We got to know her these past few weeks as a meticulous contestant on Survivor SA, a reality series on M-Net. She played the game with intent and determination.
But what many people don’t know is that Nicole Capper, Mrs South Africa 2018, is harbouring an encounter with the dark side of life.
She was sexually abused as a child.
“I was nine years old and the boy was older than me. Much older. I wanted to die that day. I was too young to understand what was happening and I didn’t know what to do. So I did nothing. I hid and pretended that it never happened.
“By doing that I unintentionally continued the cycle of abuse. I thought to myself, it’s not that bad. I should keep quiet. Get over it. Not become an activist.”
Nicole was one of the three finalists of Survivor South Africa: Island of Secrets. She was up against Rob Bentele (29) and Durão Mariano (28) to be crowned the winner and be R1 million richer.
Rob eventually walked away with the title and the money.
Nicole (34) only shared her story of abuse in June this year during a visit to a school in Hamanskraal in Gauteng.
“It was incredibly difficult to talk about the abuse. Other women are being raped and murdered on a daily basis so my incident wasn’t that bad. I just needed to keep quiet.
“But deep inside I also knew that was my excuse for not talking about it. I’ve since realised that with my silence I was condoning the violence. By saying nothing, you’re actually saying a lot. We’re saying that it’s ok. And it’s not ok.
“I don’t know why, but I felt ashamed to talk about it. I felt broken and dirty. But as I addressed these feelings of shame and guilt, I became angry. As I should.”
Nicole believes women shouldn’t struggle with feelings of shame or fear when speaking about their abuse.
“It should be part of the conversation. I’m completely open about it now, even on social media. I want to encourage other women to overcome their fear and stand up for themselves.”
She says ever since she’s been sharing her story, she started to feel empowered, although not in the way she thought she would.
“I thought it would make me feel better and help with the healing process. I thought it would make me whole. But what I didn’t realise is that nothing will ever make me whole again. And nothing should.
“Hearing all these women share their stories is so shocking and it makes me even angrier than before. I hope that many others will rise up in the war against this violence because that’s the only way we’ll ever see a difference.”
She says the #EnoughIsEnough movement echoes what’s been in her heart and mind for a while now.
“When we tell our stories, it’s never about us. It gives other people the freedom to tell their stories as well and it brings about a sense of unity. And that’s what brings about change.”
Yet, Nicole doesn’t see herself as a feminist. Instead, she believes in fighting for equal rights for both men and women.
“I don’t deny the fact that men have certain privileges but I insist that we have a choice in whether we allow ourselves to be dictated by it. During these turbulent times I saw how certain South African men stood up and took responsibility on behalf of their gender.
“These are the people who are committed to creating awareness and have a vision for the future. Some of them even men. Truly strong men.”
She says she knows what it feels like to be in a relationship where she had to play the supporting role to the man sitting on his throne.
“But I’m in a different space in my life now. I’m lucky enough to be sitting on my own throne, in a way where I’m not stealing anyone’s shine – because we’re shining together. The men in my life have uplifted me and they’re of the most important people on my journey.”
Nicole says a few months ago, after her return from Survivor, she became engaged to veterinarian Dr Clinton Austin.
“Of course I said yes. In a heartbeat. A million times yes!”