During the Amplify Change Sponsored Movement of Change programme, stories of significant change were recorded. You can read some of these below and access the complete report.
- Ntombi’s story
There is nothing better than the opportunity to reflect on your own journey. It gives you the pleasure of seeing Gods work in your life and the grace that one takes for granted. I remember 4 years ago I was a bitter young lady who was angry with the world. I had questions but sadly enough I had no one to ask. I was sexually abused on my way home from the library by a stranger. It was during my exams and after it happened I couldn’t concentrate so I decided to drop out.
I was given 6 sessions with the social worker but couldn’t finish them because to me it made no sense – going to someone who have a pile of work where I’m just one of many. I wanted someone who will at least understand my life. I joined Abanqobi, a support group which is under the Phephisa movement. When I joined, I thought it was one of those organisations who will just come and take your stories, but to my surprise they listened to me and did follow-ups.
We had healing sessions which helped me a lot, we shared and listened to other stories which I could relate to. Having people who make time just to listen to you and encourage you is the best. The group motivated me so much and I went back and did my studies. I am now able to talk about my story without feeling angry or crying. The fact that I survived encouraged me to reach out to more survivors and encourage those who do not believe that there is life after such pain. Our hope as a group is to live in a community that doesn’t believe in one person’s power over another – but a community that is peaceful and is non-violent.
We meet the last Sunday of each month as a group, just to build our relationships with each other and do activities, which is mostly awareness. The workshops that TEARFUND and WE WILL SPEAK OUT has been providing us played a major role in my life and also to us as a group. We have learned more and applied what we have learned in our community. I am convinced that where there is love and where women are empowered there is a way. Being with the ladies transformed my anger into empowerment. I am a powerful young lady. I hope that my efforts and my abilities will reach out to every survivor in this country.
Change lies in wisdom, wisdom lies in listening and listening is a tool.
I am a human made in God’s image, my purpose is to is to be available to serve others and my responsibility is to love.
- Amara’s story
I am 28 years old and live in Umlazi and hold a diploma in travel and tourism. I was raped when I was 17 years old just a few days after Valentine’s Day by a boy who I thought was my friend. On my way back home from church he invited me to come and have lunch. It was a friendly lunch until he forced himself on me. I did not tell anyone about the incident, I went home took a shower and carried on with my daily duties. To this day I’ve never shared it with anyone from my family. Somehow I feel that they will judge me and see it as my fault. I feel safe and comfortable sharing it with other fellow survivors because they can understand how I feel.
Being a victim is very hard because you feel that it’s the end of the world and it changes your life a lot. You feel used and feel that you can never trust anyone, it changes the way of you think and how you carry yourself. Of course, to this day I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day as it reminds of the days that followed my rape. Since joining Tearfund, I’ve recovered drastically because I’ve found myself after so many years. It has brought me so much healing and made me aware that rape is everywhere and not reporting your case is a big mistake. I’ve also learnt that sharing brings healing.
The things that I gave up on a few years ago, I now believe I can conquer, because the ladies have given me so much support and strength to go on. I’m currently studying a teaching degree – I have passion for kids. In the beginning, I wanted to be an air-hostess, because after the rape, I believed that flying away would heal all my wounds only to find that I was just chasing a destiny that is not mine.
Finally, I can say I’m in a better space and happy to work with kids and other women who have gone through the same pain. I’ve been a champion/survivor with Tearfund for four years and I have six other women that I lead in my group. Most of us have experienced rape. All the ladies in my group have diplomas and degrees that they have obtained after their healing sessions with our group. It motivated them to go back and study and finish what they started.
It is safe to say that not only uneducated and poor people get raped. We all do, not matter our background. As a group, we support each other by being there for each other emotionally and physically. We are more like a family now than people who met in church. The meetings and activities that we engage in show that healing can improve your life.
- Nandi’s story
When I was 16 on my way back from school I was invited by a friend to come and visit. We had been friends for over two years so visiting him was something that was normal to me. At the time, I would have never guessed that he would hurt me in any way. That Thursday which was a day after our last exam he forced himself on me.
After the incident, he acted as if everything is normal and our friendship to continue as normal. When I got home I felt so hurt and used. I took a bath and blamed myself for the whole thing because I felt that I might have led him on by being his friend. In our culture it is taboo to be friends with boys as a girl. Because of that, I decided not to tell anyone about the incident. The years that followed were the worst of my life. I believed that men just use women and throw us away. I never believed in love and I was very rebellious. I started drinking because it made me feel better. Until I fell pregnant with a child that had no father because once he heard that I was pregnant he moved away. After having my son my life seemed to change for the better because I had to be home for my child. So I decided to go back to church in order to ground myself that’s where I heard about a support group that is run by other ladies in the church. They shared about the group during a women’s conference in church. I joined the group and met other survivors that shared their stories and it made me comfortable to share my story.
