Hillcrest unites for survivor

2008-03-10 00:00

THE support of the community for gang-rape survivor Jessica Foord (21) of Hillcrest has been described as phenomenal by her mother, Jacqui Foord.

Foord told The Witness yesterday if Jessica’s experience has helped people to unite and stand up and fight against crime, it had a purpose.

Jessica Foord and her family bravely publicised the traumatic experience she and her father, Tim, went through a week ago, stressing that she refuses to be regarded as a victim, but prefers to be seen as a survivor of rape.

Jessica was gang-raped by five men in a ditch, while her father was tied to a tree. Father and daughter had been on a fishing expedition with their dogs at Shongweni Dam when the assailants struck — first robbing them at gunpoint, and then raping the young woman.

The arrest and subsequent court appearance of five suspects last week resulted in a mass anti-crime protest by irate members of the community.

Crisis Centre worker Joey du Plessis, to whom the Foord family expressed immense gratitude, described Foord as a “very brave young woman”.

Jacqui Foord said Du Plessis was a “pillar of strength” in her daughter’s hour of need and said the family did not know what they would have done without her and her fellow crisis counsellors.

“Joey was fantastic. She stayed with Jessica, advised her, comforted her and gave her encouragement … ”

Du Plessis’s modest response was that she was just doing her job. The Foord family are all undergoing counselling to deal with the shattering effect the gang-rape has had on them all.

Jacqui Foord said the family is grateful to the public, who have sent messages of love and support.

“My lounge and dining room resembles a florist shop … My fridge is bursting at the seams … we want to let the people know that we are very grateful … ”

Foord confirmed reports that Jessica had felt a sense of secondary trauma at the manner in which she’d been examined by a district surgeon, whose job it is to examine rape survivors for DNA samples for court proceedings. She added that her daughter had been extremely traumatised and had needed “gentler handling”.

Rape survivors undergo examination by district surgeons, who are trained to link perpetrators by their DNA or other evidence, which is crucial to secure convictions in courts.

Health Department spokesman Leon Mbanjwa confirmed that the eThekwini district manager for health services has been instructed to investigate and report back.

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