I thought that would placate him and he would take me home. I wanted to get away from him at this point. When he tried to push my dress up, I started pushing him away and saying “no”.

I can’t remember how many times I said to him, “Please do not do this”. It felt like forever and my throat was sore from shouting the following day – I fought so hard, he tore my stocking; I started trying to open the door to get out and run.

Then he leaned over me his 1.8m frame over my 1.52m (to me he was huge) and my efforts to fight him off were useless; I was like a moth swatting at a bear; he opened the glove compartment to show me a gun; he told me to shut up and stop screaming or he would have to use it.

I was sobbing and just kept saying, NO. NO. NO, thinking he would stop. I asked him to at least use a condom but it was like he had zoned out and he could not or would not hear anything I was saying.

Then he raped me.

After he was done, he asked me if I had enjoyed it and I said no. He seemed surprised, and then continued to try to have a conversation with me like there was nothing wrong. He said it had been great and we should get together again. He could not believe that I was a virgin when he saw the blood streaking down my legs.

I was crying by now and he just kept talking normally so I asked him to please drop me off at the club and I would find my own way home; by the time we got there, it was closed and my friend and her boyfriend were waiting outside. I was hysterical when I jumped out the van, I did not even wait for it to stop moving. My hair was a mess and the blood could be seen all over my legs, my stockings were ripped – I looked like hell.

My friend’s boyfriend was horrified, he wanted to go to the police station immediately but I was in no shape to do that. I was so shocked and hurt and ASHAMED. I just did not want anyone to know.

When my mom opened the door, took one look at me and started shouting and crying that we needed to go to the police station and asking if I had been raped. I was sobbing and hysterical, the last thing I needed was my mom panicking and shouting it out to the world. I ran into my room and into my shower with all my clothes on; I stayed on the shower floor for more than an hour; scrubbing the blood away and trying to clean myself.

I could not clean myself enough – the next day, I kept taking a shower. Oddly, my mom woke up the next day and never asked me about that night again; ever. It was like she decided she did not want to know.

For about a month afterwards, I did not want to brush my hair or get dressed – or make any attempts to look nice. I thought it was my fault for trying to look pretty and maybe if I made myself as unattractive as possible, it would never happen again.

I also fell pregnant. The man who raped me called me a few times, adding to my trauma. When I saw him with his friends they would stare at me. It felt like no matter where I went, if I turned around he would be standing there; watching me.

I could not stand the thought of a baby, I would have hated it, and so I had an abortion. I never told anyone. I thought I would tell my family once I had got over the shock, once I had dealt with the rape and the fact that I knowingly aborted a baby.

I did not want to lay any charges because I was convinced no one would believe me. I could scarcely believe it myself, it made no sense. Why would a good looking well educated boy from a good home do something so violent – and a boy who had girls throwing themselves at him?

Then a few months later, my mom, brother and I came home to find that my father had committed suicide – he had shot himself. There was no note. For a long time, I felt very guilty because a part of me thought he had somehow found out about the rape and was so ashamed of me that he killed himself. I later discovered he had financial difficulties.

However, there was no way that I was going to add to my family’s trauma after that. We were so ravaged and torn apart by my father’s suicide, it was a total shock to my family. I also broke up with my boyfriend because he wanted to get engaged and I did not know how to tell him I had been raped. I did not want to see any looks of revulsion or pity on that face I loved so much.

I think of that year as the worst year of my life and I know I made it through that year somehow – so I can handle anything that comes my way now.
It was a long time before she was able to date, to be intimate with men and to be happy. But she did it, drawing strength from a will to live, to triumph, and to never be the victim again. She still believes aborting the baby was the right decision. She is now a successful married and mother to a beautiful son.

Near that stretch of sandy beach, her innocence being ripped from her, she became his victim. To see her today and know what she has been through is testament of her power. Where some would break, she is a woman who has lived beyond her fear. I salute her.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lessons in Life: A Series - Death of the Blameless

I never met her; I did not know she had moved to the little village she would perish in. And yet she lives in my mind now; a symbol of the price of turning a blind eye to your neighbour’s plight.

Many would later say that moving into the house that once belonged to a man who was brutally murdered by young boys was a sign that she would not live long. But of course, that was just an excuse people used to cope with what they witnessed; a smidgeon of comfort to move past the horror.

Her story will find a chapter in the village’s gory history books, along with the story of my childhood friend;

Nathi was my best friend when we were five years old. My mother and his mother were childhood friends. Secreted away from the brutalities of apartheid while my mother worked in the city, Nathi’s mother was my second mother. I am told that when we were babies his mother would breastfeed us both, and when my mother came home, she would pretend “breastfeed” us too. Nowadays that practice would probably lend someone in jail.

With political rivalry at its highest, Nathi’s father did not like that his mother was a supporter of a political party that rivaled his. Today I would say that Nathi’s father was on drugs, because what happened remains inconceivable to me. So infuriated with his wife’s allegiance to another party he became convinced she was passing on his party’s secrets to hers; he resolved to kill her. It was a night that she had taken Nathi into her bed with her, believing her husband would not be returning that night as it had happened so many times before. It was later discovered that he had lain in wait in their tool shed.

