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