‘Then I hear them walk­ing back to us, I see a flash of me­tal, and I know…’

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - FIRST PERSON -

We can al­most hear the mu­sic and laugh­ter from the party. As she starts telling her story, I look over her shoul­der and see two well­dressed men head­ing in our di­rec­tion. I don’t think much of it when one of the guys comes and sits on the bench next to us. It ir­ri­tates me, but it doesn’t scare me. ‘Are you tomboys,’ he asks, but it’s not a ques­tion. His white teeth ash, a stark con­trast to his dark skin. I have no idea what he’s talk­ing about. ‘Are you les­bians?’ he asks. Now I get it. ‘No,’ I say de­fen­sively. The other guy is stand­ing be­hind us and we can’t see him. The guy who speaks to us is dressed in jeans and a leather jacket. ‘We are leav­ing now,’ I say, get­ting up as­sertively. ‘No, no, we’ll go,’ he says and they start to walk away. For a mo­ment, I am re­lieved. This is al­ways how these sit­u­a­tions end. Al­ways. They walk about 20m away and I see them stand­ing and talk­ing about some­thing. The waves con­tinue to spray their breeze over us. ‘Mich, I’m scared,’ my friend says. ‘It’s ne, don’t worry, we’ll leave now.’ I’m ir­ri­tated with her for be­ing scared. Haven’t I been in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions hun­dreds of times be­fore? All we need to do is get out of there. I turn around from look­ing at them. Then I hear them walk­ing back to us, I see a ash of me­tal, and I know.

When I wake up the next morning, my thighs, back and but­tocks are a sickly green­ish pur­ple from where they kicked me, dragged me and threw me on the rocks. Ev­ery mus­cle in my body aches. My hands are com­pletely numb and tinged blue from when I strug­gled in panic with the shoelaces. Sur­pris­ingly, my face is ne. I was right: the one who punched me didn’t hit that hard. But my vagina is ten­der. It hurts to pee. Luck­ily I’m not bleed­ing. How many peo­ple know how bro­ken I am?

My mom and I go to the V&A Water­front to re­place some of the stu that was stolen, like my cell­phone and my watch. Why? It was the only thing we could think of do­ing. Un­like when some­one dies, there was no fu­neral to plan, no con­do­lences to re­ceive. I couldn’t denim jacket and black jeans. Also pur­ple lacy un­der­wear that now make me feel like it was wrong to wear them. Ev­ery­thing I thought I knew about rape and rape the­o­ries in prin­ci­ple was a lit­tle harder to put into prac­tice now that I was a ‘sur­vivor’.

I am still scared. Ev­ery­thing about me is less. I feel phys­i­cally smaller than I did two days ago and my breath is shal­low. In Wool­worths’ dairy aisle I am send­ing a mes­sage to my friend Maria from my mom’s phone when I see another mes­sage from one of our fam­ily friends. ‘We are think­ing of you dur­ing this time. X’. My stom­ach con­tracts. Bile rises in my throat. I can’t move. Peo­ple can’t know. It’s my fault. I’m dirty now. I walk to my mom who’s pick­ing up a car­ton of straw­berry yo­ghurt. ‘You... can’t... TELL PEO­PLE ’ I yell. ‘This is my story. I de­cide who knows. No one else, me.’ ‘OK. I un­der­stand. Should I ask ev­ery­one not to tell any­one?’ ‘Yes ’ I can’t breathe.

That night Maria comes over. We sit on the front porch and I tell her what hap­pened. She is an­gry. In­side, I hear the com­fort­ing clat­ter of pots as my mom cooks din­ner. On the wooden table in the din­ing room, my friend Ash­ley lays down a white table­cloth. A pot of my mom’s mince pasta is on it, and we sit obe­di­ently as my mom dishes for us. I look at the small lines which run and swerve and col­lide across my mom’s face. And the deeper ones around her eyes, which sometimes catch her tears be­fore let­ting them fall.

‘Michelle,’ my mom says. ‘What?’ ‘What were you think­ing? Try­ing to hit him with a panga?’ Her mouth eas­ily breaks open into a laugh as she talks. ‘You can’t even walk across a at sur­face with­out trip­ping ’ She claps her hands once – loudly – as her body rocks for­ward. I shake my head. Sure Mom, now’s the time to talk about how clumsy I am. But I feel the smile sneak­ing into the corner of my mouth, and once that hap­pens, we all laugh for a long time. Ex­tracted from I’m the Girl Who Was Raped

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