Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I said NO.....

I said No…

Before I begin, I'd like to copy and paste a part of a twitter conversation I had that has me now sitting in front on my laptop, cigarette in hand, writing something I never thought I would ever share.

@Akona1: Maybe I'm just a girl standing in front of the virtual world asking it to help me help the real world…

To which a friend whose opinion I respect implicitly responded:

"We live in times that require strength; you'll have to tap into what makes you a strong woman and march us forward."

Twitter's brilliance is the 140-character limit per tweet (less when you reply / @ someone), however, it is too limiting at times. So I have a little story to tell you. A story I've never told so publicly, a story begging to be written because something has to be said and done, a story I hope will make a difference, no matter how small.

It was January 23rd of the year 2000, 6 months after the passing of my beloved mother, I was 15 and in standard 7 of high school. It was a few hours after one of the school's interhouse swimming galas and some friends and fellow swimmers, cheerleaders and school mates had gathered for a little braai at a friend's house nearby. There was music, swimming, food, dancing, laughing and drinking. I'd arrived at the house a little later than most of the guests as I had to do some admin at school before leaving and when I arrived the gathering was in full swing with about 40 or so people having a good time in the sun.

The first half an hour or so I spent chatting to some friends, played a little soccer in the medium sized backyard with some of the boys, most especially because I wanted to get the attention of this older boy I had had a crush on. At some we went and sat down under a tree and chatted – I was cool, calm and cute with my heart fluttering with every word that sang out of his mouth.

After a few minutes, one of his friends joined us and offered me a beer. I'd tasted alcohol before and was not opposed to it, but I was not interested in having the beer he was adamant I should have. With some back on forth regarding my not wanting it, he got up and left with it but then returned with a cider. I took it and drank it and we continued to talk and laugh under the tree. About half way through the drink I wasn't feeling good at all, dizzy and nauseous, I thought that being out in the sun and the days activities were weighing down on me so I excused myself went inside the house to use the bathroom. It was occupied, as I turned around to try and find another loo the friend, lets him R, was standing very close to me stroking my arm and told me that there was a bathroom outside by the maids quarter that I could use if I didn't want to wait. I followed him, letting him guide my faint self and my wobbly legs outside.

At the entrance to the bathroom, the boy I had been crushing on was standing at the door and I thought it was so sweet of him to be there to see if I was alright. R led me inside and suddenly the door shut with a bang and he was in there with me. Slurring my words, I asked that he please give me some privacy and he said he wanted to make sure I'd be okay. I tried to open the unlocked door, but the handle wouldn't move. I was confused, was it stuck? Was crush boy holding it so that I wouldn't be able to open. Then a moment is realisation dawned on me. It wasn't the heat that was getting to me, something was very very wrong.

R turned me around and started kissing my neck and face, my weak arms tried to push him away and with all the saliva I could muster I spat in his face and my dry mouth fought to say the word I knew would stop this madness. No. At first it came out as a whisper and I could not believe my voice was failing me at such a crucial moment. Again, I tried, No. This time the venom I needed carried through and his hands, which were now on my budding breasts, stopped mid grope and I sighed in victory.

The room was spinning, my heart was hammering at my chest and my legs were about to give in when I was jolted into shock, as he had reached under skirt and frantically tugging at my underwear. No wasn't getting me anywhere. I said it again, I pushed as hard as I could, and my final words were "don't do this, I'm on my period". I saw the glint in his eye; he licked his lips and turned me around to face the wall. He ripped off my panties and as I looked down, my bloody tampon was lying there, staring back up at me. Tears rolled down cheeks and joined the blood keeping my tampon company.

R giggled and said he loved when a woman was menstruating and I could feel his penis getting hard against me and all I was thinking was that I was just a girl, and he was about to force me into womanhood. He pushed me to the ground in the corner of the bathroom. There were some planks and nails and broken tiles that hurt my back, and as he mounted me I was ever so grateful for the pain on my back which was helping me not to concentrate on the burning sensation coming from him entering me.

Minutes passed and he got off, got up, zipped him pants, bent down and kissed me on the forehead. I closed my eyes expecting crushboy to enter and have his way with me too, but there was silence. I lay there for a long time.