Sharing my story really brought back a lot of pain that I didn’t realise that the rape had made my life what it was – a big mess. I was left with a child with no father and I hadn’t finished my studies. After a few healing sessions with the ladies my life has changed a lot. I finally got the courage to tell my family of the incident and my mother got to understand what had made me turn out the way I was. Now I have support from my family and my mother has offered me to go back to college to finish my diploma. With the support from the group I have found a new me and I’m much happier than before. I’m a born again Christian and a great mother to my son. So I can really say that being in a group is a good thing. I have new friends with the church and family in the ladies that we attend meetings with.
- Ada’s story
After my mother died I went to stay with my uncle who is a police man. At 12 years old, I was in boarding school. My uncle took me from boarding school and treated me as his own daughter, and he was a father to me, we would always eat together. I trusted him, because he was my father. One day, during lunch time, I was eating and drinking Fanta and started feeling drowsy. I fell asleep and later woke up in hospital where I was given medicine. My uncle came to see me and told me that if I speak of what happened he will shoot me, he then showed me his gun.
I did not go back to school after that and I didn’t go back to live with my uncle. I fled to Burundi. There I found family – my sister’s friend took me to their home but couldn’t afford to send me to school. Only later I managed to go to school in Burundi and I had friends. I was influenced by friends to get a boyfriend who can pay for what I needed.
I started having problems at school. Male teachers tried to convince me to sleep with them in exchange to pass my grade. Because I refused they gave me low marks and I started to fail. I felt like I was losing. My boyfriend who was paying for my school fees at the time left me after hearing rumours about the teachers. He thought that I had slept with them.
One day, my sister phoned to tell me she was selling my mother’s house in Rwanda. I left to Rwanda and we shared the money from the sale. I was 18 years old by that time. I went back to Burundi where I met a friend of mine who was staying here in South Africa. During that time, the war in Burundi broke out. We planned and travelled from Burundi to South Africa together.
In South Africa I started to survive. I met my husband who is a Christian. He introduced me to his church and I became a born again Christian. I was Baptised and my life started to change. But I couldn’t feel love because I hated men. I had no feelings for men, they were only financial security for me.
At church one day, there was an announcement that they were looking for women who would like to talk about their challenges. I was curious. I met Solange (Tearfund) but had no idea why we were being called. We were given the day to meet and I will never forget it – 2013. We were 12 women and I was waiting to see what they were going to say. They spoke about rape. I was confused…how am I going to share my story?
We started to continue the group meetings and it was always about talking, every time. The day I finished talking, I felt like the heaviness I have carried in my heart was now empty. That night I couldn’t sleep and thought of what happened, worried that people will take it outside the group or even tell my husband. He didn’t know.
But the women I shared my story with kept the secret. The more meeting days came the more I changed. I became stronger and able to teach other new members. Having a group is teaching me how to recognise problems other women or friends may have and I can talk to them about it.
Through the group, I started to find a way to survive by myself. I work now, running my own business. My business is going well. Before this, I was unable to do anything because of self doubt.
Now I have taken the responsibility of helping other women who have similar problems.
- Grace’s story
I suffered from depression and planned to run away. I was giving up and running, but my God had another plan for me. I met a lady from church who didn’t say much or even judge me, she just asked me to stay for a while. She introduced me to a women’s Bible study group (support group) and we grew close. I heard their stories which made me change my mind about running away. I have realised that my problem was small and I went back to my own community to start my own Bible study group with women who have been through similar problems as I have.
I thank God for this. It has pushed me to finish my studies because now I am able to speak out to my husband and tell him how I feel which makes me stronger. I now have my Master’s degree and I have rebuilt my relationship with my husband.
- Mary’s story
My childhood home was a warm home. We were good hearted people who were welcoming to everyone with a problem or who didn’t have a place to stay. We would take people in as a brother or sister like real family members.
One day my mother wasn’t at home and left us children at home. She wasn’t worried as she knew there were older people to look after us. A man at home came to me and forced himself on me and raped me. I was a child. I was so confused and I didn’t know who to tell or what to do. As I was young, it was physically painful for me and I struggled to walk. When my mom came back she asked what has happened to me. She started crying because the man said if she reports him he will kill us – my mom and her family. My mother cleaned me and told me to have a rest. She went to confront the man again and chased him away from our home.
