Principal Hector strides into his office, eyebrows pulled down together. “What’s the meaning of this, Mrs Buswayo?” he bellows. “Summoning me when you know I’m busy.”

Mrs Buswayo is cradling Khanyiswa’s trembling body and puts a finger to her lips.

“What’s the problem here?” he asks, his eyebrows drawing even closer together.

Just then Miss Lisa returns to the office. “Principal Hector,” she says, relieved to see him. “This is Khanyiswa Sibewu and she says Mr Hill raped her.”

“Preposterous!” he howls. “I know he’s a strict teacher, but to accuse the man of such a heinous crime,” he says, shaking his head, “is not a silly prank. It’s defamation of character and I won’t tolerate it!”

“I’ve already called her mother,” Miss Lisa informs Principal Hector, ignoring his outrage. “And I’m taking her to the police station to report it.”

“You do not have permission to leave the school premises.”

“Would you rather have me call the police to the school and disrupt everyone’s day? she asks. “I’m going, and I’ve notified you.”

“Your soft bleeding heart will be the end of your career,” Principal Hector says in a menacing tone.

“So be it!” Miss Lisa responds. “But we’ll see what the Education Department says after hearing how you’ve handled this delicate matter.” She turns her back on him, helps Khanyiswa up, to the parking area and into her car.

Despite Khanyiswa’s pleas to rather be taken home, she eventually allows Miss Lisa to lead her into the police station.

“Nobody will believe me,” Khanyiswa says. “You heard Principal Hector, Miss.”

“I believe you, Khanyiswa,” Miss Lisa assures her.

At the police station, Khanyiswa feels that every pair of eyes looking her way can see she’s been damaged.

But with each step she takes, she becomes determined to be strong. Miss Lisa believes me. I can do this, she thinks. I did not ask to be raped.

* * * * *

Nobody can prepare a victim for the secondary trauma they suffer after being raped, Miss Lisa thinks, as she swings her car into a parking bay at the hospital.

She still can’t believe the response from the female police officer when she told her she’d come to report the rape of a child.

“Are you the parent or guardian?” the police officer had asked.

“I’m her teacher,” Miss Lisa answered.

“We cannot question her without a parent or guardian present,” the police woman explained.

“But it happened at school. I’ve called her mothe–”

“It’s procedure,” the cop had said, visibly stifling a yawn.

“You will face disciplinary procedure for turning us away,” Miss Lisa had warned. “Thank you for wearing your name badge,” she’d finished, noting the officer’s name on her cellphone.

“Next!” the policewoman had barked, the rape incident already a distant memory to her.

“Come, Khanyiswa,” Miss Lisa had said, taking hold of her arm to escort her from the building. Khanyiswa had been standing, glaring at the police woman.

Do people lose their humanity when they join the police force? she was wondering.

Miss Lisa ushers Khanyiswa into the hospital’s reception area, where they’re greeted by a sea of faces – all waiting to be attended to.

She helps Khanyiswa to a chair. “I know it’s not the most comfortable seat,” she says when she notices Khanyiswa’s shoulders pull up in pain.

“I’m okay,” Khanyiswa murmurs, her mind set on remaining calm. She thinks back to a passage from a book that encouraged practising being strong, instead of making a habit of falling apart.

I can do this, she thinks. I will do this! Never mind what people are going to say. It’s like Cebisa says: “Fuck the people! I am the people!”


Tell us: Are you surprised at Principal Hector’s response, or is it what men usually say?