Still I rise: My struggle after rape, abuse, assault, and a broken justice system

 

My boyfriend raped me, and while I tried to fight back, I bit him. It started as a beautiful relationship with a man I deeply loved and felt safe with. We had many things in common. He was my oasis in the dark and uncertain time of the COVID-19 pandemic. But it took a turn for the worse, and my nightmare was far from over. 

Hi, I’m *Gaopalelwe, and this is my story of rape, humiliation, abuse, and threats. My case is still being fought with the help of Kwanele through our South African justice system. I refuse to surrender my power; I refuse to lay down. I will continue to rise and bite back, not only for me but for the thousands of women fighting their own *Siphamandla.

* Pseudonyms are being used to protect the survivors and their families.

When the alcohol and the fists clash

Siphamandla and I started dating towards the end of 2020. He was loving and caring towards me, and we had so much in common. He was a family man and deeply loved his son, which contributed to my falling in love with him in the first place.  

Three months later, a drunk Siphamandla found himself in my house, refusing to leave. He ended up staying without my permission. The following week, he came over again, and the alcohol had no limits, and so did his anger toward me. He started pushing and pulling me every time we were arguing. 

I took videos of him while he was abusing me, pushing and pulling me when he was drunk. This was his behavior every time he was drinking. The fights became part of our relationship. He justified it with the trauma he experienced as a child in an abusive setting. He blamed his past for being forced by a family member to watch acts of sexual abuse when he was just a kid.

Ironically, after every physically abusive disagreement, I would find myself defending and apologizing to him.

The physical abuse intensified towards the end of 2021. That December, there was an incident where Siphamandla pulled me on my braids and wrestled me. But I threw a bucket of bleach water over him while running for cover. Inside my room, I locked myself until he finally left. 

He didn’t stop there. In July 2022, there was an incident where he tried to lift his hand at my son. Siphamandla told my son to ‘Voetsek.’ When my son said the word back, he wanted to hit him, but I jumped in. He continued to call him derogatory and insulting words.

Finally, I managed to push him out of my room and lock my son and me inside. Fuming with anger, I sent him a text message insulting him and his parents. He later came over to apologize to me and my son. 

Sexual harassment and arrogance

This physical abuse carried on for nearly a year and a half. However, it escalated to sexual abuse in May 2023.

We were at my place, and I was drinking Vodka. It was my first time consuming this type of strong alcohol. I felt like I was in a safe place to do so because I was with my boyfriend, who was not drinking anymore (he wanted to save our relationship). 

 I got so drunk that I passed out. When I woke up the following morning, I was naked, sleeping next to Siphamandla. I confronted him, asking why he would have sex with me while I passed out. He claims I gave consent. However, later, he backtracked, admitted that he could not ‘hold himself,’ and apologized for what he had done.  

12 May 2023

Days after this incident, the sexual harassment claims reached its peak. Siphamandla accused me of cheating on him. He called me a prostitute, using the fact that my parents did not raise me against me. 

He went through my phone one night while I was sleeping beside him. He noticed I was sending a message to one of my exes. He asked me about the chats, but I didn’t deny it. It was there in black and white. 

I turned around and tried to sleep further. But Siphamandla touched me inappropriately and became very aggressive until he raped me.

On the 12th of May, 2023, Siphamandla forced himself on me. 

During the rape and the wrestling, I bit him. 

Police dockets and counterclaims

That same day, I opened a rape case at the Gugulethu police station.

At the police station, a male officer called my name in a room packed with crime victims for me to give my statement. Given the case’s sensitivity, I asked for more privacy, but the officer was reluctant. I told him my story after he finally moved to a more private room. But he seemed to have lost interest when he heard the suspect was my boyfriend. 

The Constable sent me to the doctor for a check-up for any diseases, but there was no police van available. I had to arrange my transport with a taxi. I felt so angry and useless at this stage that no people I was supposed to trust could help me. 

When I finally arrived at the Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCC), a woman took my statement. Everyone at the TCC was so helpful. A policewoman took down my statement and drove me back to Gugulethu police station to take photographs. While waiting outside the van, the female officer confronted the male Gugulethu officer for sending me to a doctor without accompanying me. 

I felt so embarrassed and dirty and even regretted the steps I took to report this case. 

 Two days later, Siphamandla was arrested. 

However, he managed to open an assault case against me because I bit him while he raped me. However, this case has been provisionally withdrawn and replaced by a protection order against me. 

I was told there was no need to file a protection order against Siphamandla while he was under arrest. 

However, just a few days later, police came to arrest me for assaulting Siphamandla. With the help of Kwanele, I was not detained. 

I understand why so many women don’t report rape, but with the help of Kwanele SA, I’m still standing strong and fighting for my rights. 

 ** NOTE: This information is not an affidavit; it’s the perspective of a rape survivor – through her lens. She is receiving trauma and psychiatric counseling. 

Anyone triggered by Gaopalelwe’s story must seek professional help. One option is to contact the Kwanele helpline. 






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