Speak out!

Ac­tress Rami Chuene urges rape sur­vivors to bravely talk about their ex­pe­ri­ences

CityPress - - News - NTOMBI­ZODWA MAKHOBA ntombi­zodwa@city­press.co.za

Ac­tress Rami Chuene (40) was raped on dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions by men who were fam­ily friends. “I was raped when I was six years old by a man who was the same age as my dad. I was re­peat­edly raped by two men I trusted. I thought I was safe around them,” she says.

Chuene is known for her roles on the big and small screen. She’s a fa­mil­iar face to view­ers of e.tv soapie Scan­dal! and, more re­cently, played the wicked step­mother Kho­motjo on the Tshiv­enda soapie Mu­vhango.

But when she delves into her past, her life as an ac­tress seems far re­moved.

Chuene spoke to City Press this week dur­ing the 16 Days of Ac­tivism for No Vi­o­lence Against Women and Chil­dren be­cause, she says, she was ready to tell her story in de­tail and wanted sur­vivors of abuse to know that there is life af­ter rape.

She ex­plains that to this day she still re­mem­bers vividly how her or­deal un­folded.

Of the first in­ci­dent, she re­calls: “He gen­tly pulled me by the hand, picked me up and made me sit on the big ta­ble with my legs dan­gling.

“He quickly un­zipped his pants and raped me,” Chuene says. It didn’t end there. Two years later, she was raped by a 15-year-old she grew up with and who was “like a brother” to her.

“He didn’t take my panties off. In­stead, he pushed them to one side, mak­ing just enough space.”

But ev­ery time it hap­pened, she was told to “keep quiet” and not tell any­one. The first time it hap­pened, the “old man” gave her a R1 coin. “I trusted and lis­tened to both men, and didn’t share with any­one what they did to me.”

In the same year af­ter the ado­les­cent raped her, the “old man” came back to mo­lest her again.

“Ex­cept, this time, the money had in­creased from the big R1 coin to the pur­ple R5 note,” she re­calls. She says when you are a child you trust adults and when such things hap­pen you don’t ques­tion them. The mother of three had never shared her or­deal with any­one un­til five years ago, when she de­cided to tell her fam­ily for the first time.

“When I told my fam­ily, they were shocked. They couldn’t be­lieve it,” she says.

As a rape sur­vivor, Chuene has put the past be­hind her, say­ing her heal­ing process be­gan af­ter she started talk­ing to other women who went through the same or­deal.

“I’m 40 and fab­u­lous. There are a thou­sand things to cry about, but there are also a mil­lion things more to laugh about and cel­e­brate in our lives.”

At some point, she knew that she had to tell her story by writ­ing a book. Two months ago, she re­leased her self-pub­lished story, ti­tled We Kissed the Sun and Em­braced the Moon.

In it, she shares her child­hood mem­o­ries and how a man she loved broke her heart.

“Peo­ple need to tell their sto­ries for the sake of their chil­dren,” she says.

“It’s im­por­tant to let go and move on with your life. But more than any­thing, I wrote this book for my daugh­ters.”

Chuene be­lieves sur­vivors need to speak out and not con­cern them­selves with what other peo­ple will say.

How­ever, she be­lieves the 16 Days of Ac­tivism is a great ini­tia­tive, but “a bit di­luted”.

“Our chal­lenge is that we are not deal­ing with the prob­lem, but are sugar-coat­ing it. We have to deal with the is­sue. Let us first get the foun­da­tion right.”

“I’m wait­ing for the day when 16 Days of Ac­tivism is about cel­e­brat­ing all women and chil­dren who have man­aged to con­quer a cer­tain strug­gle that they have come across in their lives.”

Her ad­vice to women who were raped but are afraid to share their sto­ries for fear of be­ing judged?

“Be hon­est with your­self. Speak­ing out may not be just for your­self; it may help to stop this crazy phe­nom­e­non of the abuse of women and chil­dren.

“For some­one who has [given birth to] a child out of rape, you need to be hon­est and tell your child that they have been con­ceived through rape,” she adds.

“Kids are al­ways the best gift, af­ter all.”

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