“You need the Ithemba Care Centre, Ma’am,” the young clerk at the enquiries desk advises Miss Lisa. “They’re one floor up. The lifts are through the double doors to your left.”

“Thank you.”

She turns away from the desk and recognises Mrs Sibewu as she enters the building, her eyes roving frantically over the horde of faces. Thank goodness she always attends school meetings, thinks Miss Lisa, hurrying over to catch Mrs Sibewu before she spots Khanyiswa.

“Mrs Sibewu,” she calls softly when she’s closer. “Molo Ma, unja–” she starts greeting Mrs Sibewu, extending her hand.

Mrs Sibewu takes her hand and shakes it lightly. “Molo Sisi,” she interrupts Miss Lisa. “Askies! Iphinaintombi yam?” she enquires, still searching the crowd of faces. “I don’t see Khanyiswa.”

“We need to talk,” Miss Lisa informs Mrs Sibewu and leads her to a private, unoccupied corner.

Mrs Sibewu’s expression changes from anxious, to thin-lipped, eye-popping, glaring anger as Miss Lisa relates the events up to the present.

“My daughter! Now!” Mrs Sibewu commands.

Miss Lisa leads the way to where Khanyiswa sits, her eyes downcast.

“Khanyiswa,” Mrs Sibewu murmurs. “My precious daughter!”

“Mama!” Khanyiswa exclaims, looking up.

Mrs Sibewu spreads her arms and Khanyiswa jumps up into her mother’s embrace.

“Uxolo, Mama. I’m sorry!” Khanyiswa cries out.

“You don’t need to apologise, ntombi yam. You did nothing wrong,” Mrs Sibewu says, releasing Khanyiswa and looking into her eyes, wiping away her tears with her thumbs. “You did nothing wrong,” she repeats, as tears sting her own eyes.

* * * * *

At the Ithemba Care Centre, Khanyiswa is immediately taken to a private room by a young and friendly nurse who helps her onto the bed. Khanyiswa feels safe and comfortable with her.

“My name is Carmen, Khanyiswa. I’ll be right here with you. And your mother too,” she says, nodding at Mrs Sibewu. “You will also need to stay, since you’re the prime witness,” Nurse Carmen addresses Miss Lisa. “Please make yourself comfortable in the waiting area.”

Miss Lisa gently squeezes Khanyiswa’s hands before leaving the room.

“While we wait for Doctor Davids, I need to talk to you about a few important things. Are you comfortable, Khanyiswa?” Nurse Carmen asks.

“Yes … but I’m sore,” says Khanyiswa, her eyes glistening.

“Doctor Davids can give you something for the pain.”

Khanyiswa nods her head before resting it back against the pillows. The bed feels so warm and comforting against her aching body that her eyes start closing … but they jerk open when the nurse touches her arm.

“You need to stay awake, Khanyiswa,” Nurse Carmen advises and Khanyiswa battles to sit up straight while she fusses with the bedding.

“Mrs Sibewu, we need your permission for the doctor to perform a forensic examination on Khanyiswa, as well as give any medical treatment she may need.”

While Mrs Sibewu reads the document that she must sign, Nurse Carmen explains how important the medicine is, to prevent Aids and any sexually transmitted diseases infecting Khanyiswa.

“A police officer will take your statement later. They will also follow up on what’s happening at school with Mr Hill.” She pauses when she notices Khanyiswa cringe at her assailant’s name. “I encourage you to speak to our social worker. Together with our in-house lawyer, they will be by your side through everything.”

“Will he go to prison?” Khanyiswa asks.

“The lawyer, Miss Magele, will be able to answer your questions on that,” Nurse Carmen replies. “She specialises in these types of cases.”

Nurse Carmen shows Khanyiswa the bathroom, where she can change into a hospital gown. When she returns, the nurse places each piece of Khanyiswa’s clothing in separate paper bags.

“In the movies they put evidence in see-through plastic bags,” Khanyiswa says, as she lies down on the bed.

Nurse Carmen smiles and shakes her head. “The plastic bag creates heat inside which can destroy evidence,” she shares with Khanyiswa. “You might want to take your money first,” she says as she’s about to place Khanyiswa’s shirt in a bag.

“I don’t want it! It’s not mine. He put it there because … he said I must get new panties,” Khanyiswa answers.

“That makes it evidence,” Nurse Carmen says, removing the R100 note with tweezers and placing it in a small paper bag.

The door opens and a man steps inside, a stethoscope slung around his neck.

Khanyiswa draws her knees up to her chest and wraps her arms around them. “Oh no … no … ,” she mutters, her eyes darting from Doctor Davids to Nurse Carmen.


Tell us: What is special and important about a Care Centre like this for rape victims?