So that’s how I end up as a survivor in the country with the highest rape stats in the world unable to find a support group.
Did they all just carry it in their hearts, alone? How on earth could we all be alone in this? In that moment, I feel my heart breaking for all the women like me, all the women who have been raped and sexually coerced or threatened. I feel broken for them. I felt their pain and suffering and I hate that they had to go through it. I hate that they ever have to feel sad or guilty about this. I hate that they were born into bodies that other people felt the right to take ownership of. I hate that they ever had people judge or stigmatise them. I hate that they probably felt like they couldn’t tell people and that they couldn’t be loved. I hate that they try to justify it. I hate that, after everything they’ve been through, people make rape jokes and comments like, “We don’t need feminism anymore,” or, “Feminist chicks need to calm down”.
I’m not crying for me anymore.
As I drive home one afternoon, I stop at a red robot and look right into the face of a man trying to sell a newspaper. In that moment, I realise that this man could be my rapist and I wouldn’t know. I stare into his eyes and wonder what my rapist is doing right now. If he is eating, sleeping, pissing, fucking. I wonder if he thinks about me like I think about him. I worry sometimes that I might walk past him on the street. I worry that I’ll recognise him. I worry that I won’t. I worry that he’ll recognise me. I worry that he won’t. Was he able to forget me?
I know that the police will never solve the case. We haven’t had so much as a courtesy phone call to let us know how the case is going since the night I was raped. Our file is probably lying somewhere, forgotten, between a stack of newspapers and some real, important cases. Not cases of girls who got themselves raped.
But honestly, I don’t want my case to be solved. I don’t want my case to go to court. I don’t see the point in putting myself through this, knowing what they’ll say about me, how they’ll paint me. Knowing I’ll have to look at him day in and day out and that he might walk free.
My sister was involved in a rape trial. After I was raped, she told me I was much better off if it didn’t go to trial. She told me that the opposition would take all my worst fears and thoughts and use them against me. And I believe her. I don’t know if I have enough faith in the court to believe that they won’t blame me.
I was taking a taxi home last year, while I was doing my thesis about rape. The guy asked me what I was studying and I told him. He asked me what my thesis was about and I told him. This was before I was raped.
“But you know, they always look at the man. But a lot of these girls, their behaviour, from what they are doing, these girls should also be blamed,” he said. As I got out, I noticed his big hands on the steering wheel.
One Friday I’m on my way to meet Julia for a date at The Dog’s Bollocks, my favourite burger place in Cape Town. It’s located in an alley, and the owner only makes about fifty burgers every evening and they are as big as your face. I’m taking a shortcut from work because I’m already late.
I am waiting for the lights to change.
I jump. I was in front and hadn’t seen the green arrow. I stomp the gas and yank my steering wheel to the right.
I underestimate how sharp the turn is. I bump over the curb. In the split second after my car hits the curb I think: please don’t let it be bad, please don’t let it be bad, please don’t let it be bad.
The entire weight of the car shifts to the right as we “clunk, clunk” along, steering wheel careening wildly about.
“Shit, fuckitty, shit-tittty, fuck, fuck, fuck!” I park my car next to a robot.
Not only do I have no idea where I was as I was taking a new shortcut, I also didn’t have a spare tire. About two months previously, I got a flat at work and I had never gotten it fixed. “You absolute fucking idiot Michelle!” I roar at myself.
The sun is starting to set over Table Mountain, the colours pink, magenta and burnt orange. I am in no position to appreciate the beauty of it. I am stuck alone in a car, no spare tire.
And it is not the best part of town. I also have no way of defending myself. For the thousandth time I curse myself for not having been able to magically transform into a martial-arts heroine as I would have if I were Angelina Jolie. One of the many drawbacks of being Team Aniston?
I feel like I am about to break.
No. I can’t. I take a breath, and phone my mom. Clearly, dryly, I tell her what happened. She responds in the same way. She knows we have to take action. She gives me the number of the AA. Since I don’t have a spare tire, I have to phone them so that they can come tow me.
As I hang up, I want to break again.
Stop it, I tell myself sternly.
I phone the AA.