As he raised his spear to plunge into her covered body, he never thought to remove the blankets first, if only to make sure his aim was true. Today I take solace in imagining that Nathi never knew what happened. One second he was sleeping soundly in his mother’s arms, the next, a spear had pierced through his heart, clean through his small five-year-old body. Crazed by the mistake he had made, Nathi’s father never got around to killing his wife.

Nathi’s story is still told in the village. My little daughter knows it, she knows of how I lost my best friend and confronted death at five years old.

This woman’s story is one that will also be sown in the fabric of the village, a legacy of a time when everyone minded their own business. I remember how the village hunted Nathi’s father like a dog while he ran in the mountains, afraid and knowing his life was worthless to the bloodthirsty villagers. I remember how the police rescued him from clutches of a cluster of young men who were beating the life out of him. And then I recall the blasé attitude that this woman’s death was greeted with; the carelessly-told stories by her neighbors about how her lover would beat her up in the dead of night. I shudder at the tales of the horrors he visited upon her four-year-old daughter, and I hang my head in shame at how nobody did anything.

She came to the village with her lover who was born there. They rented the dead man’s house from his aunt who also lived in the village. I have gathered, although one cannot trust village gossip completely, that from the day they moved in to the day the man’s screams called the neighbors to his home, he would beat her and make her watch while he practiced lewd sexual acts on her child. It is said that he was not the father of this child

When she made the short trip, past two houses up, in to the local shop to buy a bug killing spray, she had had enough. She had experienced life at its worst and she knew she could endure no more. Carefully cutting a hole so as to pour the contents into a glass, she made juice for her little one and diluted the poison with it. She then made her child drink. And sat and watched her die. She then drank the remainder of the poison and died too. Her lover found them a day later and policed ruled a double suicide.

I do not know if bug spray can kill humans but the shopkeeper confirms that the woman did buy a large can, the same can that was found empty in her home, and the same substance that could be smelt in the child’s juice glass. The most horrendous aspect of the story to me is that soon after the murder and suicide; the neighbors claimed that the woman had tried to strangle the child twice before resorting to poison. If this is the truth, why did they do nothing? What kind of people are they to sit and do nothing while a child is being harmed?

I have since seen the man who lived with this woman; he is a quiet man, dark with sunken eyes. Even if I hadn’t heard the stories about him I would still be afraid of him. This woman and her child were taken home to be buried; I often ask myself why she didn’t go home. I will never know the answer; I suspect she too, would not have an answer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Spud and MTN!!

Spud and MTN!

Now that’s AYOOOBAAA!!!

*raises figuirative pom-poms* MTN is the BOW-WOW! MTN is the BOW-WOW!

I’ve been an MTN subscriber since my first cellphone in 1998! Yeah baby! So automatically, that qualifies me for the tickets to the premier of Spud the movie! Check out the deets here: Basically MTN is giving anyone who has a blog, Twitter or Facebook account to be their guest at the premier of this movie, starring John Cleese as the cantankerous The Guv in either Joburg, Durban or Cape Town. Further details are also HERE!

I first met Spud in 2008:

Monday 2008 November (in the morning): I received a box of books from a colleague. Buried beneath, Michael Gregorio’s Critique of Criminal Reason and David Rohl’s The Lord of Avaris was a nondescript paperback. A boy seemed to be diving head-first into the darkness and the title was Spud – The Madness Continued. Little did I know I had just encountered what would become one of my all-time favorite books.

November 2008 (midday): During my lunch hour I took Spud out to lunch with me and got reading. I was rather late in returning to my desk and I couldn’t wait to get back to my book.

November 2008 (after work): By now I had realized there were two books and I drove quickly to CNA to get the first. I found the very LAST copy at the nearest branch! I eventually had to sleep at 1am, three quarters through Spud: The Madness Continues. By the time the weekend had rolled around I had read both books and starting on my second, more leisurely reread.

If there are Spudheads out there, let me join please!

I practically grew up in boarding school, starting at the fresh age of 10 years old. After reading ALL Spud books I have come to the conclusion that I am a mixture of Spud, Rambo and Pike. Every word John van de Ruit writes in these books strikes a responsive chord with me. I have grown to love Spud as though he is the best friend I sometimes wished I had in school.

While I was extremely intelligent and bookish, writing essays that had my English teachers oohing and aahhing with rapturous praise, I was a hell-raiser and my house superintendent wished many ills upon my misbehaving head; both in primary and high school.

In primary school I established quick dominance by taking on the biggest kid in the dorm. She wasn’t to know I had spent my childhood rough-housing with boys and had a murderous past in which I killed field mice, roasted and ate them. I was hardcore!

It was in primary school I would gain the nickname AK47. I quite recently received a message from a kid I went to high school with via Facebook. She was ASKING to add me as a friend and asking me if I was still a great dirty bully. I assured her that I was not! Nor was I the loser she and her fellow friends dreamed my friends and I would end up being. But I told her I had repented of my evil ways and was now in fact a decent member of society. She evidently didn’t buy my story because she never added me!