I am an older woman now. I joint the support group and realised more girls and women are experiencing rape every day and not speaking out because they fear being blamed or judged for it. I saw the importance of sharing and showing that even an old lady like me was raped. But it is important to speak out, report the incident and get help as soon as possible. For me, I took time to accept or report as it was back in the days where it was hard to speak about sex.
- Lu’s story
Coming into a new relationship, I didn’t know I was bringing my hurt into the marriage, but my support group has helped me in a huge way. As a Champion, you speak to someone but then realise you are speaking to yourself as well and not only the group in your community. Most of all, the Champion group has played a huge role in helping me, the Champions may not realise this, but they have helped me rebuild my marriage and be open and loving to my husband – I was abused in previous relationships so when my husband tries to come close to me I would push him away. He would buy me things but I wouldn’t accept it because I will feel that he thinks he owns me. Even our sexual relationship was bad. By the time we have been married for 6 years he hasn’t seen my body because I was always told in the past how ugly I was.
I was so used to be beaten badly and even when the blood was dripping from beatings I had to still have sex (not ‘make love’). I am grateful for the support group, and mostly for the group of Champions.
Now, I have even taken a picture and sent it to my husband, he now has seen my body and our relationship is better. He even told me he was giving up but now he has his beautiful wife and he loves me. I really didn’t know love, because all my life I had to fight. I was abused, but now I can laugh.
- Sarah’s story
I’m 21 years old, I live in Durban. I live with my mother my sister and my brother. My mother is a domestic worker and we survive only on her salary. When I was doing grade 11, I was not on good terms with my sister, she was jealous of me because I was slim and she was a plus size.
One day when my mother wasn’t at home and my brother was working night shift, my sister and my nephew came into my room. She made my nephew rape me in front of her while she was laughing – asking why can’t the beauty I always show off with fight for me. I was so hurt emotionally and physical mostly because I loved my sister. I couldn’t believe she had done such a horrible thing to me.
I woke up the following morning and went to school. It was a Tuesday. I couldn’t remember a single lesson at school as my mind was not at school. I decided not to tell anyone. I failed my grade 3 times and I decided to quit school.
In 2015, I joined the support group in Umlazi which was introduced by my friends. Initially I didn’t talk I would just come and sit and listen to other people sharing. Eventually I felt comfortable around these women and felt loved and supported by them. They encouraged me to go for counselling. I am now doing my matric in IET and have realized that silence is very dangerous and can stop you living your life while the person who did the damage does not even care.
- Siyanda’s story
I am a 23-year-old lady born and raised by a single mom in a township of Umlazi. I matriculated in 2012 and I was very passionate about travelling and exploring nature. My mother is a hard worker, a good hearted strong woman. She was my role model growing up. I’m the eldest daughter of her 3 children.
In 2013, my mother had a fight with her sister (my aunt). My aunt, out of anger, told my mom to tell me where I came from and why I don’t have a father.
I was very confused because my mom told me my father passed away while she was pregnant. That evening, my mother called me and told me who my father was. She said that he had raped her and as result, she fell pregnant with me. I have never felt so betrayed and upset in my life. I ran away from home and stayed with my friends for a week. I could not understand how a woman I love so much can lie to me and I was upset that I’m a product of rape.
Eventually I went back home but nothing was the same again. One morning I woke up and decided to go see my “father”. I was not sure what I wanted to hear from him but I just wanted to confront him.
When I confronted him, he said that he was sorry for what he did to my mom and he’s been trying all his life to be a father to me but my mom has been blocking him. This was more confusing to me and complicated things even more for me. In church I heard about the support group, so I went and shared my story. We then started counselling with my mom and we are still finding a way to normalise the situation. I enjoy the time we share as a group and the activities we do together. My mother has forgiven my father. I pray to God that one day I can be able to see him as a father and not as a rapist.
- Sophia’s story
In 2015, November 18, I was at a bar and had an argument with a local man. He slapped me. I got angry and wanted to phone the police. Another (local) man insisted that I lay charges. He offered to accompany me to the police. There was sugar cane and forest-like vegetation on the way. I knew this man, he is my neighbour. In the middle of the road he refused to take me home and said we were going to have sex in the sugar cane. I realised that he was serious when he pointed a knife at me. I tried to run away but he tripped me, beat and kicked me. He removed my clothes and raped me twice. Afterwards, he told me: “Do you know that I can dig your eyes out so that there will be no proof?”
He forced me to stand and dress myself. He then accompanied me home to make sure that I don’t go to the police station. On the way home, he asked me if I was going to press charges against him and I said no. He told me to tell my family that it was the man I had an argument with at the bar who did this to me. At home, I knocked on the door and my mother opened. He told my mother that the man I had an argument with at the bar had done this to me. As soon as he left, I told my mother the truth.
