“This is my story”- Rape Survivor Zandile Hlatshwayo Speaks Out
Growing up in a village in rural KwaZulu-Natal, Zandile Iris Hlatshwayo was an ordinary girl with hopes and dreams just like anyone else. She hoped that her life would later shape up to be something that both she and her family could be proud of. Her mother was working as a domestic worker in Johannesburg and Zandile stayed back home with her aunt in KZN.
Everything was normal with Zandile’s aunt fully taking over the motherly role and raising the seven-year-old to the best of her ability. Little did they know that their lives would soon change for the worst when the seven-year-old was raped by a man known to her family.
For women and girls in South Africa’s poor communities, a call of nature could result in a horrific rape or sexual abuse. Women and girls are raped and murdered while using toilets. For Zandile, this horrific rape happened when she was only 7 years old.
Zandile says she struggled to speak out and report the matter even to her family because she feared that she was the one who had done something wrong.
Child rape and sexual assault is a global problem, but in South Africa, it has had devastating effects. Babies and girls have suffered at the hands of rapists, causing long-term physical and psychological damage. For many years Zandile blamed and hated herself for being raped
Zandile’s story is just one of many that go untold in the country – with victims saying the criminal justice system continues to fail them. She says Government needs to ensure that sexual abuse education programmes reach the rural communities in the country and that the lack of education amongst people in rural areas makes it difficult for communities to discuss such issues. She believes this would have gone a long way to having saved her childhood.
The journey from being a victim to a survivor was also painful. Disclosing rape to family members did not bring the comfort, love and empathy she so yearned for. She has advised victims of rape and sexual abuse to seek professional help to help them cope with the emotional scars caused by these acts of violence. Zandile says she regrets not seeking help earlier in her life.
It is important for one to know that there is help out there for those who may need it. Although these services may not be enough – the country has made great strides in trying to close the gaps created by the lack of resources in several areas.
NGOs continue to stress the importance of victims coming forward and speaking out even if it is to someone close to them that they feel they can trust. If you or anyone you may know are a victim of any form of abuse; here is a list of organisations you can contact to get the support you need:
- Life Line National Counselling line: 0861-322-322, Website: www.lifeline.org.za
- National Aids helpline: 0800-012-322, Website: aidshelpline.org.za
- Stop Gender Violence helpline: 0800-150-150
- Childline South Africa 24-hour toll-free helpline: 08000 55 555, Website: www.childline.org.za
- Child Welfare South Africa: Report neglect or abuse of a child 0861 4 CHILD (24453), National: (011) 452-4110, E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org, Website: www.childwelfaresa.org.za
- Jo’burg Child Welfare Society: Head office: (011) 298-8500, Website: www.jhbchildwelfare.org.za
- Police Child Protection Units: Emergency number: 10111, Crime Stop: 08600 10111, Email: email@example.com
- People Opposed to Woman Abuse (Powa): Helpline: 083 765 1235, Website: www.powa.co.za
- Stop Gender Abuse: Toll-free helpline: 0800 150 150
- Speak Out: Website: www.speakout.org.za