Never touch a woman, not even with a rose petal.
“I was only three the first time someone took my pants off and put his finger inside me.”
It was my aunt who found out. I’d caught a sexually transmitted disease when I was just 10 years old. How was that possible, she wondered, and in the end I told her. My grandmother was really against me reporting it. She said it was family matters. I moved back home to my mother, who had married a new man. He was nice. Yes, he’s just about the only person who was ever nice to me, until I came here to the women’s shelter.
I’d caught a sexually transmitted disease when I was just 10 years old.
The first time I was gang raped was in 2007. I was working for a women’s organisation in Zimbabwe and the boys who offered me a lift didn’t like that. They ripped my clothes off, raped me and then kicked me out of the car on the motorway. I got pregnant that time. I was offered an abortion but I wanted to keep the baby, a girl. She’s here with me now. I’ve found it hard to love her, but I’m learning. But I’ll never tell her how she was conceived.
It was hard for me to support myself and my daughter in Zimbabwe so I paid a smuggler who brought me over the Limpopo River, here to South Africa. I had to wait in a refugee camp for a residence permit. I was raped again there, by another refugee.
Then I ended up here in Johannesburg, in a church which takes in refugees. When I was going to see about my residence permit three men offered me a lift. They said they were going to the same place as me, but they went in another direction. I had my 2-year-old daughter with me. The men stopped the car and started shouting at me: “Foreigners like you are coming here and stealing our jobs,” they said and ripped my clothes. One had a knife and even though one of the men tried to stop them, the other two raped me again and again. My daughter was there. When they let us go I didn’t know where I was. I found a clinic and the staff there called the police. After a while I came here, to the USINDISO women’s shelter. It means “Saving Place” and that’s exactly what it’s been for me.
Why had all these terrible things happened to me?
When I arrived here I had no hope left. I had started taking drugs – marijuana, cocaine, alcohol – and I hardly spoke to anyone. I fought and argued. I didn’t care what happened to me. I was angry. Why had all these terrible things happened to me? I beat my daughter and was thinking of giving her up for adoption. What kind of life would she have not knowing who her father was?
But here at the women’s shelter I started to believe that someone might like me. I’ve never experienced the kind of love I have been shown here at USINDISO. Now I’ve given up all the drugs and trained to become a cook. I’ve brought my dead sister’s six-year-old son here. I’m slowly learning to love my daughter, yes, both the children. I’m going to get a job and support them.
I can even smile sometimes. But I don’t think I’ll ever dare to trust a man. Ever.
Maternal deaths: 236 deaths per l00,000 births
Number of children/woman: 2.3 (2011)
Abortion legislation: Right to abortion during the first three months of pregnancy depending entirely on the wishes of the woman. Thereafter up to the sixth month of pregnancy if there are special reasons, such as the health of the woman or an abnormality of the foetus. (2007)
Law against rape within marriage: Yes
Violence against women in close relationships: in 2010 almost 68,000 cases of sexual harassment were reported in a six-month period, most of them rape. It is claimed that almost 28 per cent of the male population have raped a woman or girl. 40 per cent of South African women stated in a report published by the WHO that their first sexual experience took place without their consent.