Survivors Stories

Priscilla's Story

I was born in the Eighties to a single mom who had me at a young age and therefore, basically, gave me to her parents to raise. I was sent to boarding school from Grade 1, with my primary school years being spent at a strict Catholic convent run by tyrannical German nuns. I looked forward to school holidays, when I could go home and spend time with my family and, hopefully, catch a glimpse of my elusive, glamorous mother.

At the age of 9, during such holidays, my mom had shipped me off to visit her sister. During my first night there, I was sexually molested by a drunken uncle. I was lucky in the sense that my cousin walked into the room before he could go further than touching me inappropriately. That was just the beginning.
I could tell you many other things that happened to me from then on, but I’ll focus on the ones that impacted my life the most.
At the age of 17, while I was busy with my final Matric exams at boarding school, I was gang raped. I had been a virgin until then.
I lost my virginity to 6 men. 6 men who took turns on me.6 men who stubbed their cigarettes on my thighs and left me with permanent scars. 6 men who had their way with me, then left me there, a shivering, bloody mess. That experience shaped who I was to become.

I tried to commit suicide soon thereafter. Not because of what happened to me, but, because of how my family dealt with it. My grandmother gossiped about me to anyone that would listen. I’ll never forget walking into the lounge at home and hearing her on the phone with someone. I caught the tail end of the conversation. She was saying, “...I don’t know what she was doing there in the first place...” Yep! She blamed it on me. My mother... My mother has never spoken about it to this day.
Yes, I’m still angry! Yes, sometimes I still cry! Yes, I still wake up in a sweat some nights! I still smell my flesh burning as the red-hot embers of their cigarettes burnt holes in my thighs! I still scrub my thighs raw when I remember the blood...

I didn’t receive any counselling and the years thereafter are marred by alcohol and promiscuity. The promiscuity led to my pregnancy at the age of 20. The birth of my child certainly helped change my perspective on things though.
I did eventually receive counselling once I started working. These things have a way of catching up with you and I had found myself on the verge of suicide again. The counselling really helped me get my life back on track…at least for a while.
I started picking up the pieces of my life. Everything was so great for a while. I had a new job and I had met a wonderful man. We had been friends for a while before we became lovers. In 2008we were involved in a terrible car crash. I escaped with a few gashes and bruises. My partner, however, was left paralysed from the neck down. The doctors don’t know if he’ll ever walk again. More than 6 years later, I’m still with him.My relationship is nowhere near perfect. It would be so easy to throw in the towel…to walk away when the going gets tough. It’s not easy, having to deal with his emotions and insecurities…and not my own. I don’t know what the future holds for us. But, we get by…each day, we get by. Step by step….day by day…hand in hand...

Whilst dealing with all of that, I was at work one day in 2009 when I received a phone call from my mother. My sister was really ill and I needed to speak to her. They gave her the phone and she didn’t even recognize my voice. When she eventually did, she only had one thing to say … “Watch over my kids.” Later that night, I found out that my little sister had passed away a short while after I’d spoken to her. She was 21 years old when she died, and she left behind a 4-year old little boy and a beautiful 5 month old little girl. They are now my responsibility. The kids are grown now… 9 and 5 years old respectively. They live with their fathers but I see them regularly. The little boy will be living with me soon.

People look at me and see this amazingly strong woman. They don’t know that, for a while there, I’d cry myself to sleep because the façade was so hard to keep up.

In August 2011, I found myself in ICU due to a suicide attempt. I don’t know why…I was just tired of being everything to everyone….and nothing to me.
But, I’ve learned to take each day as it comes. I’m not perfect, but, I’m proud of who I’ve become, because through it all, I’m still standing. I’ve learned the value of forgiveness. I’ve forgiven my rapists and the uncle. If I had not forgiven them, I would have allowed the rape to take over my life, to define ME. I am not a victim.
Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It means taking your power back. It means moving on with your life. It means not dwelling on the negative and seeing the silver lining on every stormy cloud.

I’ve had to face some tough hurdles in my life. There were times I would ask, “Why me?” But when I think about it, if not me, who? Who would I rather go through everything I’ve been through? What gets me through the day is the realisation that, everything that has happened in my life has prepared me. I know that I am more than capable of dealing with any curveballs that life throws at me. We have, in each and every one of us, an innate strength. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. The key, for me, was to see the positive amidst all the chaos. I am still alive. That is enough for me.