‘I never had a childhood’

Forgiveness is key, but it’s hard when your perpetrator is still free.”

These are the words of a Scottsdende woman, Felicity (not her real name), who is a rape survivor and recovering drug addict.

As the country marks the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign, Northern News visited the Lofdal Restoration Centre, an NPO and church in Kraaifontein that runs a three-month rehabilitation course for women and men who have fled abuse and are battling addiction.

Felicity was willing to share her story to encourage rape victims to speak out, although she says her perpetrator – who is also her stepbrother – is still out there.

“I know that I should have spoken earlier, but I did not want to put him behind bars because I was afraid of what my family would think. But up until today, I fear him.”

The 36-year-old single mother is tearful as she recalls her “dark days.”

She says she never had a childhood because she was only 7 when the abuse started.

She had no one to turn to for help – her mother was an alcoholic and “the only man in the house to protect her was the one hurting her”.

Her stepbrother is 11 years older than her. He would undress her, she says, and beat her up if she didn’t do what he told her, including washing his school socks and doing his daily chores.

The he started touching her inappropriately and later began to rape her.

“I could not go outside and play with my friends because I had to do his work around the house. After that, he started touching me on my privates and eventually he raped me. I dare not fight back.”

She says if she tried to, he’d threaten to kill her and their mother, who was often sleeping in the next room.

“He would come into my room at night and lay there with a knife or a panga and ask me for sex.”

Her mother accused her of lying and looking for attention, she says, when she told her what was happening.

“This carried on for just over two years, every day. I never had a childhood it was taken from me.”

She hoped things would change when her mother’s friends noticed the stepbrother’s behaviour at a 21st birthday party where Felicity was a waitress.