I have been raped twice. I believed I deserved it, and so did my boyfriend who slapped my face and locked me out when I came crying to him after the second rape. I was drunk at the time. On one hand, the rapes distressed me. On the other, I expected to be treated like dirt by men and seemed to be attracted to those who were most abusive to me. Actually, I turned my back on those men who treated me with dignity and respect. For some reason, I felt that I needed to feed a self-hate part of me.

I was born in Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto and grew up in the Northern Suburbs of Johannesburg with my mother and three brothers. When I was four, my father left us and never returned. As a domestic worker, my mother struggled financially but we were fortunate that she had employers who took an interest in the family in a special way and sent us to good schools, amongst many other efforts. There, I became convinced that some day I would be part of something big and be able to make a difference in lives of others. Yet even then, I had this strong sense of worthlessness. I had always gone to church with my mother, but never thought I was worthy to get to know God personally. I don’t know why I felt this way, but it seemed to have something to do with my experiences as a child. When I was introduced to sex education at high school it made me feel guilty as it felt like it had happened to me before. I looked at people in my class and a lot of it seemed new to them but for me it felt strangely familiar, but I did not know why and still do not.

In my matric year I had sex for the first time. I was terrified and concluded that God would never forgive me, so I might as well go all the way. By the time I was 23, I had had 19 sexual relationships. Alcohol and smoking completed the lifestyle package. They made me feel cool and in control until I realised that I had become dependent on drinking to get me through the week.

I fell pregnant for the first time when I was 20 and had an abortion without telling anybody. The next day I was out clubbing again. That same day my boyfriend asked me to leave as his other girlfriend was due back. Three years later, I was pregnant again by a man 13 years older than me. He promised me a good life. This time, at his request, I had an abortion at 16 weeks. Afterwards I waited outside for him to fetch me as promised, but he didn’t arrive. He phoned two days later just to confirm that I had gone through with it, and I didn’t see him again for months.

That experience was the turning point for me. I got angry with myself, then depressed and tried to kill myself several times. I was no longer trapped in abusive relationships but felt guilty and could not forgive myself.

My life changed when I became part of an organisation called loveLife. They did not seek to comfort me but had huge job expectations of me. They saw potential in me that I did not know. I told myself that if others had such high expectations of me, I would just have to push myself to achieve. I started facing up to the real me. I did not like what I saw but knew that I was a puzzle of broken pieces that could be patched up together again. I felt propelled along a new course of life.

I ended up managing the loveLife Games national project, affirming the sporting potential of hundreds of thousands of young people across South Africa. Since then I have continued to work and grow as a development practitioner at various levels of management in the past 15 few years. In 2012 until recently (2018) – as Programme Manager and later National Head of Programmes, I helped develop Nal’ibali from conceptualisation to a campaign in which hundreds of thousands of parents and children are engaged. I am currently a Director at LightON social change and working as a consultant.

In 2002 I met Moses Seleka. He taught me to love and to be loved. In the past I would have rejected him because he was so caring. I told him about my past and he was hurt that I could have experienced such harshness. Eight months later we were married – and we have been married for 15 years. Before our wedding day, I was a wreck as I knew I needed to get an HIV test. The day I got my results I sobbed for hours as I now have a second chance at living. A year later I gave birth to a wonderful baby boy whom I love with all my heart. I have since given birth to two other children and the three continue to remind me of the love of God in an authentic way – something I believe modern religion has perverted and could never teach properly.

My vision includes a need to assist young women to share their stories, heal their broken hearts, forgive themselves and live liberated purpose-driven lives in God.

Your past will always be there, but it’s what you do with it that defines you. First step is to learn to love and believe in yourself. I continue to grow on this journey and invite young women to join me on this path of self-realisation and succeeding beyond the pain.

(The original version of this article was compiled by Dr David Harrison for a STAR newspaper article for loveLife.)


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