July 16 1997 is a date etched in the memory of Nombeko Mpongo.It is a day she remembers because it changed the course of her life forever.At the age of Twenty-four, she was gang-raped by a group of men in NY5, in Gugulethu, while on her way to work from KTC, where she stayed, to Heideveld train station.As the women of the nation celebrated Women’s Day yesterday (Wednesday), Nombeko is alway reminded that the day falls exactly seven days shy to the day she was violated and stripped of her dignity.After her ordeal, she was diagnosed as HIV+, and her world fell apart. “These men came out of nowhere and raped me and they stabbed someone who tried to help me,” she recalled during an interview. She never got to know the man who risked his life to save hers, and her assailants were never brought to justice. Her ordeal also affected members of her family, not least her mother who passed away in 2003, still a broken woman.“It was difficult to talk about the ordeal at first. But I learnt the lesson that there is life after HIV. My mother died in 2003 worrying of my ill health ... She worried a lot about me,” Nombeko said.She concedes that she spent the first nine after her rape angry and cursing the day the rape happened. She is adamant though that today, she is a “better person.”.Her mainstay is the support she gets from other activists who are in the same space as her, and others with little or no support, but trundle on nevertheless.