The girls sat nervously in the Principal’s office, waiting for him to finish his phone call. Masego was no longer as full of guilt as she was the day before and having her two friends there was helping. The Principal hung up the phone and greeted the girls.
“How can I help you girls today?” he asked.
“It’s about the new boy, Odwa,” Masego started, then choked up. Kele and Malebo held her hands, tightly. She swallowed, then went on, telling the Principal about how she and Odwa had just started going out, about now getting a disturbing video from his ex-girlfriend, intended to protect her. That Odwa had been filmed raping the girl, and the video had gone viral. That Odwa had even confirmed it was him in the video.
The Principal said nothing for a while; he sat there in shock and then stood up only to sit down again.
“That is why I think Odwa should be named and shamed, Sir,” Kele said, letting go of Masego’s hand.
“Named and shamed?” the Principal asked.
“Yes, everyone should know what he did to Masedi. They should know that all those good looks are only covering an evil, stupid boy,” Kele said, standing up, suddenly charged up and ready to do battle.
“That might do more damage than good. Justice must take its course. If Odwa is convicted of rape in the courts, I will not hesitate to expel him.”
“Sir, are you saying we should protect a rapist? Is that what you are saying?” Masego asked, accusingly.
The Principal took some time to answer. “We will march as organised, Masego. And I will speak to Odwa later about this very serious matter. I will also speak to the Principal of his previous school and ask why Masedi has not pressed rape charges. Perhaps she is afraid and needs to be supported. If there is enough evidence that he raped her, he will be convicted. But we don’t know the whole truth yet. We want Odwa to realise the seriousness of what he has done, but we want to also give him an opportunity to give his version of the story. I am by no means protecting him and I understand your rage.”
As they left the Principal’s office, Malebo said, “I can see the Principal’s point. You have to hear both sides of the story. One side you want to name and shame, but on the other side you have to respect that Odwa is innocent until proven guilty. It’s tough, I know.”
“Actually, Odwa is already named and shamed, by that video going viral. And poor poor Masedi … imagine how publicly violated she feels,” said Kele.
“And what about the guy who made the video and sent it out? He is like a rapist himself. He should be charged too,” said Malebo.
That day they all walked home separately, deep in thought.
Katlego was home when Masego arrived and she broke down at the sight of her brother. She told Katlego everything and the two siblings embraced, both in tears.
“I feel so fragile, Kat, but I have to stay strong because I’m scared mom and dad will notice that something is wrong,” Masego said, wiping her tears with the handkerchief Katlego handed her.
“What’s wrong?” her dad’s voice boomed from the lounge.
“Just tell them, Sego,” Katlego said. “Tell them what you told the Principal. It’s going to come out, they should here the real story from you.”
Masego nodded and breathed in deeply, then led the way to the sitting room and began to explain.
“Please show me the video,” Masego’s mom said.
“And did you sleep with this boy?” her father asked.
Masego just nodded her head, unable to lie.
“Show me the video, Masego,” her mom said again, in a soft voice.
Katlego pulled out his phone and gave it to Masego. She went to Facebook, clicked on the link Masedi had sent and handed the phone over to her mother. He father moved closer and both her parents watched. Tears began to roll down her mother’s cheeks. Her mother handed the phone back when the video was finished.
“And you were involved with this boy? Oh Masego, what have you got us into?” her mother asked, sobbing.
Her father held her mom’s hand as they sat on the couch together.
“I’m so sorry,” Masego said, over and over, beginning to sob herself. Katlego held her hand and the family sat in silence for some time.
“Imagine if the church found out that you had sex with a boy before marriage. And a rapist at that. Who will marry you?” her father said, standing up.
“Really, Dad?” Katlego asked, standing up to face his dad. Wild anger boiled at the bottom of his belly. He could feel it rising, like bubbling water in a saucepan.
“Really what, Katlego?” his father said, with a menacing smile, clenching his fists.
“After everything Masego has told you, all that you are concerned about is who will marry her? She is only 16 and you are worried about marriage,” Katlego said, standing his ground, defiantly.
Masego froze, scared of what might happen. Her dad brought his fists up as if to start a fight, then stopped.
“Come and sit here,” her mom patted the couch next to her. “Katlego is right. Come and sit here with us, my daughter.”
Masego sat down next to her on the sofa. She sobbed until her head hurt.
Her father remained silent.
“We love you, my child. We will support you through this,” said her mother.
Masego’s father went to his bedroom and slammed the door.
Mother, son and daughter sat and wept. Finally, Masego’s mother stood up to cook a quick supper, giving the children a rest.
Later that evening, Masego’s mother went into her bedroom and instead of just switching off the lights as she normally did, she came in and sat on the bed next to Masego.
“Sego, I’m really sorry about what happened. Yes, it is a big shame to the family, but we shouldn’t worry about that now; you need all the support you can get. And as for your father, you need to give him some time, he will come around. I will talk to him,” her mother said, and kissed her on the forehead. “I know what you have been through…” her voice trailed off and Masego wondered about all the things she didn’t know about her mother.
Her mother stood up, switched off the light and left.
* * *
Tell us: Do you think Masego should have told her parents that she slept with Odwa? Why or why not?