"We thought we would never get the justice we wanted."
These were the words of a relieved survivor of sexual assault and abuse by convicted former Parktown Boys' High School water polo assistant coach.
The 17-year-old said he was happy with the sentence handed down on Collan Rex, adding that he wasn't expecting it.
Rex was sentenced to 20 years in prison for sexual assault and an additional three years for common assault.
"We weren't expecting much to happen, especially with everything that has been going on, how it (the trial) has always been postponed. We thought we would never get the justice that we wanted," he said.
He described the trial process as very "stressful" for him. He said at some point he started to question whether all the fighting was worth it.
Victims urged to speak out
"There have been days where I didn't know if it was worth it, but in the end it turned out that it has been worth it, and I'm quite glad that I didn't give up and I just stuck it through," he said.
The teenager has since left Parktown Boys' and said he was adapting to life at his new school and was feeling happier.
He advised other teens who were victims of sexual assault not to shy away from speaking out.
"Silence doesn't get you anywhere," he said.
He said if people didn't speak out they would be giving perpetrators more power over them.
"The only way to fight this and to make sure you get the closure you need is to speak out. It may be difficult and may not always be what you want to happen but in the end it is the best for you and for the people around you," he said.
Time for healing
Another survivor said he did not expect such a long sentence but he was also relieved that Rex was being punished for what he had done to them.
"It's been very difficult for me and my family. We have been through so much in the past few years and the case has really changed our lives, but now it's over. It is now time to start the healing process and it needs to start now," he said.
He said although it was difficult for him to speak out in the beginning now that it was done, he was relieved.
Rex was found guilty of 144 counts of sexual assault and 12 of common assault earlier this year for assaulting schoolboys aged between 13 and 16 between 2015 and 2016.
He initially faced 327 counts, but pleaded guilty to the 144 counts of sexual assault in August. The court also acquitted him on some charges.
A witness, a 17-year-old pupil, had told the court previously through a court intermediary how sometime in 2016 the accused had "dry humped" him and touched his genitals. He added that he had also been choked by the ex-coach.
Department welcomes ruling
A report commissioned by the Gauteng department of education into allegations of sexual assault at the school blew the lid off a number of disturbing practices which implicated several other teachers.
These included "sexually predatory behaviour" by senior pupils against junior pupils, a culture of assault and sexual assault under the guise of "initiation practices", and "profoundly shocking" utterances made by teachers in the presence of pupils.
MEC Panyaza Lesufi welcomed the court's ruling.
"We wish to thank the entire school population including learners, educators, parents and all officials for an excellent job of providing a watertight case in ensuring that justice prevailed."
He also thanked the police and the prosecution team for their efforts in the matter and acknowledged the Teddy Bear Clinic and other mental health workers and health professionals who had worked on the case, which he described as "complex and emotionally straining".
"We are indeed indebted to you."
Lesufi said the ruling, in this case, should serve as a deterrent to the sexual assault of pupils at schools.