‘They jeered at me’ — rape victim ‘Shocking indictment of society’

2017-02-15 06:01

INSTEAD of helping a rape victim, who was fleeing from her assailant half-naked, some members of the community had laughed and “poked fun” at her and even took photographs of her with their cellphone.

This shocking revelation emerged in a regional court case in Pietermaritzburg, which resulted recently in the rapist, Thokozani Zuma (32), being sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment.

The incident occurred in the CBD in September 2013 after the woman came to town looking for work.

At a tavern she was robbed of her bag and her rapist came to her aid. However, he then demanded that she “pay him” for his services and he raped her in an empty house. She managed to get free and fled but had to leave some of her clothes behind.

The court heard that as a result of the behaviour of the community the traumatised woman (a mother) ran into a block of flats and flung herself off a third-floor balcony in an attempt to kill herself.

She was fortunate to survive without serious physical injuries. However, in a victim-impact statement the woman reveals she has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is receiving psychiatric treatment.

Addressing the regional magistrate with regards to sentencing, defence advocate Jan du Plessis expressed his shock at the behaviour of the community and said the community had let the victim down and had traumatised her “almost as much” as her rapist did. He said her distress had been evident when she gave evidence in the case and broke down on various occasions.

In a victim impact statement handed to court, the woman says she has been diagnosed with PTSD and is being treated by a psychologist and psychiatrist.

“I could not control my anger. It was like I was losing my mind. I would get sick often. I could not sleep at night. I had nightmares. I would forget a lot and not be able to think properly. I would feel as if someone is following me.

“I was afraid most of the time and always angry at myself. I felt like I could have done something,” she said.

The woman also said she no longer felt close to her family and friends after the incident.

However, after seeing a social worker and psychologist she “became better” and was able to talk to her family.

A LOCAL academic deemed the incident a “shocking indictment on our society”.

Dr Lubna Nadvi - a UKZN social movements and civil society academic - said the kind of human behaviour that saw people mock and photograph the woman in her distress instead of helping her was “totally unacceptable”.

Nadvi is also a member of the KZN Advice Desk for the Abused.

She said people may have been reluctant to assist the victim as they may not have wanted to put themselves in danger “but to add to her agony is shocking”.

“The 21st Century society has lost all moral integrity,” she said.

As an activist for human rights and abused women, Nadvi condemned the community’s behaviour “in the strongest terms”.

“To use a cellphone camera to humiliate someone is unacceptable and we need to seriously think about the laws that surround it,” she said.

Nadvi said the humiliation after the rape “almost minimised” the seriousness of the crime.

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