Last night as I was leaving work, I quickly stepped into the ladies bathroom to wash my hands. The door to the corner toilet cubicle was ajar. I wasn’t sure if someone was in there and I wasn’t going to check either. I felt uneasy. I didn’t need to. There’s a huge security blanket around this building with controlled access and amazing security personnel whom I chat to on a daily basis.
So where was this paranoia coming from?
It came from within my subconscious – because that’s where I had pushed the story of the rape of the 7 year girl in the toilets at the Dros restaurant in Pretoria. My hidden fears surfaced in that moment in the bathroom because that’s the space where this innocent girl found herself in – and that’s the space where she was allegedly sexually violated.
Still, I tried to fight it. I had to wrestle with my own mind, with my thoughts. Again, I wanted to push that abhorrent incident to the back of my mind. I wasn’t ready to deal with it. I am still not.
How then is this 7 year old girl coping? Did she have a fighting chance against her 20 year old alleged rapist? Did she try to push him away? How is she dealing with the physical and emotional trauma she endured in what can only be described as a vile crime?
It is far beyond the innocence of her few precious years.
This 7 year old girl and her family need their privacy right now, far away from public scrutiny.
But it does not mean that we should forget about her in our responses to what transpired. It has descended into a race debate, as it does all too often in South Africa. Social media users have raised questions about her mother. And then, there’s that video of the alleged rapist that has gone viral. His fiancée has also been dragged into this.
All these will cause more harm rather than help this little girl and her family heal. It’s a form of secondary trauma that South Africans, in their anger, are not considering. This is a young girl who has her entire life ahead of her. She needs our support, love and prayers for the long road ahead….
The court process, no matter how long and frustrating it may seem, must be respected for only the law can mete out justice, not the gallery of public opinion.
In the meantime, what do we do?
We work in whatever way we can, through peaceful protests, through activism, awareness and through writing to call out the scourge of rape and the would-be rapists that walk among us. That’s how we can begin to restore the sanctity of what it should mean to be a child in South Africa in today….