When I finally opened my eyes it was getting dark. I got up, cleaned myself up in the basin, cleaned the blood of the floor, tied a knot into my panties and put them on. Used some toilet paper as a makeshift pad so as not to soil myself. I left the house and walked home.

Went to school the next day and didn't say anything to anyone about what had happened. Why? I didn't want to be a statistic, I didn't want to give him the power to make me a victim, I didn't want to feel any more ashamed than I did and I didn't want anyone's pity. I wanted to believe that I am stronger.

In my head, I had a long life ahead of me and I was going to live it, without the stigma of being a survivor. It took me years to even say it to myself – I was raped. My innocence was gone. To this day, at 25 years of age, I still struggle to call myself a woman – because of how 'becoming a woman' happened. Never even told my boyfriend, years later, that he was in fact not my first.


It is now November of the year 2010, and rape is in the headlines every day, there seems to be more victims than there are not, some as young as a year old. Most recently, a 15-year-old girl was drugged and raped, in front of her school mates, on school property, her rape was recorded on cellphones and spread around her school. First the police refused to arrest the offenders because they did not want to interrupt they boys while writing their exams, then her teachers said she deserved to raped because she was drunk and now, the National Prosecuting Authority dropped the charges against the rapists because they say there is not enough evidence.

One in nine rapes are reported. When this one, with video evidence and witnesses cannot be prosecuted, what hope do victims who are raped in dirty bathrooms have?

I'm telling this story not because I want your pity, I'm telling you because I need your help to do something about this. I need help to get justice for all the victims, whether we know about them or not. I need to help to change the entitlement of our patriarchal society. I need help to say enough is enough. I said NO.

Let's march, Let's Shout, Let's petition, whatever! Let us please do something.

Akona.ndungane@gmail.com

39 comments:

  1. I followed your conversation with LD on twitter and I'm even one of those that tweeted #JusticeforJulesgirl. I do hope you dont regret sharing this, it will help many others, I know for a fact that there are many keeping silent out there. The more the silence is broken,the better,It takes courage to say what you have. Reclaiming yourself as a Survivor. I'm open to anything we may do, to bring awareness and action. Power to you.

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  2. That's heavy —

    Where do we start? That has always been my stumbling block? In fact it is the most dis-empowering-part of attempting to do something just.

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  3. I’d like to start by saying your bravery is inspiring. You, despite any fear or doubts you may have had, have shared a painful part of your story in an effort to help other women. In a country where women are violated daily while everyone continues like nothing happened, what you have done is HUGE.
    Sadly, too many other women continue to be subjected to what you went through, while the perpetrators go on, unscathed – continuing to attempt to ruin other lives.
    I agree with you, something HAS to be done. I’m here, I want to help. Please keep us posted. Talking is unfortunately not enough anymore. Hit me up, let’s scream and let’s shout. I hope many many men join this call to do something. As much as our young men are doing horrendous things, we need AMAZING men (and there are many of them) to stand up and speak as well.

    P.S The person who hurt you tried to steal your spirit - that’s what they want (whether it’s consciously or not) more than they even want your body. The fact that you can say what you said today and be the woman you are and work on making people stand up to do something, means you’ve won.
    Wishing you many blessings. Zamaswazi.nkosi@gmail.com

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  4. I am touched by this story. I raise my voice to say *NO!!* to rape!

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  5. I was following your conversation with @Itdn on twitter earlier on. At Rhodes we have an annual 1 in 9 campaign that runs for a whole week. Part of this campaign is have talks and seminars around the problem of rape and the law in the country. These discussions are englighting and all but participating in them almost feels futile because they happen behind close doors. Very few students attend these talks and once the week is over life goes back to what it was. it is the most fustrating and heartbreaking thing because rape is an on going problem that needs to be addressed on a continous bases.

    I certainly think what you've done here is a start of something....and it has to menifest itself through action. Am tired of having debates and discussions about the statistics, what the law says, how the police fail us as women and all that other stuff. And desktop activism has to at some point transform into action.

