Raped, shot but living to tell her story

Sixolile Mbalo’s six closest relatives travelled in a Toyota Tazz all the way from Mpandela in Eastern Cape to Cape Town for her book launch.

The 27-year-old writer’s granny, Gogotha, leaned heavily on a wooden stick at Clarke’s Bookshop, smiling broadly as rush hour on Long Street took its course.

“Yes, I’m feeling better now. It was very painful, very,” said the elderly woman.

Mbalo’s book, Dear Bullet, is a jarring memoir of how she was raped, shot in the head and left for dead in a toilet by a man she knew in October 2001. She was 14.

The novel, a University of the Western Cape multilingual writing project, was co-written with South African authors Sindiwe Magona and Antjie Krog.

“The man who harmed me, the man who raped me, I want him to read this book,” Mbalo said at the launch last week.

“There are women like me who were hurt and killed, who did not live to tell their story. I have the opportunity to tell my story and for this I am so deeply grateful. I want to tell women there is hope. I would like to advise young women out there that being raped should not stop you from becoming what you want to be.”

After the attack, the teenager grew scared of village life and took a taxi to find her mother in Cape Town. She did find her, but her mother died two years later.

“After the incident, I had too many challenges and my soul was sad,” writes Mbalo.

Eventually, she went to Rape Crisis for counselling. The organisation put her in touch with Krog.

Asked whether writing the book had helped her process her pain, Mbalo responded: “It helped a lot. I dug really deep inside to find the story, so it was therapeutic.”

Mbalo gives talks for Rape Crisis and at prison call centres, and plans to study journalism next year.

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