Before I begin, I’d like to copy and paste a part of a twitter conversation I had that has me now sitting in front of my laptop, cigarette in hand, writing something I never thought I would ever share.
@Akona1: Maybe I’m just a girl standing in front of the virtual world asking it to help me help the real world…
To which a friend whose opinion I respect implicitly responded:
“We live in times that require strength; you’ll have to tap into what makes you a strong woman and march us forward.”
Twitter’s brilliance is the 140-character limit per tweet (less when you reply / @ someone), however, it is too limiting at times. So I have a little story to tell you. A story I’ve never told so publicly, a story begging to be written because something has to be said and done, a story I hope will make a difference, no matter how small.
It was January 23rd of the year 2000, 6 months after the passing of my beloved mother, I was 15 and in standard 7 of high school. It was a few hours after one of the school’s interhouse swimming galas and some friends and fellow swimmers, cheerleaders and school mates had gathered for a little braai at a friend’s house nearby. There was music, swimming, food, dancing, laughing and drinking. I’d arrived at the house a little later than most of the guests as I had to do some admin at school before leaving and when I arrived the gathering was in full swing with about 40 or so people having a good time in the sun.
The first half an hour or so I spent chatting to some friends, played a little soccer in the medium sized backyard with some of the boys, most especially because I wanted to get the attention of this older boy I had had a crush on. At some point we went and sat down under a tree and chatted – I was cool, calm and cute with my heart fluttering with every word that sang out of his mouth.
After a few minutes, one of his friends joined us and offered me a beer. I’d tasted alcohol before and was not opposed to it, but I was not interested in having the beer he was adamant I should have. With some back on forth regarding my not wanting it, he got up and left with it but then returned with a cider. I took it and drank it and we continued to talk and laugh under the tree. About half way through the drink I wasn’t feeling good at all, dizzy and nauseous, I thought that being out in the sun and the days activities were weighing down on me so I excused myself went inside the house to use the bathroom. It was occupied, as I turned around to try and find another loo the friend, lets call him R, was standing very close to me stroking my arm and told me that there was a bathroom outside by the maids quarter that I could use if I didn’t want to wait. I followed him, letting him guide my faint self and my wobbly legs outside.
At the entrance to the bathroom, the boy I had been crushing on was standing at the door and I thought it was so sweet of him to be there to see if I was alright. R led me inside and suddenly the door shut with a bang and he was in there with me. Slurring my words, I asked that he please give me some privacy and he said he wanted to make sure I’d be okay. I tried to open the unlocked door, but the handle wouldn’t move. I was confused, was it stuck? Was crush boy holding it so that I wouldn’t be able to open. Then a moment is realisation dawned on me. It wasn’t the heat that was getting to me, something was very very wrong.
R turned me around and started kissing my neck and face, my weak arms tried to push him away and with all the saliva I could muster I spat in his face and my dry mouth fought to say the word I knew would stop this madness. No. At first it came out as a whisper and I could not believe my voice was failing me at such a crucial moment. Again, I tried, No. This time the venom I needed carried through and his hands, which were now on my budding breasts, stopped mid grope and I sighed in victory.
The room was spinning, my heart was hammering at my chest and my legs were about to give in when I was jolted into shock, as he had reached under skirt and frantically tugging at my underwear. No wasn’t getting me anywhere. I said it again, I pushed as hard as I could, and my final words were “don’t do this, I’m on my period”. I saw the glint in his eye; he licked his lips and turned me around to face the wall. He ripped off my panties and as I looked down, my bloody tampon was lying there, staring back up at me. Tears rolled down cheeks and joined the blood keeping my tampon company.
R giggled and said he loved when a woman was menstruating and I could feel his penis getting hard against me and all I was thinking was that I was just a girl, and he was about to force me into womanhood. He pushed me to the ground in the corner of the bathroom. There were some planks and nails and broken tiles that hurt my back, and as he mounted me I was ever so grateful for the pain on my back which was helping me not to concentrate on the burning sensation coming from him entering me.
Minutes passed and he got off, got up, zipped his pants, bent down and kissed me on the forehead. I closed my eyes expecting crushboy to enter and have his way with me too, but there was silence. I lay there for a long time.
When I finally opened my eyes it was getting dark. I got up, cleaned myself up in the basin, cleaned the blood of the floor, tied a knot into my panties and put them on. Used some toilet paper as a makeshift pad so as not to soil myself. I left the house and walked home.
Went to school the next day and didn’t say anything to anyone about what had happened. Why? I didn’t want to be a statistic, I didn’t want to give him the power to make me a victim, I didn’t want to feel any more ashamed than I did and I didn’t want anyone’s pity. I wanted to believe that I am stronger.
In my head, I had a long life ahead of me and I was going to live it, without the stigma of being a survivor. It took me years to even say it to myself – I was raped. My innocence was gone. To this day, at 25 years of age, I still struggle to call myself a woman – because of how ‘becoming a woman’ happened. Never even told my boyfriend, years later, that he was in fact not my first.
It is now November of the year 2010, and rape is in the headlines every day, there seems to be more victims than there are not, some as young as a year old. Most recently, a 15-year-old girl was drugged and raped, in front of her school mates, on school property, her rape was recorded on cell phones and spread around her school. First the police refused to arrest the offenders because they did not want to interrupt the boys while writing their exams, then her teachers said she deserved to be raped because she was drunk and now, the National Prosecuting Authority dropped the charges against the rapists because they say there is not enough evidence.
One in nine rapes are reported. When this one, with video evidence and witnesses cannot be prosecuted, what hope do victims who are raped in dirty bathrooms have?
I’m telling this story not because I want your pity, I’m telling you because I need your help to do something about this. I need help to get justice for all the victims, whether we know about them or not. I need to help to change the entitlement of our patriarchal society. I need help to say enough is enough. I said NO.
Let’s march, Let’s Shout, Let’s petition, whatever! Let us please do something.
Follow her on twitter: @Akona1