Many rape survivors silence themselves. They feel such a confusing mixture of shame and guilt about what has happened to them that they struggle to speak about it. They wonder if they could have done anything to prevent it and feel vulnerable at the thought of other people knowing about it. Counselling gives rape survivors a space to find the words that will help them heal.
There is an American televangelist—Pat Robertson—who shares a birthday with me (22 March and I like chocolate, in case you were wondering). But date of birth aside, him and I have precious little in common. He is a rampant homophobe, sexist and racist; justifying his opinions by cowering behind the cross. He has said things to rival Trump but he hit the nail on the head when he said that feminism “encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians”. I can personally attest to the accuracy of Robertson’s supposition. Since identifying as a feminist I have worn my Che Guevara t-shirt publicly, started dating women and have been called—on numerous occasions by numerous men—a feminist bitch (the ‘b’ replaces the ‘w’ in the antifeminist cis-het-man dialect). And I as I have yet to find a husband or breed—as far as the leaving and the killing are concerned I can’t make any promises. The salient point here is that I am a full-blown feminist. And proud of it.
My story begins when I was just four years of age – yes I remember a lot of things since that young age. I was not yet in crèche and the family friend took care of me. A man sexually abused me daily by laying me on the small bed and flipping through a porn magazine. At that age I did not understand what kind of magazine he was looking at. I remember that his wife always wore a lot of bangles and jewellery so I was always waiting for that soothing, comforting sound of her bangles clinking together because then I would know he would stop now, zip up his pants and help me down from the bed.
I was then again abused at the age of eight right through to 10 by two different men, one was also a family friend the other was my own cousin. Surely at this point I understood what was happening because at school they taught us to say NO if somebody touches you inappropriately yet I couldn’t say no. I didn’t have that luxury at all because in my mind this is what I was created for, for men who I thought I could trust to use me as they wished. They were the adults so they were always right in my mind. I did not confide in anybody, I was too ashamed and embarrassed. When I ended up opening up to a close friend of mine at age 11 years, she went to tell her mother and her mother put so much fear in me I shut up for many years after. She threatened that if I spread such rumours I will end up in jail.