RAPED by her neighbour at the age of 18, Princess Shezi (not her real name) was ostracised by her own mother.In January 1998, while she was awaiting her matric results and with her mother on night shift, her attacker came to her house on the pretext of wanting to borrow something.With the recent conclusion of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign, she urged abuse victims to report their cases.After her mother rejected her because she did not believe Shezi had been raped, the young woman desperately sought help. She went to a clinic but was also met with disdain, mockery and was also labelled a liar by nurses.She left without receiving help.“As a result of the rape, I fell pregnant, but fortunately I did not get HIV,” she said.“I was in denial about the rape for months until the day I discovered I was pregnant. I was in the first year of university so I went to the campus doctor for the tests.”As the reality about her traumatic day started to unfold, scenes of the rape gradually began to replay in her mind.“The doctor’s confirmation triggered the realisation that it really happened — I was raped. Suddenly I remembered everything that happened that day,” she said.Shezi remembers walking down the streets of Durban, not caring about anything. “I was very suicidal that day, wishing a car could just hit me and I would die.“A few weeks down the line I landed in the hospital labour ward and delivered a child,” she recounted.Life became even tougher for the teen mother who was clueless about how to raise a child.“Unfortunately my mother kicked me out and she did not believe my story. In fact, she was not even interested in what had happened.“I think her assumption was that because I was a teenager I just had sex and fell pregnant. But my grandmother rescued me and the baby. I also managed to go back to my studies,” she said.Due to the prolonged denial, Shezi did not open a case against her perpetrator.“I lived with it for a long time without telling anyone. I did not see the point of opening a case thereafter. It also took me some time to tell my grandmother about it.“I realised it was eating me within and I needed help. I was not coping at all, my self-esteem dropped significantly,” said Shezi.Years later, LifeLine came to her rescue.“I have got access to counselling and was even brave enough to do the HIV tests. I also underwent a personal growth course there.”PIETERMARITZBURG Life Line gender-based violence manager Lungile Makhonza said the number of young women being abused is increasing drastically, with most regional cases taking place in Pietermaritzburg.She said PMB Life Line’s annual statistics, released in July, reveal that in the past year - from March 2015 to February 2016 - 3 293 cases of rape have been reported in the Pietermaritzburg, Msinga and Mzimkhulu areas.“These are just the reported cases. Not everyone reports rape or abuse because of the stigma attached to it.“These statistics increase every year and this could be because more people are more educated about the services available to them or it could be because more incidents are happening,” said Makhonza.She added that of the 3 293 cases, 60% are from Pietermaritzburg alone and 65% of all these cases are reported by women under the age of 18.“There were 1 023 cases of domestic violence reported, with 60% of them being reported in Pietermaritzburg, mostly people ranging between 20 and 30 years old.”Makhonza said Life Line works close with the police and the Department of Health to help prevent gender-based violence and to assist victims of abuse.She added that if a person has been raped or physically abused, they should report the matter to the closest police station, clinic or Life Line branch within 72 hours.“Reporting the incident can help you health-wise and also help you legally as police need to collect evidence from your body that can be used to support your case in court,” she said.For more information or to seek help you can visit www.lifelinepmb.co.za or call 033 342 4447.