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Every 26 seconds a woman gets raped, it was my turn last Thursday night

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Every 26 seconds in South Africa a woman gets raped, it was my turn last Thursday night. Before I began writing this I took AZT, 3TC and Crixivan — they are anti-retroviral drugs, they will hopefully help lessen the potential of me getting Aids from the rapist, assuming of course, that he is HIV positive. In a country where 1 800 people contract HIV every day, it’s a gamble I refuse to take. But the difficulties I encountered in getting the drug and the treatment I received from medical staff at private hospitals and the district-surgeon’s office are an indictment against healthcare policies and the medical profession. I need to take these drugs for a month, within two weeks they will be making me feel very ill and depressed. The therapy will cost me about R4 000. I am a freelance journalist with medical aid for hospitalisation only, and not this. With the three anti-retroviral drugs I am on antibiotics in case the rapist had a sexually transmittable disease aside from HIV/Aids. The district surgeon a quiet Congolese who admitted she has to go for therapy because she cannot cope with what she sees, also gave me “morning after” tablets because I was raped while I was ovulating. She gave me yet another 12 drugs I had to take simultaneously, I don’t know what they were for. I need drugs to sleep and tranquillisers for those times when I become very fearful or tearful.

— This is the article that appeared in the Mail & Guardian on April 8 1999, seven days after I was raped and stabbed. I am running this again as a precursor to articles I will write on Thought Leader every day for the 16 days of activism — November 25 to December 10 — to plea for an end to violence against women. I write not to depress but hopefully to help inspire a new sense of purpose in us all to end the violent rhetoric and actions that hurt all of us in our society, in every society. Violence against women and children are the crimes in every country of the world, that are the least likely to lead to convictions. In the end I am just one person, it is you, who I hope will help make the difference. My story continues, I began writing it the day after I was raped —

A general practitioner gave me Valoid to stop nausea and vomiting. Since the rape I frequently feel nauseous, my stomach aches from where he pushed me. But also I feel as though I have something terrible in my stomach that I have to get rid of, I wish someone could scrape out my insides. When I told a male friend about the incident I began vomiting. In two weeks’ time I will need the Valoid because the anti-retroviral drugs by that time, according to a doctor, will give me constant nausea.

This is about the rape: I came home at 8.30pm. I had met with a French television crew I had given some assistance to. I was tired. My three dogs acted as normal. I opened the door, walked in and locked it again. I noticed there were more lights on than I had left on, an expensive mustard coloured leather jacket with sheepskin lining that I had bought in Argentina was in the middle of the lounge floor, I thought my son had come home needing a warm jacket and had, for inexplicable reasons, left a jacket on the lounge floor. I went to his room and noted the lights were on instead of just his lamp. I left them.

I went into my room, put my bag, car keys and cellphone on a chair next to the telephone and went to the toilet kicking off my shoes as I went. As I stood next to the toilet to flush he was there, he stood briefly in the doorway as if wanting me to admire him in the jacket, I began screaming. He walked toward me holding an elaborate silver Argentine gaucho’s knife that was usually in a display among paintings in the lounge, and said, “keep quiet I have a knife”. No ordinary kitchen knife for him.

I obeyed. He pushed me out of the bathroom holding the knife close to me, “where is the money?” “I don’t have any,” I said. “I am poor.”

He looked in my bag, I had R10, he was furious and threw it on the floor. “Is this all?” Yes, I said. Where was my ATM card, I gave it to him. “Give me the number, and don’t lie.” I did as he said. I can take you there in the car, I said, (I just wanted to get out of the house).

No, he said. He grabbed me by my arms, which days later still ache. “Is anyone coming here?” “Yes,” I said. When? I thought, if I tell him it is soon he might panic — “in an hour or two”. “Is it your husband?” “Yes.” He asked, “where is your son?” “He is sleeping at friends tonight.”

“Don’t move, I’m going to tie you up.” He opened my cupboard. He’s going to bind me with scarves or stockings, I thought. But this was a man who had prepared while waiting for my return, thick masking tape normally kept in a kitchen cupboard was waiting in my bedroom cupboard. He tied my hands behind my back, making tape go round and round my wrists and hands.

“First”, he said, “we are going to have sex”. He was a tall man, about two metres, good-looking, not very dark skin, the pale tones of a Xhosa or Tswana, with a thin moustache. His eyes had a slightly almond shape. He had a thin gold sleeper earring in his left ear, he wore a good quality long-sleeve green polo-neck type shirt, he wore an expensive pair of brown corduroys. He took off my slacks and underwear, and undid his pants.

A week before the incident on a Saturday at about noon, the phone rang, I picked it up, a man with a deep voice said, “Hello Mrs Smith what are you doing,” I queried: “who am I speaking to?” He said, “Aaron”. I asked, “can I help you?” He said, “I’ve been watching you a long time, I love you”. I put the phone down. His voice troubled me. I phoned the Parkview police and spoke to a sergeant on duty who said there was nothing they could do, if I wanted I could get Telkom to tap my phone. We went out and on our return the same man had left a message on the answering machine, “If you don’t want to speak to me I will fuck you”.

