KwaZulu-Natal - On seeing her guardian, whom she calls Mom, waiting for her outside the school gates, the eight-year-old rape victim ran up to her and engulfed her in a hug.
The victim, who survived a harrowing rape ordeal, is healing well said her guardian.
The girl was walking home from school when a 15-year-old boy dragged her into a sugar cane field near her home in April, where he raped her, strangled and bit her while trying to gouge out her eyes. She crawled home with blood pouring from both eyes.
When the Sunday Tribune first met the Grade 2 pupil six months ago she was lying in a hospital bed clutching a Teddy bear. Her right eye was severely swollen, and she had deep bite marks on her face, neck and mouth. Marks of an attempted strangulation were visible on her neck. Doctors had to remove her left eye which was dangling out of its socket after the attack.
The child we met outside her boarding school in Eshowe on Friday and drove back to her grandmother’s house in Gingindlovu, was happy, quick-to-smile and full of energy.
Both her parents are dead and she is cared for by her grandmother, who has terminal cancer. She alternates her weekends between her guardian and her grandmother. That Friday she was with both the people she loved.
At her grandmother’s house, she changed out of her school uniform and paraded in the clothes donated by Sunday Tribune readers in response to previous articles. Readers donated clothes, food, blankets and cash and the grandmother expressed her gratitude for their generosity.
However, it was the cards written by Sunday school pupils from St Paul’s Anglican Church the child most treasured. She climbed on to her guardian’s lap to read them, growing emotional at the words of encouragement and love.
Although her physical scars have healed, she is still dealing with the psychological ordeal, her guardian said, and is still wary of strangers, especially men. She sees a psychologist once a month and getting a prosthetic eye fitted for free by the Durban University of Technology in July changed her life.
“Children would tease her because the hospital eye she was given looked fake. People were also nosy asking what happened to her. Now she is fine because it looks so natural.”
“A while ago the neighbour’s children teased her that the boy has been released and was coming for her. She was so terrified she ran from her grandmother’s house to mine and stayed there. It hurts her but she is taking it in her stride.”
The guardian, who runs a small tuck shop from her home with her husband, has three children of her own; two work, one is studying. Raising another young child is a financial strain, she admitted.
“Her grandmother gets a grant to care for her. I have tried to get a foster grant because of transport and all the things she needs at school but have been declined. She phones, asking me to visit her because the other moms are visiting their daughters but I can’t afford to.
“Coming from a rural school, she is being exposed to new things at her school. She also wants to buy things and share with her friends. And it’s hard to tell her no,” she said.
While she is not related to the girl, she knew her from the community.
“I love her like I do my other children. I thought I was done raising children, but God had other plans I guess,” she laughed.
Their only concern is the court case and the suspect, who is in a place of safety. “My worst fear is that he will come back to the community. She doesn’t talk much about the incident. Sometimes she will open a bit about that fateful day. But she can’t go into the details.”
She thanked the teachers and principal at the school for being considerate of the girl’s situation. “She is thriving in her school environment. She is happy and I want to thank her teachers and principal for taking such good care of my girl,” she said.