FILE PIC OF RAPE VICTIM: PHOTO: Matthews Baloyi / African News Agency (ANA)

PRETORIA - On the surface, Siyasanga Madlala (not her real name) looks happy and exudes a zest for life, raising a smile as if she has good news to share. But underneath the appearance lies the hurt of a woman who was raped by her ex-boyfriend and has sparked waves of depression.  

"He told me that he won't use a condom so that when I go to the police station there will be evidence," the Madlala said. 

"He said he's hurting me because he loves me."

Madlala is speaking to African News Agency (ANA) having just been released from a psychiatric hospital after suffering a mental breakdown.

She explained that she had been through several therapy sessions provided by government, but that these sessions did not yield the desired results because they were inconsistent as the victim support centre was overwhelmed with patients.

"In January I realised I hadn't healed, no matter how much I told myself I'm strong or had forgiven," she said. 

"I eventually slipped into depression and was admitted in hospital for two weeks."

Madlala explained that the suspect was once an endearing and caring boyfriend who showered her with nothing but love. They were friends and business partners before they pursued a romantic relationship.

"We met in 2015 and we only started dating in 2016, and we broke up in 2017 after he went back to his baby mama, but insisted on dating the both of us."

Not willing to be to in a polygamous relationship, the 27-year-old woman abandoned the relationship and found new love.

Her new relationship was short-lived however. "My ex-boyfriend got hold of my boyfriend's details and threatened his life and his family."

"Fearing for his life, the guy called me and said we can't continue seeing each other," she said, shaking her head at the recollection.

Madlala said she continued receiving threatening text messages from her ex but she ignored him and eventually found herself in the arms of another man.

"I think that aggravated him even more because his threats intensified."

One fateful day, Madlala was chilling in her car with her new lover who was the one driving. He had briefly stepped out of the car and left the keys in the ignition.

"Before I knew it, my ex had parked next to my car and got into the drivers seat. He asked me who I was with. I said I was with a friend. He noticed that the keys were still in the ignition and we started fighting for the keys, he punched and slapped me across the face and then he drove off with me.

"When we got to his place, he dragged me out of the car and took me to his room where he assaulted me and also attempted to burn me with a hot clothing iron."

Madlala said she put up a fight but was not a physical match for the man.

"He eventually overpowered me and then raped me."

"My life has never been the same. I sometimes feel dirty inside and smell him on my body. I don't know what to do or how to clean myself from him," she said as tears glistened in her eyes.

She explained that the matter is still in court and the trial is set to begin in April.

Even the though the wheels of justice are slowly turning, Madlala feels like her life is in danger as the suspect has continued to follow her around.

"One day when I was coming back from work after getting off from a taxi, he followed me in his car and lowered his window when he was passing me. He just looked at me and drove off, then made a U-turn and came speeding towards me and left.

"The same thing happened the next day, I didn't feel safe and then I decided to get a protection order against him."

After a long breath and with a shadow of defeat crossing her face, Madlala explained in a low tone of voice how she feels let down by the police.

"They gave me forms to fill in. When I returned them I was expecting a protection order, but instead they told me that I must return with the suspect to court after a month and explain why I must be given a protection order.

"Can you imagine, they want me to give reason why I must be protected when I have specifically told them that my life is in danger," she said with a shrug of helplessness.

On the day the letter was delivered to the ex-boyfriend, she said he threatened her in front of the police and told them they had nothing better to do at the police station, hence they were entertaining her lies.

"He denied following me around and said I don't own any land so I will not tell him what to do, he will do anything and drive anywhere at any given time," Madlala recounted. 

"When he got into the car he said why am I doing this because my rape claims are weak and I'm trying come up with new tricks, but nonetheless, he will win.

"His words pierced my heart, it took me back to the day he raped me. I relived all the emotions of the day I hate so much," she said, wiping away her tears. 

Madlala is part of a recurring and concerning narrative which reveal that women in South Africa not only have to contend with the reality of rape and violence, but suffer secondary trauma as a result of stalking and harassment, as well as often times an uncaring officialdom.

"So what must happen in the meantime? I must just live my life in fear and always looking over my shoulders not knowing what's going to happen next? Police don't care. I feel let down," she said, her voice growing faint.

African News Agency (ANA)