I was molested and I want you to know about it. This is why

PHOTO: Getty
PHOTO: Getty

After two years of remaining silent, I am finally ready to tell my story and I hope it will raise awareness of the scourge of sexual harassment and help girls and women like me recognise the tell-tale signs and know it’s all right to speak up and ask for help.

I live in Dordrecht, a small town in the Eastern Cape, and the man I will be telling you about is a well-known “upper-class” farmer from the district. He and his wife had always been close family friends of ours and no-one would ever have suspected him of being a predator.

He seemed harmless; I guess they always do. He and his wife never failed to shower us with birthday and Christmas presents and they were very good to us – but instead of leaving me with feelings of warmth and gratitude, he left me damaged and scarred for life.

About four years ago, my parents divorced. We moved to my Oupa’s farm, not far from where my dad was living, and everything seemed peaceful. Well, except for the war between my parents that tore the family apart. Because of unrest in the area, we moved to town after a while – and that is when my nightmare began.

The farmer often came to visit without his wife. It all started with a pat on the backside or an abnormally long hug. After a few visits he asked if he could speak to me outside, so we went to sit on the old church bench on the patio.

He held me the entire time he spoke to me, then his hand went down my back and he held my backside. I felt uncomfortable and guilty but because he’d done so much for us in the past, I kept quiet.

After he left my mother complained he had touched her bottom and I expressed my concerns. She decided to do nothing about it: she and his wife were best friends and she was afraid if she spoke up she would jeopardise the friendship.

In my Matric year in 2015, I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in Bloemfontein and diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorder. I was only 18 and I wasn’t in a good way. One day a nurse called me and said I had a visitor.

I was allowed only three cigarettes a day, so I packets and I had one hidden in my underwear as I walked to the office to see who had come to see me. Lo and behold, he was standing there.

He asked if we could sit in the garden and the nurses gave their permission. The garden was practically deserted. I sat on a bench, he sat down right next to me.

He held me again, but this time he slid his hand into my panties and held my bottom. He glided his hand over to where my cigarettes were hidden and asked what that was.

I told him but he didn’t take his hand away and I was too scared to tell him to stop – scared that no one would help me or that my mother would find out. He slid his hand up my back to where my bra strap was and I felt squeamish. I started praying he would just go away.

Next, he told me that he thought he was the reason for my parent’s divorce. I was stunned. Months went by and still, I kept quiet.

A year later I was readmitted to the psychiatric hospital and reconciled with my dad. My doctors, my father and I thought it would be best if I discontinued my studies.

My dad created a safe haven for me and I felt comfortable enough to share with him, a year later, what that man had done to me. My dad was angry, but his hands were chopped off because he was such an untouchable man.

So, here I am, ready to speak out and make girls and women aware of signs that lead to sexual abuse and/or harassment. I don’t want anyone to feel as guilty and scared as I did. I want to empower others to stand up for themselves and say NO. To not be afraid to speak out.

Every predator starts off subtly. Don’t be fooled. If warning bells ring, don’t ignore them.

This story was submitted to YOU by one of our readers and has been minimally edited. Do you have an incredible story or heart-breaking obstacle you were forced to overcome, to tell? E-mail Pam.magwaza@you.co.za

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