Standing together to fight rape

Rise Club chairperson, Zikhona Mbute, talks about being raped. She believes this will help others and will also help her to heal.

Zikhona Mbute is the Club chairperson of the Rise Stars of Tomorrow Club from Ncise. This is a quiet place right next to the Mthatha dam in the Eastern Cape.

On 14 March 2015 Zikhona’s cousin, Andile, knocked on the door of the place she was sleeping with her girlfriend.

It was very late and when Zikhona opened the door she could see that Andile was drunk and high on drugs.

Rape

First Andile accused her of hiding his girlfriend. Then he started hitting her. He lifted her onto his shoulder and took her to nearby school grounds. There he raped her. When he was done she was bleeding and hurting.

Zikhona fainted, so he lifted her onto his shoulder again and took her to his room. There he raped her repeatedly again, putting his jersey over her face to stop her from screaming. He also cut her body with a knife. Four hours later he carried her half-way back to where she was staying. Zikhona managed to drag herself back to the room on her knees. Andile told her that if she told anyone what he had done to her he would kill her.

Fighting back

The next day Zikhona went to her home where she lives with her two brothers. Her parents passed away ten years ago and her oldest brother, Uthando, (in the photo’ on page 17) is the sole breadwinner. She immediately sent WhatsApp messages to everyone telling them that Andile had raped her.
Three days later she went to the police station. They took her to a clinic where she was given ARVs to prevent her from being infected with HIV and pills to stop a pregnancy.

Trial

Not long afterwards, Andile was caught, the case went to trial, and he was given a life sentence.

Even though the outcome made her feel better, the trial was very traumatic for Zikhona. “I was crying all the time. I couldn’t speak at all.”

But she feels that talking about the rape is very important.

Support

Sipunzi Zingisa. Gabizizwe, member of Rise ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ Club and friend of Zikhona says, “I was very traumatised by what happened to Zikhona, we all were. It was important to support her as a friend.”

After the rape Zikhona received weekly counselling.

But what helped her the most was that everybody in her community was supporting her.

Belonging to a Rise Club has been very important in her healing. She has told the story of the rape to the other members.

Sis Thoko

But the most important help Zikhona has received is from Thoko Budaza, the Soul City Provincial Manager in the Eastern Cape. Thoko herself is a survivor of multiple rapes.

“Sis Thoko keeps saying: You are still a member of Rise and we still love you. Don’t feel that you are broken, you are still the same. She helped me to feel like somebody who can still do something. I am now a Soul City fieldworker. I have jobs to do, I am organising things. This helps me not just to think about the rape.”

‘Corrective’ rape

‘Corrective’ rape is when lesbians or homosexuals are raped to punish and supposedly “cure” them.

Zikhona is a lesbian. She is very open about this and feels that her community and her family have accepted her.

She believes that her cousin raped her because he was angry about this. “Andile tried to change me. He wanted me to feel that I am a useless girl so you can do anything to me. He tried to open the way for other men to rape me. But I am fighting that feeling.”

But she feels that he has not succeeded. “In my mind I will never stop being a lesbian. I am a human being. I am beautiful. I am alive.”

Sis Thoko SPEAKS OUT about rape

Thoko Budaza is the Soul City Provincial Manager for the Eastern Cape and a gender activist. When Thoko was eight years old she was raped by her cousin. She grew up in the house of her uncle, a gangster, where she was repeatedly molested. When she was an adult, a man broke into her home and raped her at knife point.

She has suffered mental illness as a result of so much trauma. “What really helps me is to help other women. I tell every rape survivor: something inside you changes forever.”

“Rape in South Africa is an illness affecting everyone. We managed to turn around HIV and AIDS, and now we need to do the same for rape and violence against women.”

To do this we have to remember the following:

  • Rape is not about men needing sex. It is a way of spreading fear and controlling women.
  • Rape has a life-long effect on the person who has been raped.
  • Dressing a certain way or being drunk does not give anyone permission to rape us. As one gender activist said: “If a man is drunk we help him get home. If a woman is drunk she is raped.”
  • No man has the right to rape a woman, even if he has paid lobola.
“I Felt I was Doing Something Wrong”

One young lesbian felt guilty about her life. But accepting who she is has brought her peace.

Noxolo Nxumalo had her first relationship with another young woman when she was 14. She found the relationship difficult, because it didn’t feel “normal”. After some time, she gave in to peer pressure and began to date boys.

Pregnant

At 16, she fell pregnant. Her traditional Zulu family disowned her. She gave birth to a beautiful and healthy little girl, Minenhle, which means “beautiful day”.

“It really was a beautiful day when she was born,” says Noxolo. But she had no income or family support. “I had to find a job to support myself and my baby. But the worst part was living without the love of my family.”

Love

A few months later, Minenhle’s father asked Noxolo if she was truly happy with him, and she realised that she wasn’t. “I think I had to experience that [heterosexual] lifestyle before I knew what I wanted,” says Noxolo.

Shortly afterwards, she met a girl and fell in love with her. She kept her new relationship a secret, and she made peace with her family when she was 18 years old.

“About a year after my family had started speaking to me again, one of my cousins ‘outed’ me to my mother,” says Noxolo. “My mother did not understand it and I remember her crying and shouting in anger and frustration.”

Dark path

“As much as I felt free as my family knew about my sexuality, I was fighting it. There was still something that made me believe that I was doing something wrong.

“I went down a very dark path which led to thoughts of suicide. I started using drugs. My life was falling apart and I had to go to rehab to get clean and pick up the pieces.”

Getting help

Noxolo visited the Gay and Lesbian Network (GLN) to get support for the problems of a single lesbian mother. Here began her healing process.

A few years ago she started volunteering at GLN, and started to read up more on her sexual and reproductive rights. She soon proved herself, and was eventually hired to work at the organisation.

“I’ve grown a lot and I love what I do. It makes me happy to help others and inform them of their rights,” says Noxolo.

The struggle continues

Noxolo says, “When people come to GLN for help, they are trusting us with their lives. Even though our Constitution says that we are free, the struggle continues. This is because there are still people who judge you and think that what you are doing is a sin and not normal.

“I would like to let others know that there is help for them. Your own happiness is important, but if your family hurts, then you hurt.”

* If you would like help or if someone you know needs help with coming to terms with their sexuality, contact the Gay and Lesbian Network on 033 342 6165 or the helpline on 086 033 3331, or SMS HELP to 079 891 3036 to get a call back.

Article originally from Rise Magazine 10th edition

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