This is a shortened version of a story that we received. It has been rewritten for clarity, grammar, and readability. The crux of the original story has been kept intact.
I was friends with a man. Let’s call him Lebo*. I was friends with him for a couple of months and I’m not sure how or when we became best friends in such a short period of time. We lived in an apartment together where there were three others sharing a kitchen and bathroom. We did everything together under one roof.
There came a point when I trusted him more than I trusted myself. I felt so comfortable and safe around him. I had feelings I never felt before for anyone except for my dad who had passed on in 2011. Lebo and I took each other on friend dates every month on a payday; mine on the 15th and his at month-end. We would talk, laugh, and share our dreams with each other. He and I would advise each other on just about anything. The only thing we never spoke about was other relationships. I wasn’t seeing anyone. I’m not the type to feel comfortable talking about relationships, even my girlfriends. Everything else, Lebo and I had each other.
When he moved out to a new city for a new job, we were so happy. I felt proud of him and happy that life was looking up for one of us, and that he would be able to start a new chapter in his life. It was not only good for him but also for his family and his child. We didn’t see each other for a month or so as he was adjusting to his new work and the city. But we kept in contact constantly. As friends do.
In October 2017, he came back to our apartment. It was a pleasant surprise and I was happy to see him but I didn’t know that day would change my world in the worst possible way. What started out as a celebration for the new chapter in his life turned out to be a day that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
We bought drinks and pizza and invited the previous flatmates that were close to both of us. We choose my room as it was larger than the rest. We drank, talked, laughed, and danced. I got tired and decided to climb into bed and left the guys drinking. I must have fallen asleep and when I woke up, the apartment was quiet. At some point, they decided to go out and try to get more alcohol. I decided to clean the room, got into my PJs, and went back to bed. A few minutes later, I heard the front door opening. I wasn’t totally awake at that point. Lebo was going to sleep in my room. We’d shared a bed twice before so it was no big deal. Nothing to fear. No threat. Or so I thought.
I heard my bedroom door opening and him getting in. A few seconds later, I felt him climb onto the bed. Having been half-asleep, I was disoriented. Suddenly I felt fear. Instead of lying down next to me, I felt him roughly turning me onto my back and dragging me under him. It was dark but the streetlights were bright enough for me to make out his face and whatever was written on it. I asked him, “Ukuthi, what’s wrong?” He didn’t answer. I knew what he wanted when he started moving his body on top of me. It was then that I realised that he was completely naked. I started talking to him, saying he is drunk and needs to sleep. I pushed him with my hands and avoided contact between us. Still, he persisted. I thought perhaps he’s not aware of what he was doing but the fear was mounting.
I tried telling him I don’t want this, trying to keep my panic and my voice down so that I don’t draw attention to us (which I now regret), he had managed to get between my legs and move my PJ shorts and panties aside. Things were happening too fast to react. I tried to talk him down and make him realise what he was doing but he started shushing me and telling me what was happening had to happen and that I will understand. I told him he was hurting me and that he needs to stop so we can talk about it but he had already begun to forcefully remove my PJs. I grabbed them, still telling him to stop. He eventually stopped trying to take my clothes off and decided to keep trying with my clothes on. I closed my legs but he used his knees to keep them open and I wasn’t able to move from under him. He raped me.
He slowed down and stopped but still remained in the same position. I told him to get up and leave. He just said no and that he’s not going anywhere. I told him he got what he wanted and he had to leave. He said no and started again. I started crying and telling him no he needs to stop and leave because he was hurting me and I didn’t want this. He just looked and me and continued and the second time was very rough. He closed my mount with his. I realised that nothing I do would stop him. I stopped talking and my head went into a tailspin. I bit down on my fingers to withstand the pain. I felt like I was falling down a neverending slope – like I was losing grip of reality.
My mind flitted between the present and thinking about my friends, my family, and my life after that. What would he do afterward. What would happen for the rest of the night. Playing those few months of great friendship in my head. I felt lonely and cold like in a desert full of people but no-one at the same time. He eventually finished and looked at me. I don’t remember much after that. I don’t remember feeling pain, thinking, crying, or trying to sleep.
Even if I could remember, it wouldn’t change what happened and how hurt I felt. I remember waking up in the morning and the moment I opened my eyes, I remembered what happened as if it were a minute ago. I turned over and saw his back facing me. I felt my shorts were damp and felt pain from my waist down. My right thigh was the most painful and there was this big dark mark on it. I didn’t even feel like crying. I had a shower, not knowing what else to do. I don’t remember thinking even at that time, either about what happened, the pain I was feeling or about how swollen I was around my groin area. All I knew was he needed to leave and be out of my life.
When he eventually left, he showed no remorse. He said it had to happen because he thought we had mutual feelings for each other. I had made it clear to him this was just friendship. He responded saying there was no other way of doing it and if he could do it again he would because he saw that there was no way I was going to allow him a relationship. He claimed that he had tried before but he realised I was not allowing it.
I remember he said he would do whatever I wanted him to do to help me heal. The audacity. He said he will be with me every step of the way and he doesn’t want me to suffer alone and that I shouldn’t know that he loves me and if things were different he would like to have a relationship with me and see where things go. I don’t know why but I believed him.
Then a few days later I got a call from him. When I answered he told me he is sorry about what he was about to say but we can’t be friends anymore and the mother of his child is suspecting that he is cheating with me.
Months went by and I started resenting myself. I was taking care of myself on the outside but internally, I was dying. My work was still on point, my daily routines with friends were still good. But my relationship with myself was rotten. I started losing short-term memories, getting heart palpitations, visiting my GP more often (because I felt that I was ill but couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong). I’ve always taken pride in my health and wellbeing but I never saw the depression, anxiety, and sense of hopelessness coming.
I could do nothing else but forgive him. But I’ve not forgotten. Still, I feel so alone. I have friends and my family is there but I’m afraid to be judged and pitied. I spoke to one of my close friends and I told her that if I had the strength I would seek justice for what was done to me. She looked at me, said: “Deep down you don’t wanna do that and that’s why you didn’t get him arrested from the beginning.” I was shocked and asked myself who else will say that when I eventually make the decision to seek justice.
The decision to forgive is convenient for him, my friends, and my family but not me. I ask myself if I hate myself so much that I choose people over my sanity, wellbeing, and health. I ask myself that question every day. It makes me hate myself even more. I know I deserve to be safe and protected. It’s my responsibility and a promise I should keep to myself. I know I will be ready. I think I am.
I’m trying to be strong for myself. I will be strong for myself. This journey is going to bury me alive but at least if I get to heaven, I will tell the man who brought me here in the first place that I died trying. It’s better to die physically than to be a dead woman walking.