South Africa has one of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world - between April 2004 and March 2005, 55,114 cases of rape were reported to the police. The number of actual cases was likely much higher, considering that only an estimated one in nine women report cases of sexual assault, according to the Medical Research Council (MRC).
"My name is Phindile Madonsela. I'm 35 years old. When I was 17 years [old], I got raped by a person I knew. I wasn't that close to him, but [he was like] a brother [to me] - I didn't think he could do such a thing. The rape happened at his place. He pointed at me with a knife and he said to me, that if I scream, he'll stab me. Then I just kept quiet.
When I arrived home and they [household members] asked me where I [had been], I couldn't say anything because he threatened to kill me if I say anything, so I didn't tell anyone. I just keep it as a secret because I was afraid to die.
What pains me a lot is that back then I couldn't take it as a serious issue because I didn't know anything, I didn't know about my rights. Sometimes I wish it happened now, because now I know that I can open a case, but then I didn't know what to do.
Even now, the person who raped me - I see him, and every time when I see him he will say something about the rape. For me, it's like he enjoyed what he did and he doesn't feel sorry. Every time he sees me, he will say to me, "Let's start where we ended."
When I'm talking about it I'm healing, but at the same time I feel angry and sometimes I blame myself - why I didn't do anything then [after the rape]? Sometimes I feel like opening a rape case, but [there's] no evidence now. And I say, 'no', let this pass and forget about it, but I can't forget really.
I disclose my rape at schools when I do HIV and AIDS education. I tell them they must report rape; they mustn't be like me and just keep quiet. And now it's bad because there's this thing of HIV and AIDS, so if they report it at least they can get PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis).
Sometimes when I look at my kids, I just feel like maybe one day they will be raped also, because I was in grade 4 when my cousin attempted to rape me but he failed because I screamed. So for me, rape starts at home most of the time.
My oldest daughter is 16. I never told her about the rape but I do talk with her a lot. Sometimes it's difficult to talk with your own child, but I'm trying.
I just feel like I didn't enjoy my teenage stage [because of the rape]. I wanted to get married before I slept with a man. It was my first time and I didn't enjoy it, I just felt pain. I tried to live a normal life but sometimes I don't enjoy sex at all, even now. I'm strong, but when it comes [the memory], really, it hurts me a lot. And I do feel that I need counselling, but where to go?
I'm trying to deal with this thing, that is why I decided to go to Mount Kilimanjaro [in Kenya]. We were in a support group and the facilitator was asking us our dreams - what is it that you want to do in life? Then I said, if I can climb Mount Kilimanjaro, I can feel that I've done something.
I think it will be a healing process, climbing that mountain. I'm telling myself that I will leave everything that is bad there, come back and start a new life. If I manage to survive rape and being HIV positive, then what can stop me climbing that mountain?"
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions
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