The next morning, I took the clothes I wore and phoned the police. They took me to the police station for a statement. They also took me to the hospital. At hospital, I was checked and cleaned. The police started to look for my rapist, and found him. He was arrested, taken to the police station and detained for 8 months. By that time, I was working at a convenience store and was always short in my till. I was unable to focus and couldn’t cope. I ended up getting dismissed at work.
The investigator brought me the dates of the case, I attended 3 days consecutively. On the first day, everyone felt sick in the courtroom. He was found to have 8 previous convictions but have always managed to win the cases.
When he testified, I was always taken outside, but when I testified, he was always in the courtroom.
On the 3rd day, the court called the man I had the argument with as a witness. Later I heard that my rapist was free, but there was evidence to support my case. I heard that he won the case. It is bitter that I still see him. I don’t know what he thinks about me – to this day he even greets me.
I received a call from Kwazulu Regional Christian Council (KRCC). We met at KRCC offices and I spoke to them about the incident, there were other survivors of rape and they also spoke – we all spoke. Solange (Tearfund), asked me to bring the case number.
I am still angry and I still want to appeal because I cannot stand watching him walk free. Since the case was finalised I have not been able to get into contact with the investigating officer. He is always out of the office.
What I wish is for the support group to help me to appeal because I cannot do it on my own and the man who raped me is a gangster. On the first day of the support group I found some healing in the fact that there are so many other women who survivor the same and worse.
Throughout my ordeal, I only received counselling once.
- Lethabo’s story
I was 14 years old, on my way to church in the evening far away from home. It was my brother’s birthday. We passed by a shop, boys were shouting at us telling us to stop. They then started chasing us and we ran in different directions. One of the boys carried a golf club and he forced me to love him – he claimed that I was his girlfriend. He forced me to go to his place. He beat me with the golf club and took me into an empty room. He pushed me to his bed and took off his clothes. He gagged me with a towel and raped me.
Later on, women came looking for me. He escaped through the window. In the door, I saw people including my sister. They took me to a house. From there I went to my mother and she accompanied me to the clinic and the police station. I was examined and given medication.
I haven’t received any counselling. I have tried to kill myself with contraceptive pills. My neighbour’s sister was laughing at me, asking me: “how does it feel”.
We attended my case in January. He was arrested and I went to court to testify. The investigator told my sister that if she agrees to have sex with him (the investigator) I will win the case. She refused and the case disappeared.
In 2009 we heard that the investigating officer was discharged from service. He used to propose to me and tried giving me his money but I did not give in to his demands. I was scared to go to school because there was a man who looked just like him always standing outside the school with sunglasses.
In 2013 I met my boyfriend and we had a baby together. He cheated on me while I was pregnant, and made another woman pregnant who used to threaten me. There was no support at home which is why I found myself dependent on this relationship. I nearly had a miscarriage.
Later on, I used to be absent at school because I had no one to look after my baby. A friend connected me with a woman who then introduced me to a Champion in Durban and also to Solange (Tearfund).
I started to trust again and had people to talk to. My life was changing.
My baby boy is 3 years old now. But I’m still angry.
The investigating officer was found shot dead in a ditch.
- Miryam’s story
Before I came into the support group called “Silence no more” I had lost my baby. I was not thinking of anyone, not even my baby’s twin who was left behind. I fell into a deep depression and started losing my mind. I couldn’t control myself, it felt like the whole world came to a standstill. I was an angry person who would snap if anybody said anything to me even – if it was a compliment. I felt that no one understood me and I couldn’t tell anyone how I felt. Not until I met my group Champion (“Aunty B”). She asked me to attend a group session that she held by the library. I didn’t know what to expect and when I got there it was a support group I felt I didn’t need any support but when Aunty B started sharing, she had such a sweet manner and tears filled my eyes. I was glad I came to the group. As everyone in the group also started sharing I started to feel comfortable and I opened up about everything. I spoke about the time the abuse started and how I lost my baby. I know my baby was murdered and it hurts but my baby’s daddy still didn’t not stop the abuse – physical and sexual abuse. It just made me more and more angry, but thank God, Aunty B kept encouraging me. Each week that I attended the group I started to feel much better. She then encouraged me to go back to school and that also made me look at life in a different way (a positive way).
Aunty B then got me involved in different kinds of community work which kept me busy. I started sharing and the more I spoke the better I felt. We then went for training by an organisation which works with rape survivors. After our training a new victim friendly centre was opened at the Mariannridge police station and that is where most of our ladies are now working after our training. I can finally see a brighter future thanks to the first day I went to the group and for all the support I got from the ladies, especially Aunty B. Together we are stronger. Helping each other every day is still a challenge, but we are getting there.