He pushed me onto the bed. I remembered reading of a woman who told a would-be rapist she had Aids and he left her alone, I tried the same thing. He said, “I’ll wear a condom”. He did not. He could not get a full erection. I was very dry making full penetration difficult. He began swearing. He has to stay in control, I thought. I soothed, “It’s not your fault, it’s the Aids, it does this”. How old are you he asked, I lied and said I was considerably older, it occurred to me that he knew menopausal women could be dry.

A friend disagrees, she believes, he thought older white women are less likely to be HIV+. I lay there and thought, be calm, be calm. He finished and did up his pants, “now I’m going to get the money, but I will only be 15 minutes, don’t do anything stupid because I will kill you”. He wound tape across my eyes and around my head, “don’t put the tape over my nose because I won’t be able to breathe,” I said. He wound it over my mouth and around my head, bound my ankles and my knees. Throughout I spoke in a calm, level voice.

(At this stage in writing my heart began pounding and I began vomiting, my son found me crouching next to the toilet and crying, it was now night and the bathroom looked the same as when the rapist had entered. I continued writing the next morning after a sleep aided by a tranquilliser and sleeping pill and the 24-hour security guard and new alarm system a friend has installed. A kind neighbour has changed the locks on the doors.)

I could hear him go to my bag and rifle through it, “don’t you have any credit cards or other bank cards”. “No, I told you I am poor.” I heard him pocket my cellphone. He picked me up as if I weighed nothing (I’m 1.62m and weigh 57kg), “I’m going to lock you into the toilet so you don’t try anything”. The silver fingerprint powder on the door later showed he had big hands.

He put me on the ground. I realised I must look like a victim I was crouching forward, knees bent, head down. In fact my pose was not of submission but of intense concentration listening to and analysing every sound. “I’m going, I will be only 15 minutes”. He closed the door, but did not lock it, this told me he would not leave the house immediately. I heard him lifting the lids of Chinese urns in the lounge, he was still looking for money — but he left my laptop on the bed where he raped me, a radio on a living room couch, a brand new mountain bike, antique earrings in my ears. He took off my watch but dropped it on the floor. His real motive was not robbery, although he also took a Chinese silk rug on my bedroom floor, leaving behind an Indian dhurrie. He has expensive tastes, I instinctively feel these are trophies for him, he will not try to sell them. He is not your normal petty thief/rapist. He speaks well, he has had a decent education. He was clean. He planned this all so carefully.

He comes back into the bathroom, “where are the front door keys?” I can’t speak so I indicate with my bound hands, “you’re not tied up well enough,” he comes back and applies layers more masking tape to my hands and wrists.

He slides a latch across the bathroom door. I hear him quietly leave, and lock the front door. He left through the front door, onto a patio blazing with light in full view of the street.

I wait a while in case he returns to check on me, and then I struggle to free myself. I am not a person of much physical strength, I get men to open the lids on jars, or even tins. The first victory is when the ties around my ankles break free, and then my knees. I can’t see which of our two bathrooms I am in, but I guess. I flounder around with my eyes bound, I have to get my hands free, it is unbelievably hard, at one point I stop, I’m exhausted, I’m terrified, I feel like giving up. But I think, if you give up, he will come back and kill you. I continue, finally I get one hand free, I push the tape over my eyes up, and that over my mouth down, I can’t get my other hand free, it is bound not only to my back, but in some strange way to my jacket, he’s done something so that it continues to restrict me. I ignore it and begin kicking the door. I realise I don’t have the strength to smash it. I open the window and begin tugging at the burglar bars, I’ll never pull them out.

I begin screaming, “help me, please somebody help me”. I have a quiet voice and even when I raise it, it is not very loud. He has put me in the middle bathroom furtherest from neighbours, it is also the beginning of a long weekend, my neighbours may have gone away. Not even dogs bark when I shout. No-one seems to hear. I kick the door some more. “Please God, let me live,” I pray under my breath. The lights are off but I feel for something in the bathroom cupboard to break the window, perhaps that sound will carry further than my voice. The first few containers I use have no impact, and then I take one that makes the glass break, I keep smashing the glass out of the frame, “help me, someone please help me”. I think of murder victims, they must have felt like this before they died. There is a glow from my neighbours outdoor lights but I know those are electronically controlled, the night is soundless and dark.

I can’t smash out the top window frame, my strength seems to be failing. At one stage my mouth goes absolutely dry and no sound leaves my lips. I drink water from the tap and carry on shouting. Suddenly I see a torch glow and hear the voices of men at my back gate. At first I’m terrified, is that him back with more? And then I recognise the voice of a neighbour, he says, “what is wrong”. “Call the police,” I shout, “I’ve been raped, he has a knife, please get me out of here, he is coming back. Be careful, he has a knife … ”

They manage to get to the window, “help me please, get me out of here, I’m locked in the bathroom and I’m terrified”. “We’ve called the police, how do we get into the house,” they ask. “I don’t know, break the doors or the windows but please get me out.” Seconds later I hear voices in the passage, I’m frightened again, it must be him in the house. But it’s them. The back door was wide open, he also managed to get through a locked interior door without any sign of it being interfered with.

