I was sexually abused and raped at a very young age by someone I loved and adored. My whole world fell apart and the only way I knew how to deal with what was happening to me was to push it as far away in my mind as I could.
In my early thirty’s I started having panic attacks and flash backs and suffered badly from anxiety and depression. When I did start to professionally deal with my past I was devastated and a wreck for many years. The only thing that pulled me through it all was my love for my children. I remember my Higher Power saying to me one day,”Live for your children.” I focused on them completely and being a Mother, who wants everything for her children, that is what I did.
When I wanted to end it all, when the pain got so bad and I felt like I was being ripped apart, I looked at my children. They were my determination to live and to be the best I could be for them. They deserved a sane and loving Mother and a wonderful childhood, not devastation and pain. My Husband was an incredible strength, but I knew if I ended it all he could carry on without me, but my children would never get over losing their Mother and they deserved more than that.
Their laughs, their joy, their gorgeous hugs and childish innocence is what has kept me going.
I AM a survivor and I will continue to heal, with My Higher Power, my stunning Husband and my 3 gorgeous children, my blessings!”
It was on one Friday afternoon in 2008, while Tessa was having dinner and celebrating her girlfriend’s birthday for an intimate evening at her house in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town, that they were attacked by what appeared to be a group of men.
Tessa cannot remember the event and only came to her senses three days later, cold, frail and numb in a forested area miles away from where she had been. Disorientated, she made her way back to her own home. It was only the next day, when she stripped to have a shower and saw the state of her body, that she suspected the worst. She was covered in bruises and her private parts were completely numb.
Not able to think clearly she initially suspected that her girlfriend had even been involved in what might have been a sadistic prank. It was only months later that she found out through a mutual friend that her partner had been raped and killed. When she finally plucked up the courage to go to a clinic to report what had happened, she discovered the shocking news that she was pregnant.
Tessa fell into a state of turmoil and set a date to commit suicide. She felt that she just wouldn’t be able to cope with a child borne out of murder and rape. But just a few days before she had planned to take her own life, she gave birth to a baby daughter two months prematurely. As soon as Tessa saw her, she fell in love with her completely and unconditionally. “I don’t ever want to know who the father is. I don’t want the killers to be found. [Because] if I found out and saw that father, I am scared that through anger I could end up killing my child.”
Tessa asked to be photographed at her local school where she hopes to complete her studies and which she considers to be a symbol of hope for her. Her daughter has been the greatest source of strength for her during terrible ordeal. “I give all my love to her and she in return gives all her love to me.”
It’s difficult to write this, but I believe it is important. I was raped over 20 years ago by a boy a few years older than me. The first adult I told, told me to keep quiet and forget about it.
I listened. I remember crying a lot and being very angry at the world. I remember finding out what a virgin was and realizing that I wasn’t one. When I was 9 teachers were asked why I was acting out. At 13 a doctor thought I was experiencing symptoms from trauma when I was diagnosed with a chronic condition.
At 14 I was sent to the first psychologist and over the next ten years saw another three. At 20 I landed in rehab for five weeks…yet no one helped me with the sexual abuse until I was 26 and met Reinette Evans, the lady sitting on the floor in the photograph. At 20 after a failed suicide I made the decision not to make my best friend, Lesley du Preez live through my death. My wish to die never left, but I stuck to my decision. She is the only reason that I am alive today because I wanted more than anything to die. I am holding a picture of her in the photograph. Try to imagine what it is like to live this pain and complication as a young child with no one who knows how to help.
When I met Reinette the most I had managed to do was to hide my pain fairly well and get along with the minimum number of people knowing I was depressed, angry at the whole world and making very destructive decisions. She knew how to help me from the very first time I met her. I remember leaving that meeting with hope for the first time in my life. My story and my struggle isn’t over, but thanks to someone finally knowing how to help me, today I don’t have the pain, the anger, the depression or the wish to die – instead I am slowly becoming whole.”
Cindy was raped by her stepfather from the age of 10 and gave birth to 2 children out of the sexual abuse she suffered.
After the first child was born when Cindy was only 14 years old, her stepfather forced her to lie and cover up for him by claiming that the father was a fictitious boyfriend who had absconded. After the second child was born though, he was forced to own up to her mother. Instead of protecting her child, Cindy’s mother became jealous of their supposed relationship and distanced herself from Cindy. She considered her to be a love rival rather than a daughter who needed her urgent protection. Not once did Cindy’s mother believe what had happened to be abuse and a terrible betrayal by a man in a position of paternal responsibility. It was left to Cindy’s uncle to try and rescue the situation. He insisted that Cindy and her mother leave the stepfather and encouraged Cindy to bring criminal charges against him. The case collapsed though after Cindy’s mother returned to the stepfather and Cindy was coerced into providing false testimony. Growing up, she never considered what had happened to be at all out of the ordinary.
Cindy has suffered from a lot of anger, sadness and loneliness throughout her life. She feels she has no friends. Whenever someone would get close to her, they would become inquisitive as to her situation. “Their typical reaction [when finding out] would always be something like. Oh Wow! You were naughty!” Not once did they consider what had happened to Cindy at such a young age to be rape.
In early 2009, Cindy had a nervous breakdown. She feels it was her body telling her that it was time to deal with her emotions and her history of abuse. She now finds that going to counselling and group therapy sessions have helped her start to speak openly about her trauma. She feels she was a hard, emotionless woman but learning to open up has helped put her firmly on the road to emotional and mental recovery.
She particularly harbours a lot of anger towards her mother for abandoning her and is determined to confront her one day to ask why she allowed the abuse to continue for so long in front of her very eyes. Maybe for this reason, Cindy desires most in life to be the best mother she can be for her own children.
Cindy finds the cat welfare centre where she now works to be a great source of strength and allows her to escape her everyday worries. Her female employer has also shown a lot of compassion and understanding towards her situation and the great problems she is now confronting.