Census woman’s rape horror

2012-05-19 15:43

Stats SA field worker taken hostage says she got no support

Census 2011 was supposed to signal a new start for an East London woman.

She had been through a bitter divorce, and she thought working as an enumerator would give her a chance to earn some money and regain her independence.

But just days into the census, on October 14 last year, she knocked on the door of a Quigney home in East London and walked into a nightmare.

The 32-year-old, who asked to remain anonymous, was taken hostage for three hours, raped and indecently assaulted by three men.

The house was notorious among Quigney residents: young girls were allegedly working as prostitutes from the Moore Street property.

Six months have passed since the incident.

She openly admits that she is suicidal.

She was so badly injured in the attack that she had to undergo an emergency hysterectomy three weeks ago.

The case against her alleged assailants was withdrawn in court.

And, she insists, her bosses at Statistics SA gave her no support.

“I feel the same pain every time I think about it. What they did to me I don’t wish on anyone,” she told City Press during an interview at her home.

She wept softly, curling up on her couch in the foetal position and covering her face with a blanket as she told her story.

Sometimes she stopped entirely, staring off into space.

“They even tried to inject me. Maybe it would have been better, but I thank God someone came to their door and I was able to escape.”

The woman did not immediately report the rape to her supervisors at Statistics SA.

She returned to the area office after her ordeal, but “they sat me down in the same hall where everyone else was, and I was just too ashamed”.

Instead, she reported an attempted rape.

Police officers arrived and took her statement “in front of many people” at the Stats SA office, just down the road from the Moore Road house.

“...And then I was given a cup of coffee and taxi fare to go home. Stats SA said the cars had no petrol.”

Three weeks later, during a tearful phone conversation with a Statistics SA official from Pretoria, she revealed the full extent of her ordeal.

She also told the investigating officers in her case, but the charge sheet was never amended.

“Worst of all, they (her alleged attackers) are now free and no one told me.

“Everyone I thought would help has failed me. I don’t have faith any more. Someone (from Statistics SA) came from Pretoria after I told them about the rape, and we went to the police. But nothing more happened, Stats SA just said I should keep quiet about this,” she said.

Statistics SA spokesman Trevor Oosterwyk said it was “regrettable” that there had been a “few incidents” that “marred” Census 2011.

“It is regretted that a field worker had to experience such an ordeal in the service of collecting statistics,” he said.

Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mtati Tana said the charges were withdrawn after the complainant could not be found.

“Apparently she had changed addresses and couldn’t be reached. She can come in and have the case reinstated if she wants to,” Tana said.

The rape survivor said she had spoken to a counsellor from Statistics SA once over the phone, and the woman had promised to organise therapy in East London.

“They later said they couldn’t because I’m not a permanent employee,” she said.

But Oosterwyk said she had received support.

The woman worked as an enumerator during the country’s more recent census and saw Census 2011 as an opportunity to get back into the job market after a bitter divorce.

During the previous census women worked in pairs, she said.

She has become a recluse since the attack. Sometimes she locks herself in the house for days at a time and doesn’t eat.

“I have no income or any real desire to go out there and do anything. I just don’t trust people any more,” she said.

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