They unlock the door and stand looking at me in horror. I’m wearing only a longish top, the lower part of my body is naked, I have masking tape all over my head and my body, my left hand is bleeding where the knife slashed me, but is still attached to masking tape and my jacket hampering my movement. I cry, “I’m terribly sorry, but he raped me I don’t have my clothes with me”. My white neighbour goes to fetch his wife. My black neighbour leads me gently away, “please cut off this masking tape I can’t move properly” I try to move my bloodied hand. My black neighbour gets something and with the greatest gentleness cuts off the masking tape and frees my hand. I tell you the race of my neighbours, because I want you to know that rape is not about race, as some South Africans think. It is not about what men do. It is only about what a few sick individuals do, it has nothing to do with race or male-hood. And indeed, men for the most part treated me better than women that night.

The police arrive, I can see shock on their faces, they ask for details and I am still astonishingly calm, I know it’s important that I should be, they immediately begin broadcasting details on their hand radios, one dashes out. My neighbour’s wife arrives and holds me, I want to put on my clothes, at least underwear, but she cautions me not to, she helps me find a gown. I keep saying to them and the police, I’ve got to get AZT fast so that I don’t get HIV. I find my doctor’s phone number, I call him, he’s away for the weekend. I phone a close friend, her answering machine is on. I phone another, I tell her what happened, and ask her to try and find my doctor. She is concerned and confused. I tell her I am fine I just need AZT.

The police ask me not to remove the remaining masking tape because they want to fingerprint it. A young police reservist takes me outside, a neighbour and his wife drive by, they stop and ask one of my rescuers what is going on, he speaks quietly to them. Another comes and also speaks to him. The streets are dark and I don’t know if he is somewhere watching me, I am uncharacteristically terrified. I don’t mind the neighbours knowing what happened, they and their families must be aware of the danger in this otherwise quiet neighbourhood. But I don’t want anyone looking at me.

I have all my medical aid details, the police have radioed ahead to Milpark Hospital* telling them I’m a rape victim (how I hate the word victim) and that I want AZT. I hate getting out of the car and walking past the people in casualty, who stare at me, my left hand is caked in blood, I am wearing a gown and have masking tape in my hair, around my wrists, neck, ankles and knees. A young nurse guides me into a private cubicle and leaves me. I don’t want to lie on a bed, I don’t want anything to do with beds. I don’t want to sit down because then I feel moisture between my legs, even though I do not believe he achieved orgasm. I realise I’m standing with my arms at my sides facing the wall saying quietly over and over, “I’m alive, I’m alive”. The young nurse comes in and gently pulls me away from the wall and puts her arms around me.

A male nurse comes in and I realise I’m slowly backing toward the wall away from him. I see his concerned face and catch myself and stop. This is not his fault. I must stay in control. I ask them to please cut off the masking tape, they ask the policeman who consents, he knows it is upsetting me, they put the tape in a plastic bag for evidence.

After about half an hour there, the two nurses lead me back to the police car saying I have to go to the district surgeon first. The male nurse gives me rape crisis numbers. The policeman tells me Milpark refused to give me AZT because my medical aid is for hospitalisation only, and I’m not going to be hospitalised. This is despite the fact that I’ve been admitted as a patient to Milpark before with heart problems, the last time was in September before I was on medical aid and I paid my bill in full and promptly. But in South African private clinics, economics are more important than lives. The young police officer is concerned about me, he deserves a medal for his kindness. He races to Hillbrow to the district surgeon’s offices — it’s like entering a scene from the gloomiest and most terrifying pages of George Orwell’s 1984.

We battle to enter, and then drive through darkness to the back of the now empty hospital. Loud music thumps from a party somewhere nearby. There are no lights outside the district surgeon’s office, no bell to press, the police officer bangs on the windows, until two security guards come and battle to open the door. We go in, a police officer from the child protection unit is there, a child under the age of 18 who has been raped is being examined.

The lighting is dim, it is like a third world airport. It has no phone, no water or tea or anything for victims or police. Rows of benches are shoved against the walls, with filing cabinets, desks, it looks like a furniture storage depot, a narrow three panel screen shields curious eyes from victims. Pamphlets titled “Realising Our Hopes”, Nelson Mandela’s final speech are scattered on one table, there are others about Rosebank Vaccination Station, nothing about how to cope after sexual assault.

There is no AZT there — how could I forget, Minister Nkosazana Zuma, a woman too, won’t allow government to give AZT to rape victims and pregnant women to reduce transmission of the disease to their babies. The rapist bestows a death sentence and the state by refusing to give cheap medication that could save many women, becomes executioner. I thought the death sentence was outlawed?