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  6. Wow... That is a powerful story. And i imagine there is millions of women out there who have gone through the exact same thing. Your courage is inspiring and hopefully it will pay off and reach.

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  7. Perhaps you could share this blog with GenderLinks for their "I Stories" series for 16 Days Against Gender Violence. I salute your bravery in sharing.

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  8. I am completely broken hearted. Since first hearing about the Jules High School gang rape my initial reaction has ranged from "I'd kill every one of those mutha*&$%" to "My boy will never grow to be such a beast". Now with this story, my heart continues to break. I am 6 months pregnant and I'm almost relieved at the thought of giving birth to a boy especially during a time where our women, young and old are not respected & protected. How messed up is that?!? Out of all the things that I have to worry about with bringing a child into this world I actually have a tiny sense of relief that the 'fragility' that comes with being a women is not one of them. Fragility?!?! *smh*

    Like Lebogang Nkoane said "Where do we start? That has always been [his] stumbling block? In fact it is the most dis-empowering-part of attempting to do something just."
    Well, this kind of reality is not a solitary one, it is complimented by so many others that we condone, turn a blind eye to and some that upon honest reflection we can admit we are even party to. So the 'No's!' that should be reverberating from deep within our souls and being hollered at the top of our lungs lie beyond petitions, they are also in fundamental lifestyle choices. We've allowed the existence of a society so inhumane its often a wonder why God even allows our own existence to continue. During these kind of reflections, I think maybe he does so because there are still ample opportunities for us to rise and keep on rising above it all. I honestly believe we are a better people than this and when someone like Akhona can share something like this, I see an opportunity that has been taken, for she has risen above so many things to get to where she is right now and who she is right now. When so many can be brave enough to share this kind of trauma with strangers, its a universal plea for change and it should not be in vain.

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  9. you are a strong woman and i am fully behind you

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  10. I am completely broken hearted. Since first hearing about the Jules High School gang rape my initial reaction has ranged from "I'd kill every one of those mutha*&$%" to "My boy will never grow to be such a beast". Now with this story, my heart continues to break. I am 6 months pregnant and I'm almost relieved at the thought of giving birth to a boy especially during a time where our women, young and old are not respected & protected. How messed up is that?!? Out of all the things that I have to worry about with bringing a child into this world I actually have a tiny sense of relief that the 'fragility' that comes with being a women is not one of them. Fragility?!?! *smh*

    Like Lebogang Nkoane said "Where do we start? That has always been [his] stumbling block? In fact it is the most dis-empowering-part of attempting to do something just."
    Well, this kind of reality is not a solitary one, it is complimented by so many others that we condone, turn a blind eye to and some that upon honest reflection we can admit we are even party to. So the 'No's!' that should be reverberating from deep within our souls and being hollered at the top of our lungs lie beyond petitions, they are also in fundamental lifestyle choices. We've allowed the existence of a society so inhumane its often a wonder why God even allows our own existence to continue. During these kind of reflections, I think maybe he does so because there are still ample opportunities for us to rise and keep on rising above it all. I honestly believe we are a better people than this and when someone like Akhona can share something like this, I see an opportunity that has been taken, for she has risen above so many things to get to where she is right now and who she is right now. When so many can be brave enough to share this kind of trauma with strangers, its a universal plea for change and it should not be in vain.

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  11. Eish , im ashamed to say that the way rape has become such a norm it had lost its impact on me whenever mentioned in the news.Today you awoke something in me , maybe its because of the way you respected the issue with the type of words you used, maybe its because you are not just a 'reporter' but someone who has experienced it, either way, i'm up, my feminine pain body has been triggered and i would be honored to assist where i can. I'm grateful i don't know the experience of such an ordeal & applaud you for making it matter again today. I do not want to feel a little &^%$* & then carry on as if i have not heard this. We need practical solutions, steps etc that answer my questions. What can i do? How can i help ? How do we give people (children & woman ) their powers back? You are my hero ;)

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  12. As always I respect and admire you and your voice. Telling your story is powerful. Acting on what your heart tells you, even more so. We are behind you all the way.

