Diepsloot’s Green Door, a help service for victims of sexual violence, gets a boost, writes Mia Malan.
Donations for victims of sexual abuse in Diepsloot, north of Johannesburg, have been pouring in after the Mail & Guardian’s article on women and child rape last week.
The story, “Diepsloot: Where men think it’s their right to rape”, highlighted the work of the Green Door, a Diepsloot-based organisation counselling women and children and providing them with hamper packs.
After reading the article, Giuliana Bland, a childhood development specialist from Johannesburg, communications strategist Sarah Britten and the organisation Capacitate South Africa launched a Twitter campaign to raise donations for the Green Door.
Four carloads of women’s and children’s clothes, toys, sanitary towels, soap and nonperishable food have so far been collected.
In the M&G story, rape counsellor Brown Lekekela requested donations of a kettle and microwave for the small Wendy house from which Green Door operates.
As part of its 67 minutes for Mandela project for 2015, media company Frayintermedia donated these, and a laptop Lekekela can use for Green Door’s administration.
Long term support needed
Donations have also been flowing in from as far afield as the United States and Germany. Nkosi’s Haven, the nongovernmental organisation that offers help to HIV-infected mothers and their children, has donated clothes, food and toys.
Lekekela said: “I’m so grateful for the assistance. The hamper packs are of great help to the women and children who knock on our door. They mostly have nothing.
“Other than counselling, we can’t offer them anything. The few items they get in the hamper packs make them feel worth something.
“We will now also be able to offer the victims some coffee and tea, because we have a kettle, and will be able to warm up food for them in the microwave.”
According to Bland, the Leadership and Innovation Network for Collaboration in the Children’s Sector (Linc), which consists of about 100 influential childhood professionals, has convened a meeting for later this month in which they will discuss a “sustainable strategy” to support sexually abused child victims.
“Rather than just one-off donations, we would like to provide long-term support and also help Lekekela to get Green Door registered as a nonprofit that can apply for funding,” Bland said.
Media monitoring and evaluation specialist William Bird, who is also part of Linc, said: “We want to use this article to make people across different sectors, including government, aware of the huge problem and to get them to do something to combat these crimes – child sexual abuse is not just a problem in Diepsloot, but all over South Africa.
“We need to get all political parties to act on this article. If they don’t, we need to hold them accountable and ask them why they did not act. And that’s exactly what we’re planning to do. Watch this space,” Bird said.
‘I can’t forget his smell’
For six months Dineo Lekota* (13) has been falling asleep with the “stinking, salty” smell of her rapist in her nose.
Before she closes her eyes, she says, she always remembers the smell of his sweat-soaked green T-shirt and feels the chafing of his white sangoma’s cloak on her skin.
“I don’t like this feeling and tasting of him over and over again,” she says, crying. “But it won’t leave my head.”
Dineo and her father are sitting in the back of a car outside the shacks where they live in Diepsloot Extension 12, north of Johannesburg. They don’t want the people here to hear them.
“I’m embarrassed and ashamed,” Dineo explains. “I don’t want people here to remember my rape. It’s the first and only time I’ve had sex.”
Dineo was raped in April, barely 200m from where she lives.
That afternoon, a sangoma, who used to live in the same group of shacks as the Lekotas, came knocking on the door of Dineo’s father’s house. He told the family he’d dreamed Dineo had been bewitched. Her bewitchment, he said, would result in Dineo’s father and her stepmother divorcing.
Dineo’s father puts his arm around his daughter’s shoulders and says: “We knew this man, so we believed him and allowed him to take Dineo to the bush to wash off the evil with muti. But, all along, he was a criminal.”
The sangoma took Dineo to an open field behind a small hill near the shacks and gave her a bucket with water and herbs to wash herself. He then instructed her to take off her clothes.
“When I refused to take off my underwear, he grabbed me roughly, pulled off my panties and raped me,” Dineo whispers. “He said, ‘If you scream, I will kill you.’?”
A group of girls heard Dineo shout and started calling her name.
“That’s when this man pushed me away and started running. We’ve never seen him again.”
Little hope for justice
The next morning Dineo’s father reported her rape to the police.
“The police promised to come and investigate but no one has come,” he says and looks at his daughter.
“Dineo now lives in fear,” he explains. “She doesn’t want to leave our shack for anything. She only goes to school.”
Lindsay Henson from Lawyers against Abuse, a Diepsloot-based organisation that provides free legal services and psychosocial support to victims of domestic violence and sexual violence, says that “when a rapist is not held accountable for what he did, the victim can lose all sense of safety”.
Very few victims in Diepsloot receive psychological support, because “the resources are simply not there outside of our pschologist and one or two other counsellors”, she adds.
“Complaints about the police failing to follow up on rape cases in Diepsloot are also very common. In many cases nothing happens after a rape has been reported, which is why we often follow up on behalf of our clients by visiting the police station ourselves.”
Back in the car, Dineo nervously plays with her fingers on her lap.
She looks up shyly and says: “The social worker gave me a teddy bear and told me the best thing is just to forget about what happened to me. But that is impossible for me.”
* Name has been changed
Mia Malan is the founder and editor-in-chief of Bhekisisa. She has worked in newsrooms in Johannesburg, Nairobi and Washington, DC, winning more than 30 awards for her radio, print and television work.