Officers from the sexual offences unit arrive they want to take a statement and for me to undergo an examination by the district surgeon first. It has now been two hours since the rape. I refuse to comply with anything until I get AZT, which my guardian angel in the form of the police constable has now discovered is at Garden City Clinic.* I have cards for Medical Rescue International in my handbag I phone them, I tell them what happened, they leave me holding on for a while and then speak to the police officer and arrange to cover payment. If I don’t have HIV it’s because MRI and a concerned young policeman cared.

The police reservist races me across to the clinic. He takes a receptionist aside and tells her what has happened and the name of the contact person at the clinic who has given approval for the drug. She is young with long dark hair and pursed lips, she goes into bureaucratic mode, she says she does not know of any such person. This, by the way, is the clinic where if I had injured my rapist and he was taken prisoner he would have been admitted without question and treated free at the state’s expense. I’m getting desperate, I lean across, “this is my life we are talking about,” I remind her. “There must be someone who can expedite this, find him.”

She directs us to casualty. A nurse there also goes into bureaucratic mode. I grab a passing doctor and tell him I need help, he says, he can’t help and the doctor in charge is suturing. I become threatening. He goes in to where the doctor is, the doctor comes out, I tell him the time that has lapsed since the rape and that I need AZT fast. Others in casualty watch. The doctor orders the drugs, and says another woman who has been stabbed with a needle also needs it and they have summoned the pharmacist.

I go into a cubicle to wait. The doctor comes by half an hour later and offers me tea, he is the first person to do so, at Milpark I slaked my dry mouth by drinking from a tap. It takes one and a half hours before the drugs arrive, it is astonishing that there is not fast access to anti-retrovirals in casualty for needlestick injuries and rape victims. This is the country with the fastest growing incidence of Aids in the world. They take the first of what will be many blood tests for HIV and hepatitis.

It is now 1am, we go back to the district surgeon’s office. No-one asks my name or attempts to befriend me, I’m just another victim to them, so I take the initiative. I’m examined, smears are taken, I mention that my arms and stomach are aching and the doctor then examines me for bruising, only a few are visible. I ask to go to the toilet, I have not been allowed to go for the whole evening. There is no toilet paper so I am given a sanitary pad to wipe myself with. I ask if I may finally wash my hands, and do.

The young police officer takes me home close to 2am, the two police officers from the sexual offences unit are waiting outside my home. In the five and a half hours since my rape took place a further 7 200 women and children had been raped in South Africa. During this time the police reservist has ascertained where my son is, has ensured he is safe. Has contacted people close to me. Has arranged for a guard for the house and the locks to be changed, he has been unstinting in his thoughtfulness and concern.

There are silver-grey fingerprint dustings throughout the house. The police officers walk me through the house listening to my story, but not before they cancel my cellphone and bank cards. Vodacom which could trace the vicinity of the cellphone through their tracking systems say they need permission from Teljoy, no-one answers calls at Teljoy. Vodacom says then they can’t do anything. Thanks for helping in the fight against crime Vodacom* and Teljoy. What happened to me was not half as bad as what happens to other rape victims but it is still hard to get through each day. The SAPS were wonderful to me. Private clinics and the district surgeon’s office are a disgrace, in a country with such a high incidence of rape why are they not more sensitive to victims? The fact that anti-retroviral drugs are not immediately and freely administered is criminal.

The third night after, I am trying to sleep when I think of the oft-quoted statement by rape action groups that rape is about men exerting power over women. And I think that is so wrong. There was only one person who was powerful during my rape and that was me, I remained calm and in control of myself, while always allowing him to believe that he was in charge. What power did he have? A knife. A weapon does not make you powerful, it is only the weak who have to resort to weapons and violence and force.

He was a good-looking man, lots of women would find him attractive, why does he need to do this? The truth is, he does not, there are places where he can get help. I’m sorry he, and others like him, lack the courage to get that help.

He never took me prisoner because my mind was strong and clear, there are times now and there will be times later when I will feel depressed and fearful. But he cannot imprison my mind. I have the power. He will never be as powerful as me, even if he had killed me, he would have been left with the knowledge that I, and the others I am sure he has raped before, we were the ones with the power.

And if I have HIV? I pray that I don’t, but I believe all of this happened for a purpose, God sent me this challenge, I have to turn this evil into good and that too is why I am speaking out. Rape victims are not statistics, we are people, this is our story. We have nothing to be ashamed of, it’s a so-called moral society that does nothing that should be filled with shame.

* In the decade since Netcare, owners of Milpark and Garden City Clinic have spent millions converting all emergency rooms to be rape survivor sensitive and giving special training to staff and every year they give free ARVs to prevent HIV to thousands of indigent rape survivors. Vodacom has trained all its emergency call centre staff in how to assist rape survivors and now will trace calls from those who experience crime. I owe a great debt of gratitude to Richard Friedland of Netcare and Joan Joffe and Dot Field of Vodacom for listening to this often difficult rape survivor and caring enough about all women to put money behind their commitment to ending violence.

