'How my daughter’s rape led me to drugs – and the wake-up call that made me recover'

2019-05-24 14:09
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Warning: This article includes topics that may trigger rape survivors

Recovering drug addict, Nhlanhla Maluleka, says seeing her teenage daughter in a coma after attempting to commit suicide was her wake-up call.

The 33-year-old from Duduza in Ekurhuleni says for more than 10 years, she lived to feed her drug addiction and not even her three children mattered at the time.

Growing up

Nhlanhla explains that she had a rough childhood.

"I grew up staying in my grandmother’s house, which was overcrowded because we lived with my aunts and their children. My mother worked at a hotel far away from home and only came home when she felt like it. She never really cared about me and my siblings. She preferred to spend most of her off days with her boyfriend. As a result, I was abused both emotionally and physically by my aunts and uncles," she recalls.

Being abused

Nhlanhla says when she was nine, an aunt married and her husband moved into her grandmother’s already crowded house.

She says the new uncle was always extra nice to her and would buy her sweets and give her money.

"One day he asked me to accompany him to the bus stop because he had asked someone to buy groceries for him and he wanted me to help him to carry the grocery bags. When we got to the bus stop, he told me that we needed to take a taxi to a neighbouring township.

"He then took me to a house I wasn’t familiar with and promised me that everything was okay. When we were inside the house, he started touching me in a way that made me feel very uncomfortable. Before I knew it, he was rubbing his manhood against my small thighs until he relieved himself," says Nhlanhla.

He threatened her and told her to never tell anybody about what had happened. They went back home, but the abuse didn’t end there.

"Every time my aunt was away from home, he would ask me to bring him something in his bedroom and continue with his evil deeds. I knew what he was doing was wrong but I was scared to speak out. I knew no one would believe me because my family loved him because he was the breadwinner," she says.

Speaking out

"The abuse went on until I was 14 years old and could no longer take it. I shared my story with a friend who encouraged me to tell someone I trusted. I told one of my younger aunts, whom I was close to. She believed me and took me to the police station. We opened a case against my uncle. He was arrested and sentenced within a few months.

"I was relieved to be free from the monster who stole my innocence and tormented me for years. I was no longer my uncle’s victim," says Nhlanhla.

She says her joy of being a normal teenager again was short-lived because her uncle was released after spending a year in prison. He moved back into Nhlanhla’s grandmother’s house.

"I was scared of him and I pleaded to move in with my mother who was staying elsewhere. She agreed but my uncle somehow found a way to have access to me. He would tell my mother that he bought some groceries for us and that I should come and collect them.

"I told my mother about the abuse but she didn’t want to hear anything about it. Instead of helping me, she and other relatives called me names. I was so heartbroken that when I was 18, I attempted to commit suicide three times but failed. I fell pregnant the same year. My uncle didn’t like the father of my child and threatened to kill him if we continued dating.

"I was forced to drop out of school in Grade 11 so that I could take care of my child. I was forced to grow up fast and be able to support my daughter," she explains.

The cycle repeats

Nhlanhla says she later got a job.

One day at work, she received a call saying that a neighbour was caught raping her three-year-old daughter. “I was shattered when the nurses confirmed that my daughter was indeed ... I knew the pain of being raped and not having a voice to speak out. This was my breaking point. I could no longer pretend to be strong. I felt like I had passed my curse onto my child and that she too would lead a life of pain because I had failed to protect her," she says.

"To numb my pain, a friend suggested that I try smoking dagga. When I was under the influence of drugs, I was able to forget about my problems. Before I knew it, I was hooked. After a few years, I could no longer feel the effect of dagga. The same friend suggested that I try nyaope. I had seen its effect in many young people in my community, but I thought that I would be able to control myself and not be addicted.

"Nyaope was stronger than dagga and its effect lasted longer."

Hiding the addiction

"In the beginning, I hid the addiction from my family. I was able to afford my regular fixes because I was working. Before I knew it, I was addicted and smoked daily. I would spend all my salary on nyaope. I even ended up quitting my job. I started using my children’s social grant money to feed my addiction while they starved. I also gradually started losing weight and turned darker to a point that I could no longer recognise myself in the mirror," she says.

Wake-up call

Nhlanhla says her wake-up call came when her daughter, who is now a teenager, tried to commit suicide two years ago.

 "I found her lying on the couch in the living room with foam coming out of her mouth. She had taken some of my medication. She was in a coma for three days and at that point, I thought I had lost her for good. I prayed so hard to God to spare her life and promised to stop taking drugs and to become a better mother. After she was discharged from hospital, I immediately booked myself into a rehabilitation centre," she says.

"I have been off drugs for two years now and I have dedicated my life to being the best mother I can be. Seeing my children grow daily, taking them to school and protecting them from the harsh realities of life is my number one priority. I volunteer in the community centre as a motivational speaker and a facilitator. I help drug addicts in the area and encourage them to kick the habit."

Read more on:    drugs  |  sexual assault
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