- Stella’s story
I was sexually abused twice. I was abused, first by my uncle at the age of eight and then a second time, when I was 23 years old, by my brother in-law while my sister was on night duty and I was visiting at their home. After the second attack I was even more traumatised because I fell pregnant. I had been in a three-year relationship, but my boyfriend rejected me and hated me when he discovered that I had been impregnated by my brother-in-law. My family was confused and divided. They found it very difficult to believe what had happened. In desperation, I turned to the survivor support group and I also began regular attendance at their meetings. Now I had received total comfort and healing from my trauma through listening to other survivors. I was listened to and supported by other survivors and the Tearfund team. I developed a close relationship with my son born from this.
Before I joined the survivors group, I was dominated by feelings of worthlessness. I just had no self- image left and a part of me was lost. When I look in the mirror, I used to see a worthless person. My life not worth living. When walking along the street, it’s as if all eyes were on me, blaming me and seeing me as worthless, while my brother-in-law is walking tall and free.
I felt as if every person was talking about me. There were many sounds in my ear, like many people talking loudly at the same time; blaming me. When the noise started, I would run and lock myself in my room, close the curtains and sit in the dark. Then I would cry and bang on the wall. I cried in the bath, I cried when I woke up… I was alone and most of my family members felt pity for my sister, but not for me.
For the first three months I could not sleep during the night because I had a recurrent dream of a mob coming to kill me, blaming me for sleeping with my brother in law. I was so scared of the night, that the situation was torturing me.”
“When my tummy started to show, things really started falling apart. I remember sitting on my bed holding a rope, intending to hang myself; just waiting for the right time. My mum came in, took the rope and took me to a traditional healer to remove the spell; but all in vain I still wanted to kill myself. I could not cope with the body demands of pregnancy and the feeling of negativity. To me, the easy way to avoid that was to die. If I died I wouldn’t hear the voices of people blaming me”.
Joined the group support was like finding new family: “If you have never been raped then I don’t think that you’d understand. Sometimes you get the feeling of losing control. It’s a horrible, horrible feeling because you no longer control yourself and your thoughts go around in circles”.
“I was so confused, I didn’t know what to do, but clearly I was not going to be me anymore. I was just going to disappear. Before the incident I was envied by all family members for my respect and good behaviour but after rape it was just the opposite. The family knew that I was once raped by my uncle, but that topic was a ‘No go’ discussion; nobody wanted to talk about it. If I ever mentioned it my mother would be angry and shout at me to be quiet. But this time the family could not hide the disgrace as I was pregnant so, unfortunately, I had to deal with it alone. Um…I had no energy. I just needed someone to listen to me and guide me because I was so confused and desperate for help and guidance”.
After 6 months attending my support group my life changed : “Before, I didn’t like walking into a place alone but now I do go anywhere I want to go, talk to anybody I want to. I’m one hundred percent healed! I’m actually what I used to be – very good (loud), Yep, that’s me! I’m alive again.”
My life was characterized by painful rejection. I was rejected by some of my family members who did not believe my story as well as my boyfriend of three years.
I remember, “My boyfriend and I had a bit of an argument, he told me that our relationship would never be the same again. He found it difficult to trust me and he ended the relationship. I remember being very, very upset about it but because we were no longer happy together. In my healing journey I realise that it was a good thing that we separated as I managed to concentrate on myself, rather than using the little energy I had to save the relationship.
“I was angry with the world, the people in it and life in general and, as such, just could not do or plan anything regarding my future. My thoughts were just going around in circles and I often planned to avenge myself and then commit suicide. I also thought of doing a disgraceful thing which would shame this so-called perfect family. I thank God that with the help of my group the anger did not reach that stage.”
With support of our lead champion , I managed to forgive two family members who raped me. Through forgiveness, the burden of pain left me and I’m healed.
I had attended and been member of my survivor group and benefitted from their teaching and support, I managed to find peace in life, to forgive the abusers and to come to love my son unconditionally. Now “I can speak freely about the rape incident without crying or being worried about being judged. I no longer hear voices in my mind.
With power and love I gained in my survivors group, I am able to attend family gatherings and rituals without being afraid of gossip or coming face to face with my brother-in-law. I have forgiven them and love my son without reservation. the assistance of champion , survivors and its advice I was healed. I attend the group regularly.
