“Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding.” – Albert Einstein

Growing up in rural areas, we had no access to an appropriate standard of living but we appreciated the little we had. My childhood was not that ghastly. I was brought up in a household inundated with happiness and enormous support. Among four siblings, I was that one child congested with curiosity and great aspirations, not afraid to raise issues that affected us as human beings who lived in disregarded areas of our country. I attended preschool in a village which was about 2 km away from where I lived. The government, back then, was not concerned enough to organise school transportation. Classrooms were in unappealing conditions with no desks or chairs to sit on.

Although the government seemed to have disregarded us, the teachers made sure we were educated. Lack of teaching resources did not demotivate us, instead it gave us the opportunity to teach others from neighbouring schools about the importance of using the limited resources they had to create a sustainable future for themselves and their families.

It was around late September 2003 when things got out of control. Most nearby villages experienced a severe drought. Food security was affected, the unemployment rate increased enormously, especially amongst the youth. Some areas were classified as ghost towns, as large populations of people were migrating to urban areas to find employment and educational opportunities. Unfortunately, we were part of that migrating population. Personally, I had great anticipation for an exceptional future congested with opportunities. As we passed through Huguenot tunnel, which segregated the two creations, I kept asking myself what could possibly go wrong.

We arrived safely in Cape Town and settled in a suburban area called Eersteriver. The community somehow managed to welcome and support us, and made great affirmation that we were part of this beautiful and peaceful community. Everything seemed perfect, however, things changed when a male cousin from my maternal side had to relocate and live with us. He assaulted me sexually numerous times. I trusted this person undoubtedly. The boundless self-confidence and determination to succeed I had simply vanished into thin air. I lacked faith in the existence of God.

Mental health is specifically one of the things about which I lacked understanding. I had this robust emotion preventing me from making decisions that were reasonable. I experienced intense negative self-talk and suicidal thoughts. It was difficult to cope with these emotions, as they somehow manipulated me into believing I was an inconspicuous human being without a solidified purpose. I made a list, which mapped different contriving mechanisms. I remember one evening while taking a bath, I took a broken glass and began cutting my left arm until I bled profoundly. Over time, this mechanism become ineffective. I needed something much stronger. That’s when I decided to orally ingest diabetic-patient capsules. Within seconds, I collapsed on the floor and developed blurred vision and drowsiness. That’s when I was immediately rushed to the nearby public hospital.

On my deathbed, for the first time, I felt like a bird roaming on the streets of heaven uninterrupted, comfortable. But God had other plans. In my sleep I gradually remembered the people I was leaving behind, the sophisticated future foundation that was about to be destroyed. How unhallowed my death would be. That’s when I fought my way out strongly, until I reached the light. I took into account the short-lived part I created and intended never to embark on again. Every predicament has a resolution.

A greater number of parents need to start normalising educating their children on the inappropriateness of sex and the steps they need to take when threatened sexually, especially in cases where a close relative is involved. Talking about what they are forced to do won’t bring shame onto the family, instead it would be splintering the shackles of despotism. However, the journey won’t be painless. They need to leave some room to accommodate disappointments and ceaseless criticism, and exclusion from family gatherings, but these things are not more precious than the one enduring abuse. Gender-based violence, specifically against women and children, is unfortunate. Victims are left with colossal and evident emotional and physical marks that will presumably take years to recover from.

Although I had restricted trust of those surrounding me, sometimes it was even harder to talk about what I was going through. Everything seemed impossible to reach, but a random day presented itself and I decided to confide in a close friend of mine. However, the response I got in return was rather ambiguous. I decided to cut off our conversation before I was drained even further.

“Don’t worry, choma, he is probably going through some teenage phase whereby he wants to sexually experiment with a female’s body, things will return to their normality,” my friend said.

Like every human being I had dreams to mature into a prominent entrepreneur, retailing food in rural areas, reconstructing demolished educational institutions that are largely in areas classified as below-average communities. Generally just doing everything to strengthen the rural economy, which would allow the youth within these areas be able to get employment opportunities and learn more about farming. Unfortunately those aspirations were disassembled at some stage.

When things seemed to gradually be getting out of control, I sat down, full of doubts, and disclosed the ordeal to some intimate family members. It was not easy, but I needed to voice my struggles. The majority of them acknowledged the situation positively, but some supported the culprit. However, that didn’t restrict me from eliminating the out-of-condition treatment I was receiving. It shifted my focus on those individuals who offered their absolute support, which had undisclosed conditions. Throughout the journey of recovery, I shielded myself with an important weapon, which was forgiveness. I needed to learn to forgive. Although forgiveness is hard, it was a mindset I needed to take on in order to process, internally and consciously, the negative feelings of grief and outrage, eventually letting them go. I had to take into account that forgiving this person was not a service of condoning his behaviour, which in this case was morally wrong and offensive. Rather, I saw it as a service which I initiated in order to free myself from excessive hatred. Resentment somehow restricted me from living in the moment and experiencing the profits of being present.

September 2018, after matriculation, I founded my own foundation which will teach the youth in my area how to defend their rights on issues of gender-based violence and how to access educational funds. During the primitive introduction of the foundation it was not easy but with self-confidence and goals I managed to breach the shortcomings, and the journey continues.

Tell us: What did you think of this piece?