By Faeza
22 July 2016

ACCORDING to the South African Police Services, if all rape cases in the

country were reported, the number of women raped every year would officially be as high as 563 000. Rape victims under the age of 18 make up 44 percent of the survivors. Olwethu Mhlwana became a victim of rape when she

was 17-years-old. The 22-year-old woman, from Klerksdorp in North West, was

raped by her neighbour when she was in grade 11. The rape took

place at the neighbour’s home, and changed her life in ways that led her to prostitution and drugs. Olwethu Mhlwana was raped by a trusted family friend. She tells Athabile Mrasi about the devastating effect the ordeal had on her life


“I remember it like it was yesterday. It happened on a Saturday morning. My mother came home and told me that my neighbour was asking for my assistance with baking.

I agreed to help because he is the husband of my mom's friend. He was also a close family friend so I trusted him. I was even excited to help as I love baking," she says. “When I got there, he took me the kitchen and told me that he will wait for me in the dining room.

I went to the kitchen and while I was busy, he locked the door but I didn’t pay close attention to that. When I was almost done, he came closer to me. When I asked what he

was doing, he told me he wanted to kiss me. I wanted to go home but the doors were locked,” she recalls, adding that confusion and anxiety took over when he grabbed her hand and pushed her to the couch. “I was scared, shaking and confused at the same time. He held my neck tight against the couch and opened the zip of his trousers with his free hand. He pushed my underwear aside and raped me," Olwethu tells Move! The young woman, who had to drop out of school, says the man took her virginity, her innocence and her sense of belonging.


“The Monday morning after he raped me, I was supposed to go to school but I decided to pack my clothes and flee to Johannesburg," she explains. "I felt lost, afraid and hopeless, and didn't want to stay at home and live with the memory of the day he raped

me." She continues, "I didn’t have any money so I hitchhiked to Johannesburg. An old man offered me a lift. He asked me where I was going and how much I would pay

him if he gave me a lift. Because I had no money, he said I should give him a blow job. I didn’t have a choice or anything to lose. I was no longer innocent so I did it," she says with her voice breaking. Her parents searched for her until they found out that she was

in Johannesburg and asked her to come back home. After three weeks,

she felt she was ready to tell her

parents why she ran away and went

back home.


Most rapists who know their victims usually scare them into silence by telling them that no one will believe they were raped. The reality is that by law, police officers must take your statement and give you a case number. Likewise, a clinic can't refuse to

examine you. Like many victims, Olwethu believed her rapist's threats. “I couldn’t tell anyone at home because he told me that no one would believe me. I got back home after three weeks and told my story. My parents supported me and took me to the doctor. That's when I was told that I could never have children," she says. “We opened a case but he was

never found guilty. I was devastated and I wanted to go away from home so I could start my life over," she says, adding, "Because I also wanted to pursue a career in music, I went back to Johannesburg in 2011".


Life did not turn out to be easy for Olwethu in Johannesburg, and she had to turn to stripping and prostitution for survival. “I did not have money. My friend helped me find a job in a strip club. Since I loved dancing, I took that opportunity with both hands and

started stripping in May 2011. I was a good stripper but the money was not enough.

I then became a prostitute. Actually my friend introduced me to it.” Because Olwethu was new to prostitution, she became nervous but she says drugs helped to calm

her nerves. “I was afraid to just let someone touch me out of my own will because

the first time a man touched me was forcefully. I needed to be good because I needed the money, so I started taking drugs. One of my clients hooked me up with drugs, but

Olwethu was raped by a neighbour. After running away from home and becoming a prostitute, she turned her life around luckily I did not become addicted to them,” she says. Although she made a lot of money as a prostitute, she quit when she met a man who wanted more than sex from her. He changed the way she viewed men. But her life

changed again in 2013 when she fell sick.


“I went home after I got sick and find out that I was seven months pregnant. I was happy because doctors had told me I would never have children after I was raped," she says. She gave birth in 2014. “I knew I had to change my lifestyle because I didn't want my daughter to live that life. I went back to singing and I'm now working on my single."