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  13. As styleguide said - I reiterate! I respect you and your voice! You know what my response was on twitter! Much love! @deanboltman

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  14. Much respect to you.
    My heart goes out to you.
    NO TO RAPE

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  15. Wow ! You have started something BIG.
    I have been crying this whole week. Literally choking!!
    I too have a similar story to tell. I have always wanted to tell it, but never knew what platform to use, and more importantly I was never sure if telling my story was enough to change things. I was avoiding the 'pity-party'. You have written it well - you've told it well. There are many like us. You have inspired me to talk about my story, to share, to help others. TO STAND UP AND CONTINUE TO SAY NO. You are an inspiration !!!

    Big up sisi.
    Mmulelantlu More

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  16. Thank you for sharing your story.As a women and a mother I mustcommend you on your brave first step which will def encourage other victims to share/inform and also educate the little ones to shout/say No!!
    Much appreciated.

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  17. I am astounded at how low we as men have sunk. I am also inspired by how strong our women can be. It's sad that we have to speak out about such atrocities for 16 days in a year (16 days against womena and child abuse) while our sister and friends have to live with this reality for their whole lives, each day, every day...
    I am behind you all the way ladies.

    Incidentally, I received a call from Soweto TV. A show called IMBOKODO is filming on 15 Nov and they are looking for women and girl children who are willing to speak about thier ordeals. The lady's name is Zandile and I have her number if you feel ready to talk about this on TV, if it would held some young girl out there who's planning to go to a year end party while wet behind the ears.

    Again, godspeed.
    Les Nkosi

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  18. I really have no idea how it feels to be raped but can only imagine...so for someone to open up about hadhappened to them... I salute them. They must be brave and dtrong. I therefore pour my heart out to you Sister and others been in the same situation.

    NO TO RAPE and SODOMY. We are all humans and need to be treated as such. STOP ABUSING women, children, men and boys. It is too painful to imagine how much more to literally feel it.

    I am tired now...my soul tires evertime I hear such bad news.

    Wish I could have such Superpower and stop each and evry person who is about to rape, sodomise and abuse.

    I urge all brothers and men to help women stay protected, please protect our dignity, our honour and allow us to feel we are women and ladies

    I thank you MEN in advance

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  19. as i read this, i thot of my own "almost rape incident" and how ashamed and dirty i felt, do note he did not get the opportunity to penatrate, but the thot of being touched by him was enough.

    im so proud that you are living your life and this is not n yo way. I think of my own nece who is 12 this year...what would i do if this happened to her. Im in the justice system and trust me i share your fustrations in that the NPA has withdrawn the charges.

    Be strong hun. God will take care of you.

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  20. We always have spoken of this reality as victims. But we are strong because we know that those who try to break us, can not succeed unless we let them. You trully are amazing and God inspired.

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  21. I'm speechless, i doubt i would be as brave as you were, ito not letting what happened to you define who you are, but im glad you shared your story, cause i know you will definetly be a becon of hope for a lot of women or girls who have been in your situation.

    Thank you for being so brave.

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  22. all my respect akona. it takes a certain kind of strength that's rare in times like these. thank you for sharing!

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  23. there are way too many of us.

    i've been very public about my experience, but i feel so incredibly impotent still. there are so many us that the word in the headlines no longer invokes outrage, but numbness.

    the problem with any kind of activism is that the mere word, "rape" makes people uncomfortable. even when i did survivor and chose rape crisis as my charity, they didn't play my charity promo nearly as often as the ones dealing with homelessness, orphans, etc. people tend to shy away from discussions about rape. it's not something you want accompanying your dinner.

    one of the ways i've been an activist, has been to do talks about my experience and to do hula-hoop workshops with abused women and children to help reawaken our bodies in a safe, non-threatening way. i'd love to do more, but it's going to take sponsorship.

    i'm glad your story has gotten people's attention. let me know if i can help in any way.we are not merely statistics. maybe by telling our survivor stories, we can make sure that people know that.

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  24. Much much respect to you Akona for this bold and very important move. Strong woman you are. Thank you.

