Survivors Stories

Dalsy's Story

Choose healing over silence

I was raped by a stranger at the age of 14.
Twenty three years ago my life changed. What started off as a fun occasion turned into the biggest nightmare.

Like every other day, I woke up and dressed for school, but that day was a special event, our school concert, how exciting. There was a buzz in the air as we entered the venue. My friends and I were excited as we planned and waited for this day to arrive for months. I was a part of a drama, “Polygamy”. Trying to keep cool and remember all my lines. I loved that I was a part of the concert, my role in the drama gave me a nick name, “Sehwirihwiri” which means carrier of tales.

The venue was in Bochum, Helen Franz Special School, where different schools joined us and participated in the concert. This was a drama concert. It was such a fun, bubbly, amazing day were everyone was hyped and ready to perform. The performances proceeded and it was finally our turn. Our performance was out of this world, everyone gave it their best (Using Today’s lingo, our performance was LIT). Our performance ended and the others schools applaud us. I was so proud. We sat and watched as other schools performed.

Being in a new place, my friend and I decided to buy some stuff to take back home with us. We left the hall were the performances took place and proceeded outside the venue to the vendors sitting alongside the road. On our way before approaching the gate, a man (to me he looked around 45 years of age) grabbed us. We did not understand what was happening. Growing up we were not exposed to the truths of life. That not everyone you meet has good intentions. He continued to shove us around the school until we came to a dark corner. He forced us to lie on the ground. He covered our mouth and told us not to scream. We were terrified. He threatened to kill us if we moved or made a sound. He undressed us together and started with me while he continued to push my friend on the ground. I was raped by a person old enough to be a figure of protection. As he raped my friend, he held me for a while before releasing me. As soon as he released me, I could not think straight, I was terrified so I ran as fast as I could without looking back. This school was huge, I did not know where I was running to. I eventually got to the hall, where the concert took place, I sat down for a few minutes before seeing my friend run after me. We sat, no words could explain what happened, what we just experienced, so we sat in silence.

The winners of the concert was announced and they were presented with prizes. How could I even be excited for the announcement that I waited to hear for months. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. The concert was over, it was time to go home. While the rest of the class were excited and noisy on the bus speaking about how amazing the concert was, my friend and I sat in silence. Even though I sat in silence, there was a storm in my head. Unanswered questions. So much was stolen from me. I blamed him, why did he feel he had the right to do that to us. He took something I was not willing to give up.

I got home. My dad and siblings were home. I was unsure who to tell or what to do. I went straight to my room and tried to sleep. I tried, but failed, I could not sleep, not after what happened. I laid in bed replaying the moments. What hurt me the most is that my mum was in Johannesburg, dad was there for the weekend. I could not speak to dad as it was not easy for me to open up to him about what happened. If my mum was home, it would have been easier for me to tell her. She would have understood as a woman.

About half an hour later, there was a knock on our front door. Without hearing a word, I knew it was my friends mum. Dad opened the door for them. I heard a voice which confirmed what I already knew. I went out of my room, my cousin stood there with my friends mum. She began telling my dad what happened as my friend opened up to her mum. She explained exactly what happened. I stood there without saying a word. My dad asked me if it was the truth, finally it hit me, I could not contain the hurt anymore. I cried, for the first time, I cried and confirmed that this happened. He was furious, he asked why I did not tell him about it.

We were rushed to a hospital in Bochum, Helen France. The procedure was conducted. After the necessary tests were completed, we were taken home. I decided to get some rest which only lasted a few hours. The next day I stayed home and kept to myself. The next day was school. To my surprise, the nightmare only grew as everyone knew what had happened to me. People looked at me and passed comments. As if dealing with this was not hard enough, now I had to deal with people. My teachers called us, they just wanted to know the story but offered no council or help. We were shamed for something we had no control over.

Throughout my high school career, people continued to tease or call us names. For a long time I allowed it to affect me and my personality. All I did was pretend to be ok, pretend that everything was fine but deep down, I had this feeling, I was torn apart. Regardless of my experience, I used all the abuse received to commit to becoming a better person. I put all my energy into studying so that I could pass my Matric exams.

Year 2001 is when my new life began. The year I left Limpopo and move to the big city, Johannesburg. A place where I was unknown, a place where I had no story that followed me. A place where I knew dreams become reality. I began this life by going to tertiary. Furthering myself and abilities became my life goal. Was it easy? Hell no, but was it worth it? ABSOLUTELY!! Now starting tertiary was not easy. I was this young girl who didn’t even understand English properly. I could not use technology and definitely could not type on a computer. I knew that this was going to take my all. I decided that the only way to progress is to put in extra time and take extra lessons. It was not easy admitting the things I did not know but I put my pride aside and spoke to my lecturers. They were understanding and allowed me to sit in on other classes just so that I could learn at a faster pace. I worked so hard and by the end of 2003 was a proud graduate with a diploma to my name. The same girl from Limpopo now a proud Diploma graduate. My diploma was still fresh when I received a call from a Call Centre, ORT FASSET, I was one of the graduates selected for an Internship. I spent a year learning how to work in a call centre environment. 2004 was the year I started my first paying job at Eskom. I was in the debt collection department.

2006 a year of change. I was employed by my current company. At first this was just a job but then I met a man who changed my life. Can I tell you that this man could not stand me. He could not stand the way I dressed, the way I spoke (As I mentioned, English, shame), just me in general. During this time I was in the admin department, but soon moved to the cancellations department. I now directly reported to this man. He saw my work etiquette and began to notice me. The man I am speaking about is my manager Andre Holtzhauzen. He took it upon himself to groom me into the woman I am today. He saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself. He forced me to stop using tracksuits to work. He forced me to wear formal clothes and high heels everyday. He installed confidence in me. Confidence that I never had. Confidence that I desperately needed. All this time, he knew nothing about my past or where I came from. He just believed in me. He made sure I looked the part, lipstick, make up and the works. He would question me on days that I did not look on point. Now this is my daily. I cannot imagine being anyone other than who I am. No words can truly justify the impact Andre had on my life. Only I know what a difference he made.

This is the part of my life that I am most excited and proud of, where I currently stand, who I am at this very moment. I have been married for the past 7 years to the most amazing man. He is not only handsome, sweeps me off my feet like we still teenagers inlove but he is also supportive and caring. He has helped me heal by understanding and giving me the support and space I required. In my time with my husband, my lollipop as I would call him, God has blessed us with 2 precious boys. I hate to brag but those 2 little boys are so cute (inlove face). I can’t help but thank God every single day for saving my life in more ways than one. I still give praise to God regardless of what happened to me because I know my situation could have been worst and I know it is because of him that I was saved. I refuse to let the rapist and the rape deny me my life. I will live my life to the fullest.

My future looks very promising as I plan on starting a foundation that will mainly focus on encouraging and motivating woman who have been through any type of sexual abuse. I believe that it is time that we speak about rape openly to our kids and the community as a whole. This has become a dream that I know I will definitely accomplish. My journey has started as I have been invited to many events as the guest speaker and knowing the amount of lives that have been touched is absolutely unreal. I feel extremely strong about helping other young or old females become empowered and to help them live as survivors and not victims. The stigma must STOP!!! Do not look at people who went through rape or any sexual abuse with shame.

Someone once said to me, “I would have never guessed you’ve been through what you have, you carry yourself so well.” And that’s when I realised that it’s not about what happens to you, it’s about how you handle it. Be strong and have faith for what happens in life does not always define you as a person.

Thank you