In high school I was craftier in my bad behavior although I did refuse to “fag/slave” as all new comers were required to. After making history by facing a hostel disciplinary committee two weeks into the New Year it was decided that it would be punishment FOR the Prefect to make me slave for them. I was told to clean the salad bar after supper every night instead of slaving but I didn’t like that either. Eventually, they left me alone. The school’s mistake had been not being explicit about slaving in their application forms.

Strangely enough, most of my teachers are now my friends. I speak to them regularly and they are quite proud of me. In my final year I had a heart to heart with my house superintended, a lady I admired greatly and she said I wasn’t that bad! HONEST! I was floored! And chuffed. :) Deep down I was just a teacher's pet! As a tribute to her I now match my nail polish to my clothes, she used to do that.

Some of my boarding school highlights:

The Famous Four Investigators Club: Established in primary school. We kept track of who was gossiping about us. Then confront them. We were miserable little kids away from our families, someone had to be Pike!

D-Day: This was in high school. Somehow, I ended up being the whistle-blower on this one and six girls were expelled from the boarding house for bullying. Hmmm. They still hate me. I think I probably plea bargained, that is the only explanation for my narrow escape.

My nicknames: AK47, Shokko (because I was a shocker), Que Sera Sera (given to me by my high school history teacher because I always misbehaved despite consequences). I don't know the one's people called me behind my back!

My 6-time near expulsion: I must have been the only girl to dodge this many bullets. Once, I had to have a lawyer! How Rambo is that eh?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Blogger Challenge: 16 Days of Activism

I’m not a preachy blogger.



Well I didn’t used to be, and I’m hoping I not one now also.

25 November 2010 is the beginning of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, this day itself being International Day Against Violence Against Women.

I challenge anyone who feels so inclined to use their blogs to create awareness and participate actively in the 16 Days of Activism by blogging about a real woman you know or have heard of that symbolizes women’s triumph against violence and abuse.

Perhaps I detract from the purpose of the project when I say that violence and abuse does not necessarily have to be “traditional” spousal abuse in which a woman is abused by a man. I challenge you to find that lesbian woman who was traumatized by her lover, that child whose own mother or teacher abused, the woman who rose above the humiliation of sexual harassment at work, the little girls suffering at the hands of bullies on our playground.

As South African woman let’s all stand together, just for 16 days, and barrage the ears of abuses with our words; via our avatars, tweets, blogs, Facebook status and wearing a white ribbon.

You did it for the world cup. :)

You may also participate here. I know I will!

PS: I got this post in early because I'd like those who are interested to invest some thought and time into at least one post! Ta.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lessons in Life: A Series - Teenage Pregnancy on Budget

“I never planned this for myself,” she says throwing her baby over her shoulder carelessly. The chubby baby boy gurgles in pleasure as he is secured to his mother’s back with a towel. He will spend the best part of today there; nearly six hours of not crawling, not kicking his legs, not playing; just feeding breaks.

“I mean, I knew when I didn’t finish school I would not be likely to get a job that would make me rich, but I hoped that at least I could work for a white madam in Jo’burg, and make enough to take care of myself,” she smiles while she lays out her wares in tiny little towers; four onions for R5. I wouldn’t buy them; they’re too expensive; I can get the same from the supermarket for much less. But she has carved a niche for herself; she keeps people’s groceries while they shop around and when it is time to get into a taxi, they collect their things and have to pay her for her guardian duty. She rarely goes home with left overs.

While her dreams may not have been lofty or adventurous, at least she once dreamed. At 16-years-old she left school, pregnant with her first child. She could have continued to study but even though learners have the right to continue in their studies while pregnant, some teachers have made it their personal duty to make this impossible. They bait those up the duff with snide comments, puns and innuendo.

“Today we start the reproductive system everyone, So-and-So you can leave because you already know this part!” they snigger.

“I can’t say I blame teachers or anyone else for where I am, I am responsible, which is why I work this hard,” sitting down on the make-shift stool made of an empty paint drum and an old pillow, she lights her Cadac Skottel braai for the hot dogs she sells.

The baby on her back is her second, the first now in school. This 23-year-old single mom of two no longer has anyone else in her life. Her parents kicked her out over the second pregnancy. She then moved in with her boyfriend even though she was not sure he was the father of the baby and he beat her up.

“I know that it is wrong to sleep with many men and not condomise, but once you’ve been in my shoes for as long I’ve worn them, you find there is very little that you won’t do for some money,” she explains, a defiant slant in her words. Indeed, who am I to judge?

“My parents gave me and my daughter a place to live and food; everything else I had to work for. They refused to let me leave and look for work; they couldn’t look after my child even though they stay at home. It is through the social welfare grant that I have been able to do anything for the children,” she carries on.

Using the social grant she has managed to rent to a stall at the busy taxi rank, buy the skottel and start her business. She rents a dingy room in an unsavoury part of the little town and lives her life. She no longer dreams, she plans. She knows that you get nothing from doing nothing.

“Throwing me out was maybe the best thing my parents have done for me. Now I know how to take care of myself and my children.” Her voice is with pride. I decide to buy a hot dog, the sausage is cheap, the oil she uses is cheap but there is already a small queue of people wanting some.

As humble pie; it tastes delicious.