Rose Gwanfogha was just a teenager when she was raped by an older man who kept her a virtual prisoner and fathered two of her children.
She told her story in Parow last week at an event organised by the SAPS as part of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign.
Rose, a bible-study teacher, started a women-empowerment organisation, Virtuous Women of Africa, several years ago. “I have a calling to give hope to broken women. My mission is to turn their ashes into beauty,” she said.
She has lived in Cape Town for 20 years but is still haunted by what happened to her as a teenager, in Cameroon, when she went to live with her uncle in a neighbouring province.
“One day, an older man who stayed at the corner house along the street we lived in came to me and said that he loved me. I told him that he was not my type, but he was persistent.”
One night, she came home to find nobody there. “I didn’t have keys, so I waited outside. This man, saw me and came over.
“He asked me if I wanted to watch a movie at his house, and I said, ‘no’. Eventually I gave in.”
At the end of the movie, the man overpowered and raped her.
“He was a big-built man, and he grabbed and raped me.
“Where I come from, being raped is seen as a disgrace to befall a woman and her family.”
In the weeks that followed, she was overwhelmed by guilt and shame.
“I cried. It was painful, and I felt so dirty.
“He forced himself onto me, and he robbed me of my preciousness.”
But her nightmare had only just started. “He stalked me. He also took me to sangomas, and I believe he was using black magic on me.”
Then she learnt she was pregnant.
“I gave birth to a baby boy. He kept me under bondage.
“I always wanted to be a powerful woman like Margaret Thatcher, but then I fell pregnant again. I hid the second pregnancy because I felt truly ashamed. He was a monster who was holding my spiritual life captive.”
Eventually she moved to South Africa.
“I was a broken woman, and after a month of being in the country, I returned to Cameroon to attend my father’s funeral. This is where I met my husband. We have an 11 year-old son together.
“I want to tell women that are in abusive relationships that it does not matter what you go through; if you tell God your story, everything will work out in the end.” The 16 Days campaign started on Sunday November 25 and will run until Monday December 10.
Parow police station commander Lieutenant-Colonel Teboho Jacobs said they organised the event as response to crimes against women and children in the community.
“If we, as a society, really care about freedom and democracy, we need to report these crimes. Even if it’s your own flesh and blood committing these crimes, you still have a responsibility to report them,” he said.
“If your relationship is not working, you need to get out. Don’t say you have to stay because of the children.”
Parow police spokesman Captain Kevin Williams said men could also be victims of domestic violence, and Parow Community Police Forum chairman Roger Cannon said high levels of alcohol and drug abuse contributed to abuse.