‘I still remember the way they smell’

I was raped three times by three different men.

The first time, I was eight years old. I was raped by my neighbour. I remember that day like it was yesterday. I was wearing a long yellow skirt, a white T-shirt and no shoes. That night, I ran away from home because I was in trouble and I knew I was gonna get spanked by my grandfather. Instead of going home, I went to our neighbour’s house.

He was home alone that night and made me feel safe at first. Later that night, he climbed into bed with me. It was then I knew I was in trouble because he was half-naked. I told him to take me home to my grandparents because they might be worried about me, but he reminded me that my grandfather was going to hit me for being naughty earlier that day. I wasn’t worried about the punishment I would have got from my grandfather anymore, and I made that clear to him, but he was determined to hurt me.

Then he did it; that animal penetrated forcefully into my small vagina. He raped me. I don’t know what was more painful; seeing his adulthood in front of me or him forcing it in. I became numb and all my nerves shut down. I couldn’t feel anything at a good 20 minutes. In the morning, he gave me R7 and told me not to tell anyone. But I had to explain the money to my grandparents so I told them everything. He was arrested that morning and subsequently served eight years in prison and was released on parole.

While he was in jail, my mother’s cousin who stayed in our home had his eyes on me, waiting for a chance. I knew he was not supposed to look at me that way – he was my mother’s age. I was 11 years old; old enough to know an elder doesn’t look at a child like that. I avoided being alone in a same room as him as much as I could but one night, my grandparents were out of town. He saw this as his chance and he used it. He raped me.

I thought “it’s happening again … there must be something wrong with me.” My grandparents came back in early hours of that morning. It was still dark. I think it was around 4am or 5am. I jumped out of bed and went to my grandmother. I was like “Gogo, Gogo! It’s happening again! My uncle did it to me … he raped me.” I was shouting at the top of my voice. My grandmother sister’s son raped me. They didn’t know how to handle this. They finally decided not have him arrested but chased him away. He was no longer allowed in our home. He stayed away for 12 years but now he comes by and no-one is chasing him away. I can’t even look him in the eye.

At 17 years old, I had a boyfriend who was so sweet. I was in Matric and he was in college. He always wanted to have sex but I wasn’t ready and he seemed to understand and I thought he was a coolest guy. One night we went to the movies and dinner. He had few beers. The night was every girls’ dream. He bought gifts for me. At around 10pm he drove me home but decided to pull over in the middle of nowhere. He ripped my cloths off and raped me. He couldn’t wait anymore and he had to have me. I went straight to the police station and reported him. He was arrested sentenced to 15 years in prison.
And through all this, I fought to the end by myself.
I am okay now? Is the past in the past? No. I still feel these man breathing on top of me and for some weird reason I still remember the way they smell.
I am still broken.