‘A poem for my rapist’

2014-04-11 00:00

A YOUNG girl who was raped, stabbed, almost disembowelled and left for dead has confronted her attacker with a heartbreaking poem offering to forgive — but never to forget.

The 12-year-old girl was attacked at Taylor’s Halt on August 27, 2011, when she was only nine.

This week her poem and letter were handed to Pietermaritzburg Regional Court magistrate Jennifer Anthoo as part of victim impact documents for her to consider in the sentencing of Thembinkosi Mshini Manyoni.

The child’s poem and letter tell of the enduring pain and tragedy of the night on which she was brutalised.

“The bed that was full of red roses is now full of red blood. I dare not look at the mirror, I see a sad girl tears dropping down,” a portion of the poem reads.

“Whatever you get I feel like you deserve every single bit of it, but I have been told to forgive and forget. I think I can forgive but I can never forget,” she wrote.

Manyoni (27) of Taylor’s Halt has been convicted of housebreaking with intent to rape, rape and attempted murder of the child who was attacked while alone at home with a younger relative.

She survived her critical injuries, including a slit throat and a stab wound to the abdomen that exposed her intestines.

The court heard she lay wounded and unable to move for hours until help arrived.

The girl reveals in her letter, which she wrote in English, how hurt she was about losing her virginity and said she now hated her body.

“I had to let it go in a painful way that I never thought I could let it go. When I look at it on the mirror, the scars and everything. I feel like I am dirty from inside to the outside,” the girl, now 12, said.

The girl asks the assailant why he did what he did.

“I have never maybe been rude to you and hardly knew you … Sometimes I just wish to see you and you can tell me why. What did I do to deserve such a life?”

She asked if he had a child the same age as her, whether he would have “been such a monster to her too” or if it would have hurt him.

“Sometimes I feel like you taught me how to hate, hurt and be a monster, but I tell myself I will never be you or like you.”

She said she wished for him to be punished and that the punishment would be the “worst thing of your life until you die”.

Court preparation officer Babongile Dlamini, who supported the victim, said the child chose to write down her feelings in both a letter and a poem.

“She told me … she felt a piece of her life was lost … that people would treat her differently.”

“She told me that when she was with her friends she used to cry when she heard them talking about themselves still being virgins …

“As [she] was talking, I saw tears rolling down her cheeks,” said Dlamini.

“She told me that before the incident she was not sick, she used to dance ballet and Latin dances, like the cha cha. She said she used to be able to stretch her body …

“After the incident [she] told me that she started to get sick a lot and she would miss school for a week at times. [She] said she always feels as if people can see what happened to her. She does not talk about the incident because she did not want people to feel sorry for her.”

Dlamini added that the girl also said that there were people who would “take Mshini’s side”, which hurt her.

“She said that sometimes she would question herself if it was her fault that he raped her. She would ask herself if it was the way she dressed or something.”

The state and defence are to address the court regarding a suitable sentence in the case next week.

Importance of victim impact statements before sentencing

ROELIEN Wiesner, who runs the court preparation programme in KZN, said the most important feature of victim impact statements is that they are written in the victim’s own words.

“It is a way to ensure that victims are part of the criminal justice system. It gives them the opportunity to express their feelings about what has happened to them and can be therapeutic. They come to us as victims but our aim — when the process is complete — is to send them away as survivors,” Wiesner said.

The statements acknowledge the victim’s right to offer information to the court before sentencing so that they feel part of the process. Victims are not asked to advise the court on what sentences to impose, but just to give an insight into the impact the crime had on the victim or their family.

She added that in this case the young girl managed to express her deepest emotions on paper as she might not have been able to do if she had had to testify.

The poem, titled The fear of a dark room, as written by the young girl:

“A beautiful room full of light

When I look at this room it brings

me joy, happiness and my heart beats fast

when I look at it, but then you came into

that room.

You destroyed everything you made it a

dark evil room. The bed that was full of

red roses is now full of red blood.

I dare not look at that mirror I see a sad

girl tears dropping down there is darkness

I can feel some shadow in the dark

a sparkling night gown is not shiny anymore

It’s all in pieces and full of blood

when I look at the bed again I see a body

sleeping, a body without breath, arm without

warmth, mouth without a smile, eyes full of tears

in their sleep I cannot wake it up but the

room is about to fall apart.”

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