Women are the anchors of our society. If they are broken – everyone is broken.
These are the words of rape victim and cancer survivor, Chrishandow Adonis-Hendricks of Brackenfell.
The 44-year-old mother of two started the Broken Wings non-profit organisation 20 years ago with the hope of providing support to rape victims and cancer survivors – and sufferers – just like herself.
At the Fabulous Woman Awards held at the Marriott Hotel Crystal Towers in Century City, on Saturday August 3, she was recognised for the work she does in her community.
The awards are the brainchild of award-winning businesswoman and philanthropist, Pontsho Manzi and this was the first time they have been held in Cape Town.
Through her support she aims to change one life at a time by hosting motivational talks with women and children from various communities including Bloekombos, Kraaifontein, Kuils River and other communities on the Cape Flats.
Through the talks, she identifies cases where women and children are in need of help and hosts one-on-one sessions by applying her degree in psychology.
Ms Adonis-Hendricks said her journey began when she was just 16 years old, and described her experience as having “turned away from death’s door.”
She told Northern News she had been raped and assaulted by a man who was well-known to her Bishop Lavis community and a leader in the church she attended at the time.
“My mom found me lying in my own blood when she returned from work that evening, I was unconscious but I remember hearing her voice in the distance and the sound of the ambulance rushing to my aid,” she said.
Ms Adonis-Hendricks said she had been beaten to a pulp and left with a broken jaw, broken collar bone, bite marks on her breast, her left ear torn and bleeding private parts.
She said this is when her strength as a woman was tested and a “battle scar” under her right eye is what reminds her of a woman’s strength. She explained that only weeks after her attack, she realised that she had been raped and remembered her perpetrator.
She went to speak to a woman church leader who gave her advice to speak up against the “man who did her wrong”. She laid a charge, then later she challenged him in court “or her story would be kicked under the mat” – just like those of many other victims, she said. The man was convicted and is currently in jail.
At the time she was diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease – human papillomavirus (HPV) -which lead to her cervical cancer diagnosis at age 19.
She said while her experiences had made her an angry and bitter person, speaking out and telling her story had made her road to recovery easier.
“I am one among only a few women who speak out about our rape experiences. This has challenged me to be a strong woman and to help children who experience not only sexual abuse but physical and emotional abuse,” said Ms Adonis-Hendricks.
She said in many of the communities she visited to share her story, she found that girls and boys alike were not given the opportunity to share their stories of abuse or report them to police. “Their stories go untold,” she said.
She encourages youth and women who have not yet reported their perpetrators, to hand them over and speak to someone they trust.
She said the hardest part about her journey was “accepting that her past cannot be changed”.
However, she said, she knew it was time to create a better future for herself.
She said although women suffer in silence, their situations should not control where they are headed.
“As women we should learn to walk with life and not next to it,” she said.
Ms Adonis-Hendricks said she wants to set up a website for the Broken Wings organisation but said “funds are low”.
If you would like to get in touch with Ms Adonis-Hendricks or make a donation contact her at 083 798 1110.