“When my brother-in-law raped me I lost all hope and blamed myself. I started questioning myself, believing that I had brought it upon myself; it was my entire fault; I was not a good person. You know, joining the support group changed my life for the best. I stopped blaming myself and I accepted the situation. I have learned to find meaning, even in very difficult situations and the answers are always there, in others survivors’ stories”.
- Emma’s story
Emma was raped by an unknown man when she was returning from work. She is married, although separated for one year with two children. She travels by bus from Monday to Friday, leaving home at four (4) in the morning and returning at approximately eight (8) in the evening. On the day of the attack she was overpowered by a stranger, who raped her in an open field, took her handbag and left her lying undressed on the ground.
I told my husband, who was supportive at first. Their misunderstanding began when my husband wanted to have sex with me just few days after rape and I could not respond suitably. The situation led to an argument, during which my husband intimated that he would not touch or make love to her from that day forward. Soon after, they separated.
- joined the group support of survivors PmB in 2014 invited by a friend from the church to enable me to survive the traumatic chain of events. My children and others survivors’ commitment contributed considerably to my healing. (Pauline) experienced complete healing within three months of the rape incident after joined support group.
My thoughts and feelings at the time of the rape attack:-
“When attacked and raped I had this feeling that I was going to die at any time. I worried about what would happen to my children and who would look after them. I wanted to fight the man, but I was paralyzed with no energy. I could just imagine my children, shocked and confused, standing beside my coffin”
I was disappointed by my husband’s conditional support which did not even last. My husband could not handle the situation and I even blamed me, to a certain extent, for his attitude.
“Because I was raped, I lost my lifetime friend. My life changed completely but I am no longer angry with him. I do understand now.” Pauline believe that listening to other survivors stories had helped in her struggle against the traumatic experience and forgiving her husband:” without their support and love, I would never have coped with everything that had happened in my life”
I would either have been a mental wreck, or I would have fallen to pieces. My children would be somewhere in the street”.
(Pauline) I believed that other survivors wanted me to have the hope and courage to overcome the situation and move on with my life. We use to have prayer meeting and always our champion leader will say: ‘You can’t stay here, at the bottom of this mountain, but we want you to come to the top of the mountain, because we will be there with you, because we understand your situation.
My fellow survivors had carried me on the long journey through that trauma: –
“ …sometimes, when I was in deep pain, it felt as if I was floating; but I will visit our champion and survivors and I will have courage to carry on until to the end.
Guilt feelings were washed away, I regained my strength and I began to think positively.” Others survivors helped me with skills on how I can start small business so that I can feed my kids. Today, I’m having small business and happy women.
I was later asked to lead the group support which is held in my home. At first, I seemed afraid to lead, but eventually I found the courage and managed it successfully.
I described my group support as: “Very good friends; very good spiritual friends, who journeyed with me for quite a while”. I Gained strength and hope from unity with others. Reaching to others gave me hope and helped the healing process.
- Joy’s story
I grew up without biological parents. My parents died when I was 11years old. i was raped by two unknown men during the war in my country . lived in fear that I may have been contracting a sexual disease and afraid of what my friends and the congregation would say since was Christian. Would they judge and isolate me. Although I was initially been unable to cope with the magnitude of the trauma for many years, when I joined , group support of survivors gave me the strength needed for recovery.
Within two weeks attending healing session and listing other survivor’s stories, I developed a hope and began my journey to recover. After being raped, my light was switched off. I was floating in the darkness for many years. It had an impact on my mind and physical well-being, my life was never the same afterwards. I was very angry but scared at the same time, I isolated myself, stayed in my house and wanted to be left alone. It disrupted my daily activities, harmed my self-esteem and dignity. I grew up known as a well behaved girl, now to disclose about the rape incident was so difficult, I was so scared to be judged and condemned, for something that was not my fault.
I could not think properly, was unable to sleep. When I did fall asleep I would jump and scream, recurrently dreaming of my attackers. I could not talk to anyone about it…I reassured myself that it was not my fault, but something at the back of my mind keep saying: “It is your fault “.
Rape is something which affects one’s world view in a negative way. I was angry, depressed about the way the rest of the world worked and how men treat women and after attending group support activities then it became a case of coming to terms with it, as life had to go on. I started to understand that rape is crime and I need to speak out and not feeling shame of it. Support group become my family that I understand me. Later on I become champion of the new group in my community so that I can help other survivors to heal and speak out. The rape experience cut me off from the rest of the world but later on, the group support help me to realize that I was destroying myself, I reconnected with God , friends and family.
I believe in rape survivor’s group support. Praying and reading Holy Scriptures with other survivors have helped me to deal with this aspect by giving me the ability to accept, forgive and achieve a higher level of functioning beyond my emotions.