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  25. I have never felt so much anger whilst reading this and I can't find an explanation as why a human being would do this upon another. Thank you Akona I envy the strong person you are and how you have rose above everything. We really live in a sick world and we cannot tolerate such let alone protect all our children at the same time. But by raising such awareness you are helping in ways far greater than you imagine!!!

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  26. hey akona, as you requested, these are some of the links i tweeted this morning. stories of the survivor-sisterhood. strength to us all.

    this is one of the many posts in which i tell my story... http://bit.ly/aDvaU1

    another survivor post. this one about the choice to go public. http://bit.ly/c2IPdx

    a site i created for survivors - with links to places to get support. http://bit.ly/ccK3BW

    a post with videos about my hoop workshops with abused women and children. http://bit.ly/dyBsHZ

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  27. Much respek for you Sista, your courage to stand up like this encourages me as a man to want to get up and do something. Yes it happened to you, but u r no longer a victim, for u have conquered your fear of being labeled names. Thanks for sharing your tragedy, it allows us to be conscious about the not so rosy society and the raising need to be part of the movement of sensitive than ignorant men.

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  28. I'm so proud of you Akona and my respect for you has deepened even further.
    This is how we begin to break this violent cycle of abuse.

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  29. hey ryt now i realy dnt knw wt is on my mind but hey ur too strong to live with such a pain,And i agaian feel ashamed of us men,how can we be proud of ourself?But hey i admire ur courage to share this with us.And i will help,in anyway,to stop all the repists.

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  30. It all ends here, we have enough power to stop this, she said NO I'm also saying NO..! "I'm doing something"

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  31. What a powerful story. I love how u told it. It disgusts me that people get away SO EASILY with rape and folk just act as if the rapee [lack of a better word] had it coming. If a person utters "NO", its meaning should't be interpreted to suit ur agenda!! "Na, she said 'No' but I could see that she wanted it". I need to change! We need to change! SOCIETY needs to change! I personally haven't been watching the news but trhough Twitter I learned about the fate of the poor girl that was raped on school grounds. I don't know what angers me more - the rapists, the pupils who watched with glee while their fellow pupil was raped or the indifference of the teachers! I don't even wanna talk about the Law enforcement.... There are so many loopholes that felons end up walking freely while the victims are imprisoned emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.

    Thank you again for sharing your story. I can imagine how hard it was to type this... with all those memories coming back. I hope this campaign catches flight and rockets. South Africa needs it!

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  32. Wow! You are so brave to tell your story... You don't have to carry that burden alone now, because we're joining you in arms to stop the nonsense!!!

    Much respect!

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  33. Something needs to be done, please E-mail me the full details about the recent incident about the 15 years girl, my self as a law student with the help of other law students and certain admited Advocates and attorneys i know can atleast try to do something. Hlomalaiza@yahoo.com

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  34. Oh wow...I read your story a couple of days ago, but just couldnt come up with the right words to say... This has made me, forced me rather to face my own demons.. I too am a victim, I chose to bury my shame, and refused to acknowledge it... Thinking back, now I see why a lot of things in my life are happening the way that they are..its time I faced my demons and fixed my life... Thank you for telling your story, you have truely started something big.

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  35. Hi Akhona,

    I would also like to say you are so brave, it takes a lot of courage o do what you have done and i want also to say that i would like to get involved anyway i can, i believe that women has such amazing and heart breaking stories to tell, and when one voice stands and begins to speak, it inverabley help others to be strong and speak out as well, you have within you the strenght to do this.

    Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

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  36. It's crazy that we live in a society where respect for women has been weathered down so much that as a woman you are at risk from birth of being raped. Babies, young girls, teenagers, young women and even grannies are at risk. there's no safe age. even more traumatic is that our legal system is not protecting us as women. where's our humanity? why were these pupils taking videos and pictures when they should have been helping this helpless young lady! it's infuriating to think that we are bringing children into a society that lacks a conscious. This cannot keep happening. I refuse to believe that South Africa does not care.

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  37. That guy was NOT your first, he isn't a man, he's an animal. You are more than a woman. You are a strong and brave woman.

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  38. Respect.To say you are brave is such an understatement, words fail me right now.......
    [I am numb and speechless]

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