A month later I walk to a green field in the Drakensberg mountains. It’s on a farm and how I always pictured my healing place would look: grey clouds with bursts of sunshine, grass so green it makes every other green look faded. Soft sloping mountains, waterfalls and misty clouds appear as if by magic. And at my feet, always a dog or a cat.
Let go of the fear. The voice is speaking to me again, the one who told me that I was going to get raped.
“If the horses come to you and want to interact with you, let them,” Heather strides next to me, so at one with nature, you would never have seen her if it wasn’t for her red hair and vibrant eyes.
“Okay,” I say.
“It took a lot of guts for you to come here,” she tells me.
“It took a lot of medication,” I respond.
I’m sure I’m going to fail this. I know it’s not a test.
I’m so going to fail this.
Earlier that day, we chose two horses to work with me, Pixie and Izzy. At Healing with Horses, the horses chose whether they want to work with you, everything here happens through mutual agreement.
We walk the rest of the way in silence. In the paddock, Izzy and Pixie, a black and a bay mare, stand next to each other, like they’re waiting for me.
Which is a ridiculous thought.
As soon as I think this, they start walking in my direction.
Heather opens the gate and I enter.
“Okay, okay, I’m going, I’m going!” she says, laughing.
She’s talking to the horses, not me.
I turn to Izzy and Pixie, clutching to my chest the piece of paper where I wrote my thoughts.
I walk over a bit and sit on the edge of an overturned tractor tire.
Let go of the fear.
Izzy comes and puts her black head over mine so completely that I can’t see at all. She is protecting me.
In front of us, Pixie lowers her brown head to my side, until she’s looking me in the eye.
For the first time in over a year, I let go of the fear.
I have never felt this safe.
How did they know?
The other horses in the paddock try to approach us, but as soon as they come close, Izzy chases them off, ears pinned back, tail swishing.
Then she chooses to walk back to me and again places her big, beautiful black head over mine. I am so enveloped by her presence I feel as if I never have to worry about anything ever again.
Pixie watches me as I cry with the shock and relief of being okay. Of being chosen. Of being loved. And a tear runs down her cheek as well.
They stand watching over me for twenty minutes.
They choose me, protect me, and stay with me. Because I needed them to.
It’s then that I realise I am strong.
It’s then that I realise I am brave.
It’s then that I realise I am pure.
I want to leave you with this thought: it is wrong to turn your gaze to the women, the victims of sexual violence, who are wounded. I tell my story because no one else will. I tell my story because rape happens to everyone and no one talks about it. But I am not the one you should be studying.
Consider André, the man who thought I was joking when I asked him not to have sex with me because I was a virgin, who I had to comfort when he thought my broken hymen was proof of my positive HIV status.
Consider the man who threatened my life. Who made me put his penis into my body or “I will kill you”. Who apologised for raping me before tying my hands and feet with shoelaces and leaving me on the rocks to die.
I was not bludgeoned. I was not stabbed. I was not gang raped. I was not subject to conditions of poverty and economic and social hardship while being physically abused.
But I was raped. I was raped, twice. Once by someone I thought was my friend and another time by a stranger. The fact that I am not the only woman to have been raped is what makes my story worth telling. If I was the only woman who was raped I would be extraordinary. But I am not. I am ordinary; I am one of many women who have been raped. My story is ordinary because too many women share my story. My story is worth telling because too many women identify with it. Too many women have first hand experience of what I am talking about. Yet it is the women who live with the shame. It is the women who are ostracised and blamed.
I am the statistic that I read about. I am the thing I always feared most.
I am rape.
There is no moral to this story, no life lesson, no motto or catch-phrase. There is simply a girl who lived through her worst nightmare and decided to try and hold onto her sanity by writing about it.
And I found love. In a hopeless place. Kidding! I found love in myself, in my family, in my friends. I found love in strangers, in beggars, in taxi drivers and smiles, whispers, kind words, kisses, horse breaths and doggy licks.
I hit rock bottom and I was not alone.
So, I get to go on with my life.
My prize for surviving rape is that I continue to struggle. I get to wake up every day to live in an entirely unsatisfying world… and to revel in those moments that take my breath away.