For 16 days of activism to end violence against women and children, Independent Media will bring you the harrowing true stories behind the statistics. Please Don’t Look Away.

This is Gloria’s story.

Cape Town - Gloria thought she had met the man of her dreams. He was very charming, walking and talking his way into her heart at the taxi rank.

She believed that he really cared and she could put behind her all the years of growing up in a children’s home behind her, and settle into a warm relationship.

She was so wrong. Within five months of living together in Cape Town, he started to change.

“He started stealing from me and telling me lies.

“He told me he took my phone for repairs, but I found out from another guy that he had sold it to him,” she said.

Gloria, 22, regrets agreeing to his request that he be allowed to take drugs when he was at home.

Their intimate love life was replaced by loneliness, with her man constantly “out of it” in the bedroom. When he was interested in sex, it was driven by the drugs, and it was neither intimate nor pleasurable.

Things went from bad to worse when he took her to one of his friend’s homes. It turned out that they were from the feared 28s gang.

“He used to leave me there and go to work at the taxi rank. They told me that he was supposed to pay rent for me staying there, so when he came back they beat him for not looking after me, and not paying for drugs he was getting from them,” she said.

Gloria was taken to another house where she was locked up for four months and forced to have sex with men staying there, otherwise they were going to kill her.

One day he came to the house, demanding that she come out within an hour otherwise it was over between them.

She could not leave because she was under guard, and he left without her.

Someone saw, but looked away.

When she got her chance, she fled and ended up living on the streets for a year, taking comfort and shelter at the children’s home where she grew up, having lost both her parents at a young age. A carer she knew from there had relocated to Johannesburg and arranged for Gloria to move there.

Gloria stayed in Johannesburg for a year before returning to Cape Town where she was admitted to hospital to deal with her extreme anger and rage. She had over time also become a user of tik, and instead of it helping her escape her world, it made the anger rise up in her. She has been clean from drugs for two years now, and realises how destructive a role it had played in her life.

‘My therapist helped me a lot. She told me that I must stand up for myself.

“If a guy uses drugs don’t trust him because he is going to let you down and abuse you. She said also to not keep quiet about problems you are having in your relationship,” she said.

Gloria has been at The Haven Night Shelter in Kensington for the past four months and has a temporary job.

“Sometimes I sit and think about the things that are going to make me happy, and then I go for it. When things happen in a good way, like getting a job, I get so joyful that things are working out for me now, and that I can try to move on with my life,’’ she said.

Painful lessons learned have delayed Gloria in her efforts to lead a normal life, but now she has a plan:

“I want to study further, so I can be a housekeeper on a cruise ship, and visit other countries,” she said.

When Gloria closes her eyes, and imagines a different life to the one she has had so far, she sees herself in Mauritius, far away from the crowd she got involved in. Far away from the pain of betrayal at the hands of the man she thought she could trust.

Her advice to women caught up in abuse relationships: “Keeping quite is not a good idea, it will eat you inside.

“Talk to someone you can trust, and see if they can accompany you to report the abuse. And don’t hold back. Tell them everything. And stay away from dodgy characters.”

Here to help:

The Thuthuzela Care Centre (TCC) is a one-stop centre based at a healthcare facility. There are centres in all nine provinces. This TCC model is a multi-disciplinary approach to rape care management and it is largely dependent on the co-operation of other government departments and organisations for its success.

The Thuthuzela project is led by the NPA’s Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA), and came into being to address the urgent need for an integrated strategy for prevention, response and support for rape victims.

Since its establishment, the SOCA Unit has been working to develop best practices and policies that seek to eradicate victimisation of women and children, while improving prosecution, particularly in the areas of sexual offences, maintenance, child justice and domestic violence.

Thuthuzela Care Centres operate best in public hospitals close to communities. They are also linked to sexual offences courts, which are staffed by skilled prosecutors, social workers, magistrates, NGOs and police.

Thuthuzela’s integrated approach to rape care is one of respect, comfort, restoring dignity and ensuring justice for all victims of rape and sexual violence. When reporting, the rape victim is removed from crowds and intimidating environments, such as the police station, to a more victim-friendly environment before being transported by police or an ambulance to the Thuthuzela care centre.

* This coordinated approach ensures that victims of sexual offences obtain the best possible care in a holistic fashion.

* The aim is to turn victims into survivors by having a court directed, victim centred and prosecutor guided approach to rape care management.

* The three objectives being: reduction of secondary victimisation, reducing cycle times and increasing conviction rates.

* There are three staff members attached to the model that is provided by the NPA, two of which are based at the health care facility.

* Once a matter is reported at the centre it is managed through the criminal justice system to its conclusion.

Where TCCs are:

Atlantis, George, Worcester, Karl Bremmer, Heideveld, Khayelitsha

For further information on Thuthuzela Care Centres, contact the NPA at 012 845 6000.