  • View more on our special report on 16 days of activism here.
  • Author

    • Charlene Smith is a multi-award-winning journalist, author and media consultant. She has had 14 books published, one of which was shortlisted for an Alan Paton award. Television documentaries for which she has worked have also won awards. She has worked as a broadcast journalist and radio-station manager. Smith's areas of expertise are politics, economics, women's and children's issues and HIV. She lives and works in Cambridge, USA.

    52 Comments

    1. Muzi Muzi 25 November 2009

      Thank you for opening my eyes.

    2. Survivor Survivor 25 November 2009

      I was also raped (twice). Once when I was five and again two years ago. I am 23 and have never had sex- the rapes were the only sexula contact I ever had and I’m afraid of sex.
      I pray to God that someday I find strength and courage (as you have) so I can pursue my dreams and someday feel worthy of the one man who I am conviced is my soulmate. I’m spend 2hours everynight making sure I locked the door properly because I’m still scared.
      I was lucky to get the ARV’s from the governemt hospital but I felt always degraded by some of the investigators who brought in their friends to the job and everyone was like “Ag, shame, you’ll be okay”. It was supposed to be confidential.
      But as for you Charlene I can say, I draw strength from your strength.

    3. Mike Blackburn Mike Blackburn 25 November 2009

      Sobering reading this. As a medical professional exposed to rape survivors in the past (as an unprepared junior dr), I am saddened by Charlene’s experiences at the hands of our profession in general. One hopes that things have improved, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

    4. Thabitha Thabitha 25 November 2009

      What a heartbreaking story. I applaud you for your courage and openness about the experience. Keep up the valiant work because it helps most of us to be more aware, more carring and much more understanding. Your strength is admirable.

      Stay strong.

    5. Stuart Stobbs Stuart Stobbs 25 November 2009

      You are so brave to write this and are an inspiration. And you are right – you’re the strong one, him; pathetic and weak.

    6. Michael Trapido Michael Trapido 25 November 2009

      The men in this country need to have a long hard look at themselves.

      An absolute disgrace.

      I don’t know what to wish you Charlene but the hope that your life runs far easier from now on.

      May you know health without fear.

    7. Steve Steve 25 November 2009

      This was extremely eye opening…

    8. Mandy Mandy 25 November 2009

      You are a very strong woman Charlene, I’m am so proud that we have people like you in our country. You are going to push society forward.

      Thank you for writing about your rape, it must have been more difficult than I can imagine.

    9. Akanyang Merementsi Akanyang Merementsi 25 November 2009

      At first, I looked at the length of the article and thought: ‘This is too long; I will have to jump sentences at some point’.

      But as a young man and a blogger who wanted to write about the subject of my blog (Akanyang Africa: http://www.akanyangm.blogspot.com) – I made time, immediately, to read the entire story without jumping or missing any details before even bother responding to the article.

      It is women like you who, I believe, should share your traumatising stories at times, with the rest of members of our society – men and women – which, whether taken as seriously as they should or not, will help us in dealing with these incidents in the near future (not that we wish that to happen, but in case it does) because one never knows ‘what tomorrow holds’.

      Saying sorry to what happened to you, I think, will be kind of a remembrance of the incident to you. But still, it is unfortunate this happened to you (not to say it should have happened to someone else, which it must not, in fact).

      Sadly too, it is our brothers, graduate and good people (or acting to be) in our society and members of our own relatives that do these evil things.

      Just before reading your story, I was trying to write a story to my blog – Akanyang Africa: http://www.akanyangm.blogspot.com) – regarding the decision by The High Court in Johannesburg in dismissing an application by Donovan Moodley who was found

    10. perplexed perplexed 25 November 2009

      My heart goes out to you,Charlene and for your bravery and courage. As a medical professional, I have seen this too many times, before. Believe me,it is people like yourself, that give strength to all of us. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    11. Greg Marshbank Greg Marshbank 25 November 2009

      This is probably about the 10th time I have read these words of yours Charlene – your courage still amazes me. You are an impressive lady and someone who commands my respect.
      Whilst our political ideals may vary your strength, committment and sense of fairness is admirable – thank you for your courage.
      I just wish there were more sensible, intelligent and committed people in SA all striving to achieve a balanced and safe country.

    12. Peter Win Peter Win 25 November 2009

      I find it extraordinarily difficult to express my sadness at your ordeal – and your commonsense – and bravery in sharing these terrible details !

      It is incredible that organisations can be so inefficient and uncaring when there is such an obvious need.

      May God bless you…

    13. JEan-Pierre Lepart JEan-Pierre Lepart 26 November 2009

      I sobbed when I read this – you are a very brave woman! Thank you for helping those who have had similar experiences!

      You are so brave!

    14. Alisdair Budd Alisdair Budd 26 November 2009

      It is unfortunate that people have to tell their stories and suffer first, before anyone listens to them and improves things for those who come after.