By attending my support group in my community, I realized that holding a grudge and blaming myself would not make me traumatic experience go away. When you have received the support from other survivors, it’s something which you can always fall back on; it acts as a term of reference. My life now is directed by the knowledge and support from my group and that makes me feel relaxed and stabilized.
I was also strengthened by having trust and hope in God and other survivors like me .I will always thank God for saving me from those men, although part of me was taken away and I will never regain it.I am now able to freely discuss my rape ordeal unlike before when I was afraid to be blamed or judged. I used my story to encourage other survivors to join the group and get help. My life is connected and every experience makes sense. To survive I have to accept the situation, even if it’s difficult. I am no longer afraid. I went back to school, I finished my degree and I socialize with other people well without fear.
- Heather’s story
Whenever I see my group members going or coming back from the meetings my eyes get filled with tears, but even worse when they come to visit me and tell me who is healed and got helped during the meeting. I just see myself as a person serving a death sentence in the women’s jail where men are seen as “God”. It kills me inside because I once was a woman who belonged to the group and participated until the devil found out. I was very happy to be part of the group and every time I was in the meeting I would gain lots of confidence and tell myself that I’m going to get out of this crazy marriage and run away with my kids. Start over somewhere and live happily ever after like other women. The sad part is that every time after the meeting I still have to go back to that crazy selfish husband always putting himself first and making me his sex slave. I am a person that can say I live in hell because my husband rapes me every time he has to buy groceries or to support us as a family. He uses his responsibility in a bad way. Everything the kids and I need or want I know that after asking for it I will only get it if I give him sex and after that I can get what I need. He does all of this because he knows my background. Where I come from, my family don’t have much and they can’t afford extra mouths to feed as there is no-one working.
They depend on a social grant that isn’t enough to get by. Also, I am a housewife who looks after the kids and do the chores around here as he told me that he will provide for us but now it is like he was forced by someone to not want me to work. This was to make sure that he will always find me at home. I want to be able to chat to people but he said I’m not allowed to have friends. I used to sneak out even going to the support meetings as my sister was the one who is a member and knows my story – she was able to come to my house.
It was the end of the world when he came home one day. He was very angry not knowing what’s going on. He went straight to the bedroom, took out his stick and beat the hell out of me asking who told me I could go out and spend two hours in meetings with people he doesn’t know to speak about our love life. He asked if is he not man enough for me, and whether I wanted the ladies in the group to get me another man because I am not satisfied with him anymore. He said that he was disappointed as he does everything for me, and the thank you he gets from me is to spread rumours about him saying that he rapes me. I tried by all means to get him to listen to me but this guy doesn’t listen to any woman and his word is the final one. So when he was done beating me, he told me to choose between him and the group. My tears were rolling, I just looked up to him as I was down on the floor begging for mercy. I was bleeding. He said how I could ask such a thing, it is a silly question and shook his head. He said that if I knew what was good for me, I would stay away from that group or else end up dead.
So I guess good things are not meant for me because that was the last time I attended. Up until today my sister came to get my story. I keep telling myself everything happens for a reason. I’m still living my hell with the devil himself.
- Lesedi’s story
Today is Monday. I’ll be nursing my face and wherever it hurts after I have been beaten up during the weekend. The thought of him makes me cry, even if I sense his smell. His behaviour really scares me because I know that this guy is supposed to be my everything, my shoulder to cry on, my hero. That’s what my does to me. He will beat me up whenever it is weekend and he is so drunk that he thinks I am his wife. Because every fight will start when I ask for food and noticing that there is no meat. Sometimes there is meat but he will say it is too little for him and he is a man, he deserves better. It started with my mother, she is so soft she just does anything for him. I came to a point where I was sick and tired of this violence. He had beaten me while I had a baby on my back and he broke my nose. My face was like a car going for panel-beating that was a write off. He also hit the baby on my back. I saw myself as a nobody. He always said I can’t seem to achieve or do something good in my life, just like my mother.
I was unemployed and depended on him for food and other things. So I had to put up with his violence as there is nowhere we can go and we are useless people. I then heard of the support group in my community for women and the group deals with SGBV. At first I thougt I couldn’t cope or fit in as I thought the group was all about women who were sexually abused as per the first explanation that I got. But you know I wanted to get out of the house and have some fresh air and meet new people. I am very curious and couldn’t stop myself from going. I joined the group and became a member as I didn’t miss any of the meetings held. So I now have a full understanding of the group and what it is for.
