Durban - Child rape survivor Candice Bowman told the Scottburgh High Court yesterday that memories of her years of trauma still haunted her.
Bowman was raped and indecently assaulted by her former stepfather Larry du Plessis Zwiegelaar for nine years. Bowman’s sister, Jackie Toms, was also molested. The first incidents occurred 22 years ago when the sisters were seven and eight.
They only came forward in 2010 because they had wanted to protect their family, especially their step-siblings.
In August Zwiegelaar was convicted of indecent assault, rape and allowing children access to pornographic material.
Bowman did not testify on Tuesday, but a statement in which she detailed the impact of the abuse was read to the court.
She said dealing with what happened to her was a continuing struggle and she constantly worried about her children’s safety.
“Everywhere I look there is a memory of the abuse. I have flashbacks and nightmares and I have to try to remember that I’m safe. Wherever I go I think I see Larry (Zwiegelaar) and I panic and have to calm myself down. I have to look at my kids and trust that they will not be harmed.”
She had been robbed of her childhood, she said.
“I lived a secret life my whole childhood and grew up before my friends. I never had anyone to relate to. I kept my secret to protect my family.”
Toms said in her statement, which was also read to the court, that the abuse had left her broken.
“He (Zwiegelaar) will never understand the damage he has done to me. I do not trust anyone. It destroyed me and I’m plagued by self-doubt. I have anxiety attacks and problems coping with simple situations. I tried to put it behind me and thought it had not affected me, but it has.”
Bowman’s husband, Brett, testified that, when he was told of the abuse, it changed his relationship with his children.
“I stopped giving them baths and I gave them fewer hugs because I did not want my interactions to be perceived in the wrong way.
“Candice and I will have to go for a lot of counselling after this case to rebuild our lives.”
Referring to an apology Zwiegelaar made to the sisters when he testified this week, Brett said it was “far too late”.
“We do not feel that there was any real remorse in his apology. It was just his last bid to get a lesser sentence.”
He added that he would only be satisfied if Zwiegelaar was jailed for a lengthy term.
“A message needs to be sent out that even if a person was abused in the past, they can come forward and something will be done.”
The case continues today. Zwiegelaar is in custody having been denied bail last year.