      It is also worrying that whilst treatment has improved, the rape statistics are not going down, indeed getting worse, and no-one seems to know why or how to improve it.

    15. KB KB 26 November 2009

      Charlene, I read your book and I was proud of you then, I’m proud now that you can re-visit the incident again and describe it so graphically.

      I am writing this because I would like your readers to know that unfortunately not everyone can stand up immediately as a survivor. In my own rape experience, I suffered through 6 months of mental hell trying to work out what I had done to cause the situation. He didn’t do as much damage to my body as he did to my mind, and the consequences have followed me down the years – I married a man I probably never would have, had I not felt so vulnerable; I still instinctively shy away from wearing the colours yellow and grey in combination (the clothes I was wearing that night)and for years I never mentioned the word ‘rape’ -it was always framed around “that night”.

      Now I am much stronger, I have worked through the experience in myself and am able to discuss it with others, and I do consider myself to be a Survivor.

      But thank you once again for raising a difficult topic, and raising people’s awareness.

    16. Survivor2 Survivor2 26 November 2009

      As a fellow survivor I salute your courage and strength. It DOES get easier although you do occasionally get those distressing dreams that leave you in a cold sweat

    17. Anonymous Anonymous 26 November 2009

      Thanks for sharing your story, you are brave. Hoping that it inspires women out there. I too, as a woman, I’m always scared that today might be the day. Thats not the way to live one’s life, but it is the reality of our country.

      Sadly, the justice system keeps on faling us, you are grilled more than the one who did you wrong. I always pray that it doesn’t happen to me, but then it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if it happens every 6 seconds, it can happen to you.

    18. Mary Kachana Mary Kachana 26 November 2009

      I am humbled by your courage. Thank you for opening my eyes.

    19. Dasong Cao Dasong Cao 26 November 2009

      Charlene, you are not a victim but a brave hero!

    20. Stefan Stefan 26 November 2009

      JZ, Dr. Motsoaledi, Dr Chetty:

      Read this story, absorb the impact of Charlene’s insights and be humbled by her strength. Let her story spur you on to take real action against the nightmares that play out daily around the country.

      Let’s pull together as a society, put economic concerns aside and adjust the necessary structures to protect and support women and children. People should be our society’s first concern (let alone the health care system’s); not profit, risk and protocols.

      Charlene, you and your guardian angel are credits to our society. You’re one hell of a human being. Let’s hope our policy makers read MG Thought Leader…

    21. Phillipa Lipinski Phillipa Lipinski 26 November 2009

      “There was only one person who was powerful during my rape and that was me, I remained calm and in control of myself, while always allowing him to believe that he was in charge. What power did he have? A knife.”- This is so powerful I choked with emotion as I read it.
      What happened to you is terrible beyond measure. But you are right that maybe God used your pain to advocate agency for the hundreds of thousands of women who are raped. If you hadn’t raised your voice and exposed the perpetrator, government and private institutions, other women who have been raped might not have known what to do.
      It is amazing that you can go through so much suffering and still have compassion-there lies even greater power. God bless you always.

    22. Peter Joffe Peter Joffe 26 November 2009

      As long as rape and crime remain a national sport in South Africa and as long as the ‘long arm of the law’ remains as short and as incompetent as it is, this terrible scourge on our society will grow and grow.
      South Africa is the only country in the world that I know of where they have to pass laws to make people obey the laws and then when these laws to enforce laws are not obeyed then we need laws to obey laws that are there to obey laws.
      I feel that this 16 days of activism is wrong – we should have 365 days of activism against abuse and crime.
      Rapists should be castrated and should never, ever get bail or parole.
      Many of our ‘esteemed’ politicians think that rape is a joke and that it is the prerogative of men to have their wicked ways with defenceless women. Ladies, if you get the chance, “bite it off”.
      So sad that we have come to this but you will all remember one of our ‘esteemed’ politicians saying that he stood in the street for a long time and did not see one rape so how could they occur every 26 seconds.

    23. LubabaloN LubabaloN 26 November 2009

      You are a very brave woman, and i thank God that we still have people of your strength and courage.

      As South African men, we need to take a long hard look at ourselves and the role we should be playing in making sure that no woman suffers this ordeal.

      May the God of all mercy shower you with strength and wisdom to continue giving light to a seemingly hopless situation in South Africa. I am so happy that you do realise that you are indeed powerful beyond measure, the bloody coward who did this to you has nothing as compared to the power and strength that you possess.

      Thank you for sharing your story with South Africa

    24. Jon Quirk Jon Quirk 26 November 2009

      Use your anger; use your emotion. Get active. As Charlene writes in her article on Thought Leader, politicians hate change; the status quo suits them and therefore if we want change it is up to each one of us as an individual.

      We need to make everyone know we are angry; that the status quo is unacceptable, and we need to get involved in the many organisations that do help survivors.

      Like you, I have read and been incredibly moved by Charlene’s words on more than a few occasions – lets make her words and experience count – lets all do more than rant on Facebook.

      Citizens can, and must make a difference.

