Mary Mavuso,* 31, has been raped four times in her life. As the world marks the start of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence, Mavuso talks to OurHealth’s Cynthia Maseko about how she may found happiness now but her past continues to haunt her.
“Behind my smile, there are secrets that may shock you but please don’t judge me until you have heard my whole story and understand my past. I have kept my secrets and tried to forget them for almost 25 years.”
“Since I was young, I have always felt like it was me against the world.
“When I was six years old, my brother and I stayed with my grandmother because my mother stayed at her place of work and only came home at month-end. If she only knew what was going to happen to me, I am sure she wouldn’t have left me.
“The first time I was sexually abused, it was by a cousin who was 12 years older than me. While everyone was sleeping, he started touching my private parts and putting his finger inside my vagina. It continued for almost a week and no one knew.
“He began raping me every night. I remember crying but he didn’t stop. He just said, ‘sorry, please don’t cry. You know I am your brother and I wouldn’t hurt you.’
“The following year, I had to repeat a class. My mother was asked to attend a parent meeting at school. My teacher said something was wrong because that I wasn’t concentrating in class, but my mother didn’t understand why. She thought I was sick because I kept losing weight so she took my brother and I back home.”
Safe at home, but not for long
“I was happy to be back home, but three years later I was abused again. My abuser and his wife were close friends with my mom, and we used to visit their home regularly. I used to bring my friends and we enjoyed playing there because they had a tuck shop and lots of toys to play with.[quote float=”right”]”(He) said my boyfriend had given him permission to have sex with me. I refused and he took a knife and stabbed me”
“One day, while my friends and I were visiting, it came time for my friends and I to leave. As we were leaving, he called to us, ‘go, but leave her behind. I will take her home because I am going there in a few minutes.’
“He asked me to come inside the house because it was cold. I remember watching TV and laughing. Then he said, ‘come and sit on my thighs.’ I did. He started touching me, and unzipped his pants, took out his penis and rubbed it on my vagina.
“I was in shock and said ‘Stop you are hurting me.’ He raped me anyway and kept apologizing to me while I cried. He gave me a packet of sweets. It brought back all those memories of my grandmother’s house.”
Betrayed by love
“When I was 14 years old, I started dating my first boyfriend. I thought that as a young woman, I needed a man’s love and protection. I thought I was free from sexual abuse, but it wasn’t true and he betrayed me at the end.[quote float=”left”]”I smelled my rapist on me every day for months even though I took three showers a day”
“My caught us having sex in my room. She was so angry. While she was at work, my boyfriend convinced me to run away with him. Just like that, I took my clothes and we left to live with his aunt. Three months later, he said it was best if he returned home while I stayed with his aunt and uncle.
“She and I later fled to my boyfriend’s grandparents after his uncle and brother began planning to take me to Gauteng as his brother’s wife. When we returned, my boyfriend came to visit, but the love wasn’t there anymore and he left.
“That night, his uncle said my boyfriend had given him permission to have sex with me. I refused and he stabbed me. I was raped again that night.
“While he was sleeping, I tried to run away but was afraid of his two big dogs. In the morning, he pretended as if nothing had happen and I did too out of fear. Three days later, a family member came to visit and she helped me get back home. I was happy to be with my family again and return to school, but I smelled my rapist on me every day for months even though I took three showers a day.
“When my own uncle began raping me soon after, I smelled him on me instead. When he died, I remember hearing family members say it was due to AIDS-related illnesses. My whole life was crushed that day.”
The clouds break
“I began thinking about killing myself. I didn’t see the reason for being alive anymore. I remember praying and asking God to take my life because I always felt along and I never felt safe. I wanted my mother to see my pain but I never told her. It was me against the world and I was angry no one had protected me.[quote float=”right”]”I joined the Treatment Action Campaign because I needed support, I needed people to understand my past”
“At the age of 21 years old, I joined the Treatment Action Campaign because I needed support. I needed people to understand my past and not to judge. I came to understand it was not my fault that I was sexually abused. I heard positive stories of brave and strong women who were in similar situations, but I never allowed myself to say, ‘I am a rape survivor.’ No one in my family knows about my past.
“I always asked myself if it was it my fault that I attracted these rapists and why this has happened to me. I have stopped asking myself why because no one deserves to be raped. At least I am lucky to be alive, and I am proud that I have survived. I always guard my daughters closely.
“I am proud to be a rape survivor. Imphilo iyachubeka (life goes on).”