Rape survivor collapses

2012-11-17 00:00

SATISFACTION over a life sentence handed to the rapist of an 82-year-old woman turned bittersweet when the woman collapsed at court yesterday.

“Gogo”, whose frailness was strongly emphasised by acting high court Judge Igna Stretch when she sentenced Avelo Tuswa (25) for the crime, was no longer in court when sentence was passed.

Instead, she lay gasping for breath, her eyes closed and her fragile body trembling uncontrollably, on a bench in the foyer waiting for an ambulance.

When paramedics did not arrive quickly enough, her family bundled her into a private bakkie and drove her to a nearby clinic.

Court preparation officer Princess Khumalo, who has comforted the woman throughout the proceedings, said she believed anger and extreme distress had caused the woman to collapse.

“She kept muttering ‘What have I done to deserve this?’ just before she had this attack,” she said.

The woman’s niece said later her aunt was in hospital, being treated for high blood pressure.

Earlier, she expressed gratitude that her aunt’s assailant was handed a life term, and thanked the community for their support, and everyone involved for bringing Tuswa to justice.

Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi said in a statement: “Our province is under siege from atrocious acts perpetrated against elderly people. Heavy sentences such as this one send a clear message that the law is there to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

The MEC also praised the police involved in the matter for “excellent work”.

Imposing sentence on Tuswa, acting Judge Stretch said a simple calculation revealed that the woman he raped was old enough to be his great, great-grandmother.

The judge found Tuswa’s most likely motivation for the rape was desire for power, control and destruction, rather than sexual arousal as he claimed in his written plea.

“I say again, our children and our elderly people are vulnerable members of society. They are soft targets and they demand and deserve our equal protection,” she said.

The judge said she felt “no unease” about imposing the minimum life sentence on Tuswa for the rape, which she ruled involved the infliction of grievous bodily harm.

Evidence led showed the woman still suffers pain and medical problems caused by her physical injuries.

Her niece said the gogo is too afraid to enter her home, where the rape happened, and can only sleep if she is in physical contact with someone else and can call out to them. She has lost all her independence, self respect and confidence, and is no longer able to give advice to members of the community as she used to before the attack.

Before the rape, she was a “proud woman” who, after the death of her husband, did not have a known relationship with a man for 40 years.

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