    25. Lee van Zyl Lee van Zyl 26 November 2009

      My admiration for a very brave women. Did the police arrest the rapist?

    26. Ndileka Ndileka 26 November 2009

      you are an incredible woman charlene

    27. Exiled Exiled 26 November 2009

      It is an epidemic of our society.
      I used to work as an advanced life support paramedic in the late 90’s. On one occasion I worked a Sunday day shift responding within the boundaries of an eastern Gauteng township. I had the misfortune of treating and caring for no less than five rape victims in the space of 6 hours. All of which were brutal, one victim had been captured the night before gang raped and simply thrown out of a moving car the next day. When we found her we though that she was a pedestrian hit by a hit and run. It was only when the ambulance crew arrived that they were able to converse with her in her native language that we were able to find out the truth. So sad.
      I wish you fortitude and admire your strength!

    28. watson watson 26 November 2009

      i came here to invite you to a function that we are hosting and after reading your article , all interest in the fashion show just evaporated . i am still shaking as i write this cause as a follower of your articles , i know how vivid your articles can be and this one was no different ,

      may you know health with out fear like trapps said.

    29. Heather Auer Heather Auer 26 November 2009

      Charlene, what a brave woman you are. Thank you for sharing your story…what an horrendous ordeal.
      I pray that the perpetrator of this terrible act is caught and rots in jail for the rest of his life.
      What possess a person to do such a dastardly deed.
      Charlene, may God be with you.

    30. Charlene Smith Charlene Smith Post author | 26 November 2009

      Thanks all. * Lee – the rapist kept phoning 3 to 4 times a day after the rape. Every time from a different number but finally that is how a friend who was a private investigator traced him. The police lost the docket within a week but for the DNA thank God. But even then at the end of the trial the rapist almost walked because forensics failed to do proper chain of evidence. I cried for two days then drove to the Forensics Dept in Pretoria & said, ‘you have to do this.’ The worst fight for us if after the rape. He got 15 years for raping me & 15 yrs for stealing a few things. I’ve been told he is already out.

    31. Angela Angela 26 November 2009

      I am a regular reader, but this is the first time that I have felt moved enough to post a response. Charlene, you have SURVIVED what is most SA woman’s worst nightmare. May God give you the strength that you are going to need to get through this. I am humbled.

    32. farmgirl farmgirl 26 November 2009

      Mine was not as bad (as violent) as Charlene’s, but it has echoed in my life for nearly 30 years.
      Philippa, if only Charlene’s writing had changed things. It may have spurred rape services for the wealthy through Netcare, but rape has only got worse in poor communities. In one week, a friend told me, there had been five rapes in her immediate neighbourhood. Only one was ‘bad enough’ that the woman ended up in hospital (she’s now in a mental institution, thanks to being multiply raped over days) and only one received attention from police. This is utterly shameful.

    33. Rod MacKenzie Rod MacKenzie 27 November 2009

      I read this and started to cry.
      Heck I know I look like an ex-rugby prop but I have taught children and written poetry all my adult life.
      My words feel enormously clumsy. I despise “men” like this.
      Charlene you are a brave woman and I salute you for standing up for womens’ rights. Go from strength to strength. I still feel so clumsy but knew I had to at least try and write something.

    34. Amelia Amelia 27 November 2009

      Charlene, thank you for sharing this account. You are incredibly inspiring. A strong, confident women. I hope the world can learn from you experience and this piece.

      Peace

    35. bev bev 27 November 2009

      Charlene, your account has me in tears. Thank you for your honesty and bravery and compassion, and for being willing to use this horrific experience as a weapon in the fight against violence.

    36. Poloko Poloko 27 November 2009

      Charlene,
      Your article sent chills down my spine. The opening sentence alone sent a shock of fear through my body. I read the article all goosebumped, with a lump in my throat and teary-eyed – all at the same time. Rape is by far my worst fear, and you have shown great strength, courage and unbelievable common sense in light of your ordeal.

      Everynight when I switch on the house alarm I pray that what you experienced doesn’t happen to my wife and daughter, because I know that, for a determined person, the alarm is as useless as the security guard at the gate. I find you to be beyond brave for your reaction at the time, your patience with an inefficient and unsupporive system, and your ability to write about it with such clarity. Even after reading your story, and absorbing the advice, I know I could not handle it with such common sense if it happended to me or someone close. I know you will never forget, but I hope you have found a way to keep living life to the fullest.

      Thank you for sharing your story and I hope it changes our country for the better.

    37. Refilwe Refilwe 27 November 2009

      Charlene, you really are a survivor. This made me gasp and panic all at once. But it is important that these stories are told and not hidden away as the rapists would have it.

      I’m not sure about this line: “not very dark skin, the pale tones of a Xhosa or Tswana”. I’m just very weary of skin tones being used to refer to people’s ethnic groupings because it can be grossly inaccurate. He could have been neither Motswana or uMxhosa.

      But, that’s not the point. I sincerely wish you continued strength.