Joining the group really helped me realise there is a lot going around my community, there is too much violence and you hardly find people reporting it to the police or anyone for that matter. It taught me the importance of knowing the right channels of reporting violence and attending support groups can help you heal and build your self-esteem. Today I have self-confidence, I’m the one doing SGBV awareness in my community, I’m a community volunteer helping people and working with them. I have a certificate in SGBV so I’m walking proud and I say “Silence no more” because I know how it feels when you are beaten up and can’t do anything about it. I want to thank the lady who told me about the support group because now I have been in trainings and I understand SGBV. Now I am responsible for every woman and child around me not to experience abuse under my watch.
So today is Monday again and I’m not in pain or nursing any wounds because I’ve become a better person who stands her ground and also knows better. So for that I say ladies, #Break The Silence.
- Sabina’s story
My best friend approached me to join a soc-called group that deals with women that are being abused. To be honest I was very angry because I saw her as a nosey person trying to solve my problems for me at first. I didn’t want anything to do with her and her group because I was worried who else was in that group who might know me or my story. One day I was crying, sitting outside with a lot of pain as my boyfriend has done it again. This time he beat me up and I saw the world closing up on me because I refused to have sex with him because he was drunk.
He started saying crazy things. He asked if I have another man that I am sleeping with and if I am cheating on him. If I was not cheating on him I must prove it by having sex with him. He said that I’ve met him drinking and never had a problem with it, why now do I have a problem with his alcohol use and the smell of it. I tried to explain why I was not in the mood but he didn’t listen. I wasn’t feeling good. I received a phone call from my grandparent’s telling me that my son was going in for an operation. They needed me to come to the hospital for further information, so as a parent I was required to be there and sign some of the documents on behalf of him.
But my boyfriend’s beating was not the first, that is why my friend was concerned. She also knows my well-being and that I have no parents or anyone to turn to. He was my bread and butter, even my shelter. I want to thank my friend for being there for me. I got up and decided I’m going to join the group and see what they are doing when they are together. At the group I felt wanted and had a lot of sisters fighting violence against women and children around our area. They gave me so much love and helped me see that I’m no punching bag. No one is supposed to take their anger out on me or make me do something I don’t want. The group helped me regain my self confidence and I wanted to become more as I never had the chance to finish my matric. Right now, I’m doing my second year of ABET. I’m busy with my assignments and submission. I’m so happy and proud of myself as my previous year’s report was very good and my marks were high. I am an independent woman now who is looking forward to becoming a social worker.
I’ve even managed to get a place of my own to live as I’m doing domestic work during the day then afternoon I go to school. I have my own money and money for my son too. The sky is the limit, everything is possible you just need to take the first step.
- Dana’s story
I work with vulnerable girls. I pushed my own story of abuse away but working with these girls it came back to haunt me. Actually, it hunts me. I was sexually abused as a little girl. I never, ever told anyone about it. Not even my mother. The guilt was tearing me apart and my mother went to her grave not knowing what happened to me when I was just a child. My abuser was known to me and I feared him. He threatened to kill me. I heard of the support group meeting and decided to attend. I disclosed my story to only one person there. I am not ready to talk. I’m scared that someone in the group may talk about my experience outside in the community. I can’t risk that as my partner doesn’t know. I struggle to be intimate with him. I don’t like being touched or when he initiates sex. It takes me back to my experience as a child and I don’t know how to deal with this in my relationship. I am not ready to disclose to him. I would love to have a baby but I’m unable to. I don’t know if it is psychological or physical, but I’m fearful of going to a doctor to examine me.
Maybe in time I’ll be able to talk to the group. For now, I am feeling like an incredible weight has been taken off my shoulders. I feel lighter because I could speak out, even if only to one person. I don’t carry my burden alone and ashamed anymore. I am thinking of taking a different approach with the girls as I go through my own journey of healing now. Maybe I can support them in a more loving way, maybe I can do activities with them that will help build them up. I’ll think about what I can do. For now, I am just thankful that I can finally start to heal myself.
- Rosalia’s story
In life you meet people who will change you forever. Even if you don’t tell them your story. I know sometimes I am met with suspicion from other women in the group but I am not ready to break the silence on my own story. My group leader knows and has patience with me. She doesn’t pressure me to speak out. I just need the support and trust of the group. I talk about women in my family who have been abused when I’m in the group. This helps me to connect with women in the group even though they do not know that I have experienced the same.
I love listening to them, to how they grow and become strong. I tell myself that I am the same, that I can be the same. I am worth being loved and being protected. It’s not always easy as sometimes we depend on the ones who hurt us. It breaks my heart when I think of what one man can do to a woman, what mine is doing to me. All I think about is a way out. A way to support myself and live on my own. I need my group to keep me pushing forward, slowly, until I can stand up and walk out. Maybe then I can break the silence.