It’s not about the physical pain. It’s about the emotional pain. That’s what I came to learn. When I was raped, they took something away from me. They took my dignity. They took something I can’t get back.
It was a Friday night in October last year and I was with two of my girlfriends, just playing around at home with our mobile phone tunes. We were waiting for my boyfriend to come. It was l am.
I live alone in a little shack – just one room – and all of a sudden the lights went out. We were scared. ‘You know what?’ my friend said, ‘I’m scared.’ ‘Don’t be scared,’ I told her. ‘Nothing is going to happen.’
But none of us had the courage to go see what had happened to the electricity. We decided to climb into bed and get some sleep.
Then suddenly the front door flew open, kicked in. It was like a horror movie; I couldn’t believe I was seeing it. I screamed. Two guys came in and starting shouting at us. ‘Bitch!’ They screamed, ‘Where are your mobile phones? We want the phones.’
I was terrified. I couldn’t say anything anymore. I covered myself with the blanket and shut my eyes. Then one of the guys came to me. ‘Stand up, bitch!’ he ordered. He ripped my t-shirt and tore off my panties. I started shouting ‘Please please, take anything you want, just don’t hurt us.’ But he pushed me back on the bed and raped me. Right there in front of my friends.
I couldn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t look at him. The other guy kept on shouting. Then they took our phones and ran out onto the street. It was so quick I barely know what happened. It was like a dream, a nightmare. It was like I was somewhere else, I wasn’t on this planet. Fortunately my friends knew what to do. They woke up one of our neighbours and phoned the police and they came to get us and took us to the Centre.
All I could think was ‘Why me? How could it happen to me?’ I am well informed. I know what situations to avoid to reduce the risk of rape. I know what you should do. So how did it happen to me? And why only me, not my friends? I just kept thinking something must be wrong. Maybe if I had gone out, maybe if we had gone to sleep early, maybe if my boyfriend had come over… then maybe this wouldn’t have happened. I ended up blaming myself. And blaming my boyfriend too.
It’s now three months later and my friends and I don’t talk about it any more. I am determined to not let it change me – to keep going out like I used to, to keep being strong. I know I will be ok. But it’s hard. I have broken up with my boyfriend, even though he is a good man and is understanding. I still live alone but I have to sleep with the light on. And noises in the night scare me.
But I am fine.
Tinky’s story appears in ‘Surviving Rape’, a report on the work of the Simelela Centre for Rape Survivors in Khayelitsha