    38. Thorne Thorne 27 November 2009

      You are a very brave woman. A heroine.

    39. Scarface Scarface 30 November 2009

      I share your pain, the humiliation and the instant “Post traumatic stress” flashbacks I still get after 32 years. But you know what, stuff them, if they thought they had the power to break your spirit.

      In the end, it just makes you stronger and value life even more. Never doubt yourself and remember there is a thing such as Karma.

      Don’t worry about the purp, he will get his day.

      Good luck and remember that if you could survive this, nothing should scare you.

    40. Tumbleweed InAWindstorm Tumbleweed InAWindstorm 2 December 2009

      Us men need to realise that women are individuals with equal talents and aspirations. I believe that many convicted rapists experience great difficulty in conforming to the rapid changes taking place in society in regard to women and children’s rights in particular. It take a real man to say “Hell, she earns more than me, she’s brighter than I am and far more efficient … and I love her for it.”

    41. Phillipa Lipinski Phillipa Lipinski 3 December 2009

      @Refilwe: the skin tones were mentioned to indicate race-not ethnic grouping.
      But that does not matter, rape is a truly horrendous thing and Charlene is a hero.

    42. Chillipeppa Chillipeppa 3 December 2009

      Charlene, my heart goes out to you. Until now I’ve never been reduced to tears by any literary account of many horrific acts that I’ve read before this. I fervently hope and pray that none of my family ever have to go through something like this in their lives. And I feel desperate pain for those 156 women who have been raped while I’ve been writing this………

    43. Azad Essa Azad Essa 7 December 2009

      thank you for putting your story out here Charlene.

      It was so very very painful to read, but so important…the manner in which you handle race/identity in narrating your story is also constructive and empowering.

      Rape, like everything else, is often turned into a race issue, which is a cop-out…(But)we have to got find ways to change the type of men we are creating in our society…

      God keep you safe.

    44. Mymoena Mymoena 7 December 2009

      charlene, reading this you took me back to the age of 20, 1995. your story has moved me to the point that after my horrific ordeal, i finally have the courage to speak out for the sake of other ‘Muslim’ women out there – you see in our Muslim society it is not the ‘done and proper’ thing to let people know that you were raped … i just want to add-what about those spouses who sleep around and come back to share you bed with you, when you find out often it is too late – i commend your courage and perseverance in the face of such traumatic adversity which leaves an etched reminder in our souls whether we lke it or not – very painful, sickening feeling reminder – now divorced with two kids to take care of my biggest fear is rape since we stay on our own – i look at my young son and tween daughter and just the thought consumes me with dreaded panic but i have to retain my strong positive outlook and not allow any part of myself fall victm to their criminal acts for then they have won half the battle – and i am out to win the war – my heart bleeds for fellow victims – the feeling of being violated, invaded and abused is worse than someone knifing you to death – at least then you know you are going to die – with rape a part of you auto dies a little every day – thx!

    45. Saberah Saberah 7 December 2009

      I’m really sorry it happened to you also. I’m at a loss for words. Unfortunately, it’s something you have to live with for the rest of your life. But it definitely makes one stronger

    46. Shaakira Shaakira 7 December 2009

      I have to admit I found this very hard to read because as a female, I felt everything you went through like it happened to me.

      It made me feel so angry and helpless.
      Helpless in general with regard to how little power women have in these situations and helpless like it’s a certain certainty(especially by the title) where you’re just bidding your time till it happens to you.

      It all completely flattened me and filled me with fear. Loathing as well for the country I live in that makes this a reality and is doing so little to ensure these heartless men are punished in such a way that they never even think of doing it again.

      And it’s the same with every crime.
      They have no fear of the consequences.
      Its evident in the cavalier way the perpetrator picked things from your house as you noticed yourself.
      He didn’t need to do it.
      Its like he just saw it as a recreational activity.

      Our government isn’t harsh enough and some of our laws just seem to accomodate the violation of so many basic human rights on so many levels and this seriously needs to change.

      We shouldn’t have to live our lives trying to bypass that gnawing sense of constant fear every day.
      Every South African woman feels it.
      Victim of rape or not.

      And we shouldn’t roll over and take it.
      We need to show our anger.
      Demand changes.

    47. Alfred Makomoto Alfred Makomoto 10 December 2009

      Charlene,your a great suvivor,powerful beyond measure and i wish you health throughout your life,mama.Please share this story to educate those that have become victims to this unscrupulou,selfish men and show other men that what they are doing is so wrong and it hurts women.As for these private clinics and the so-called surgeons i wish they could put lives beyond this rhetoric economic terms.Thank you Charlene,keep spreading this massege to the rest.

    48. jani allan jani allan 6 August 2013

      Charlene your heroism is extraordinary. I pray that in time this wound will heal.
      Thank you for writing this….only through this kind of writing will the world finally take notice…the notion that South Africa is a free democracy is a nonsense.

    49. Willie Pietersen Willie Pietersen 24 October 2014

      A real eye-opener, I feel for you

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