Cheryl Zondi. File picture: IOL
Cheryl Zondi. File picture: IOL

Women made to relive rape hell over and over

By Ntando Makhubu Time of article published Oct 23, 2018

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VICTIMS and alleged perpetrators of sexual abuse, small children and another small section of society are usually protected from being named, from the glare of the public spotlight, and being identified by the law.

This prevents them from being photographed, to protect, mainly, the victims from being identifiable. These people can be family or random strangers, but the law is clear: none must be named or identified in any way, because their survival outside court, the healing process and their standing in society, depend on the absence of the taboo that may result.

But last week the eyes of the country and the world were held spellbound as TV cameras were allowed into the court in Port Elizabeth, where Cheryl Zondi, one of the survivors of the alleged sexual predator Timothy Omotoso, spoke at length about the years of violence her young mind and body were subjected to by this man of the cloth.

The goings-on in the courtroom sparked discussions on social media, at water-cooler corners and in the tearoom, with many pondering how the State could allow the now 22-year-old to be subjected to the cross-examination we all watched live.

Some wanted to know if the judge or National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) could step in; get the defence to pull back a bit; be gentle on her, and considerate of the suffering she had undergone. Others went as far as to call defence counsel Peter Daubermann uncaring, mean and just concerned about his pay cheque. In fact, so harsh was the disgust that some called him a rapist himself.

Zondi took to the “stage” after the court itself failed in a bid to have the trial held in camera. She took an amazed audience on a journey through the many years of sexual abuse and psychological manipulation, apparently at the hands of the now 60-year-old, a senior pastor of the Jesus Dominion International church in Durban.

She told of entering the "house" at the age 13, from when the alleged abuse started, of the alleged daily acts carried out by Omotoso in Durban and as the church went about its unholy crusade from city to city to, among other places, Port Elizabeth.

Tears were shed and mothers cried in horror as they listened to Zondi speak about the man old enough to be her grandfather, and look him straight in the eye, saying that he was no more than the scum of the earth. She put on a brave face and answered every question thrown at her without flinching.

She often pulled out a tissue to dab at her eyes, spoke with tears streaming down her face, and with a cracked voice, but not once did she, all week, break down and ask for protection, from anyone.

But if you have sat in court either as a reporter or other stakeholder, you know that what she went through was no isolated incident. Secondary victimisation or secondary rape is, as statistics prove, what many women go through every day in the courts of law, where defence attorneys, in their bid to protect their clients, tear their evidence and experiences to tatters and, in a lot of cases, allow perpetrators to walk free.

This was the main reason why women are reluctant to even report abuse to the police, because, as statistics have shown, the negativity starts there. Women needing nothing more than protection are left feeling shamed.

The shame they must face when being made to recollect incidents to the police, relatives and friends, and the court is one for the books of abomination.

No woman, child or man should have to go through that, because recovery is never, ever possible.

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