Rape survivor: ‘I felt totally dead inside’

2019-03-18 10:07
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 “It was two hours of my life but it took me almost three years after I was raped to start feeling normal again. Now I live all my days to the fullest.”

These are the words of a Scottsville woman who was robbed, raped and subjected to repeated sexual assaults in her home by a young assailant wielding a carving knife in 2008.

Her rapist, Sanele Shezi (20) was arrested within 24 hours of the incident and in September 2009 he was sentenced to 35 years in prison with a chance of parole only after he has served 20 years in jail.

With the 11-year-anniversary of her traumatic ordeal around the corner, the now 60-year-old woman, who asked not to be named, said her life changed dramatically after the incident and she’d learned to focus on the positives in life.

“It happened on a Friday night and the reality only really set in the next day,” said the woman.

“On Saturday, after I was raped, I heard there was another incident in town on Friday where a young woman was gang-raped, wrapped in a blanket and stabbed multiple times.

“I realised I am still alive, that things could have been worse for me, and I focused on that right from the beginning in trying to move forward in my life.”

The woman said one of the strangest things for her was the discovery that she and Shezi shared the same birthday.

“One of the things that helped me with healing was that he was caught within 24 hours. It made a collosal difference to know he was in police custody.

“One of the first things I learned was that you have to learn to accept help when it is offered and friends are there to help.

“There are no obligations or keeping scores, they help because they want to.”

She said for the first three years after the incident, she’d felt “emotionless”.

“I felt totally dead inside. Then one day, I went to visit a friend with a small child. The little girl ran up to me and gave me a hug and I immediately felt a shift. I thought, ‘I feel alive again’, maybe things can start feeling normal again”.

The woman said her company paid for her counselling sessions and although this helped with the healing process, people should realise that just going for counselling is not enough. “You have to work on yourself,” she said.

To help her deal with her trauma she makes “lists” of positives in her life and compares that to what her rapist cannot do.  “I have a list of all the things I have — a job, a roof over my head, the ability to celebrate my birthday with friends.

“I have also made a list of all the things he cannot do. Through his own choices, he is in prison, he will not have a family, he cannot go out with his friends and he is in prison for his birthday every year. He will never have a normal life.”

She said nothing will change what happened to her but “you can change how you deal with it”.

“Do not let it hold you back.”

The woman added that she has also learned that she does not have to forgive her attacker to move on. “In 10 years, he will be eligible for parole and I will be at his parole hearing to make sure he does not leave that building,” she said.

She said while everyone is different and deals with trauma differently, she would encourage rape survivors to develop new hobbies and interests.

In her own case she realised she has passion for wildlife and is especially fond of porcupines. “On April 4 this year, I will celebrate 11 years of survival. One never knows what the future holds and be positive where you can.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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