‘There is life after rape’

2008-08-08 00:00

Opening the first Powar centre on March 2, 2009 — the first anniversary of the horrific rape that changed her life — will be “an extra little ha-ha” for plucky survivor and activist Jessica Foord.

“My message to women on Women’s Day is that there is life after rape. They have not taken your personality, your mind, your soul, only your body. Don’t be a victim, be a survivor,” she said.

She added that the creation of Protect Our Women Against Rape (Powar) will be just one of many victories that she would like the men who were jailed for raping her to see.

Foord was gang raped while her father was tied to a tree and forced to watch. The two had been walking their dogs near a dam in Hillcrest.

Not one to disappear behind a mask of anonymity, Foord used her traumatic experience to speak out against rape and for others who have had similar experiences but were too afraid to report them.

As a result, she has emerged as something of a role model and garnered more and more support as she continues to take a stand.

The launch of Powar last month was the logical next step.

“The project is still new. It is in its baby stages,” Foord said.

In its first month, Powar has raised R20 000 through the sale of wrist bands, key rings, phone stickers and bumper stickers. All feature the flower logo that Foord plans to make synonymous with the organisation.

Foord’s vision is to create a crisis centre that will help alleviate a great deal of the trauma and discomfort that she had to endure.

Although the incident happened at around 2.30 in the afternoon, she only returned home after 11.30 that night after running the gauntlet of district surgeons, police stations and hospitals.

“People weren’t comforting. To them, it was just a job. I felt like I’d dragged some of them away from their Sunday lunch,” she said.

Her vision is to create a Powar rape centre to help victims for the first 24 to 48 hours. Central to this is allowing the survivor to visit the district surgeon, provide a statement, be prescribed ARVs and medication and receive counselling under a single roof.

These are the bigger issues. Foord says her centre will not neglect the smaller ones that only someone who has experienced this trauma would think of.

“For example, I didn’t want to get back into the clothes I was wearing or to shower in my own bathroom. That meant that every time I got into the shower, I would think of what had happened.”

The answer would be a clean bathroom with bubble bath and soap, clean underwear, pajamas or comfortable clothes. This would be the first step towards feeling clean and whole again.

Foord said that she cannot remember the first two weeks after her ordeal and that this was a particularly difficult time for her family and close friends.

As a result, she also plans to hold “AA meetings for rape survivors” that will enable all involved to meet, enjoy the support of friends in similar circumstances and exchange ideas.

“For me, the big thing was that they caught them within two days. A lot of girls don’t have that.

They live in fear that the same guys will come back to get them,” she said, adding that the reason many victims do not speak out is that the perpetrators are close friends or family. This is why she would like to include three or four rooms for those who cannot go home and need a haven before being transferred to a place of safety.

She said that while it will take some time to curb the incidence of rape in this country, handling the aftermath constructively and providing as much support as possible is a way to go forwards.

“It’s a battle we have to fight, but it is not an easy one,” she said.

Foord can be contacted via her organisation’s website, www.powar.co.za, which will be officially launched on September 1.

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