Book review – Rape: an everyday tale

2012-11-24 17:35

I was 18 years old the first time I had to deal with rape.

I lived in a complex and my next-door neighbour was my best friend, like an older sister really.

One night, when her boyfriend dropped her at the front gate, they lingered over their goodbye and that was just enough time for three men to hijack them and take them to the local township.

They gang-raped my friend and forced her boyfriend to listen to her being raped at gunpoint.

My friend disappeared into herself for a long time. I cried for weeks at the loss of her – I couldn’t reach her.

Seven years down the line, we are like sisters again, but we never talk about it.

I was still 18 years old the second time I had to deal with rape.

A group of us from my school all went to the same university and it was during the annual intervarsity sports tournament.

This turned into a huge party, campus was one big jam. I was in one of the dance clubs when a school friend came up to me and said: “I can’t believe it, so-and-so has just been raped.”

I stood on the dance floor for a while, people elbowing past me, giving me rude stares for not getting out of the way.

And then I left the club, walked home in a daze and had the longest shower I can remember ever taking.

Afterwards, I lay on the floor in my towel and sobbed.

Two women I had grown up with, and loved and laughed with, had been violated in ways I could not imagine.

I cried because it was unfair and our innocence was being ripped from us.

I watched that friend destroy herself after she was raped. She lost all sense of self-preservation and actively put herself into dangerous situations because she felt she had lost everything already.

She wanted to die and didn’t care about the people in her life that wanted her to live more than anything in this world.

The justice system failed her – her rapists went free because of one mistake in a document.

Another friend was raped in her residence room at university. The rapist then walked the corridors of our (residence) trying all the doors to see if they were unlocked.

I slept in fear for weeks.

He was given kitchen duty in the dining hall as punishment and my friend left the university because she was breaking inside.

My other friend left the country because she could no longer take the stares and comments from our community.

To this day, she is still referred to as “the girl who was raped”, as if that was the defining element of her life.

People start sentences with “Oh shame, yes, how is the poor dear?” and I want to hit them because she is wonderful, sparkly and fun – anything but a rape victim any more.

I have recently moved to another country and most of my friends are North Americans.

We love how safe it is here.

We can walk home at 2am, drunk and laughing, in a group or alone and nothing will happen.

You will get to your door, into your bed and wake up feeling less than ideal, but you will be safe.

I mentioned how back home in South Africa you just can’t do this, not if you have any sense of self-preservation.

My friends and our parents became afraid of telephone calls that started with crying because for a while it meant that someone had been raped.

I called my mother in distress once and the first thing she asked me was if I had been raped.

She lives in constant fear of this.

Every year since that first time, someone in my life has been raped.

Each time, I become more afraid and less trusting of men.

Each time, I cry less because I am less soft.

I am blood-boiling angry that people I love have been injured on every level of their beings.

I feel helpless and that makes me even angrier.

We live in a constant state of fear in South Africa and it is not normal.

It makes us angry and suspicious; it makes us hard and scared.

It is abnormal and it must change.

»Rose is a dancer and friend. Her story is one of the many gathered by editor Jen Thorpe for her 2010 online writing project http://myfirsttimesa.com, which has been turned into a book


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