ANTI-gender-based violence activists from various organisations protested outside the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court during the bail application of Patrick Wisani, who was charged with murdering his girlfriend, Nosipho Mandaleleni. File Picture: Chris Collingridge

Johannesburg - After years of service, army veteran and professional nurse Mandisa Tsotsi, 70, retired to a simple life in her village in Tsomo, in the Eastern Cape.

After identifying the needs of her community, the gender activist dedicated her days to helping her fellow villagers - mostly elderly women who live alone and often fall prey to thugs and sexual predators.

Despite rampant rape incidents, Tsotsi found that there was still a stigma attached to sexual violence and most victims didn’t report them.

Her new life was turned upside-down on August 27 - during Women’s Month - when the sprightly grandmother of five, who lives alone, was stabbed and raped in her home by an intruder.

Just before midnight, she heard strange noises coming from inside her house and was confronted by a strange man wielding a knife. A struggle ensued as Tsotsi tried to protect herself from her assailant.

“We struggled for a while; he was trying to go for my throat but I blocked him with my arm and he stabbed me on my hand. Eventually, he overpowered me and sexually assaulted me. After the ordeal, he demanded money and when he realised I didn’t have any, he fled. I tried to get some help and managed to get to my brother’s home about a kilometre away at about 1 am,” said Tsotsi.

According to crime statistics for 2018/2019 released in September, the number of reported sexual offences increased to 52 420 from the 50 108 recorded the previous year.

Tsotsi’s brother took her to Tsomo police station to report the crime. After opening a case, her relative drove her to Cofimvaba Hospital, where nursing staff examined her, gave her pre- exposure prophylaxis and released her. However, her pain intensified and her sons urged her to go to Gauteng for comprehensive medical assistance at the SANDF’s 1 Military Hospital.

Due to the severity of her injuries, Tsotsi was admitted for three weeks. Once discharged, she continued to receive weekly physiological and psychological therapy as an outpatient until two weeks ago.

Although she had not heard from the officers investigating her case in almost four months, Tsotsi said she was grateful for the treatment she received from them in Tsomo when she was at her most vulnerable.

“I found male police officers at the station. One of the officers was really nice; he handed me a towel and opened the counter to allow me to sit next to the heater to keep warm. About 30 minutes later, a policewoman arrived and helped me to open a case. She gave me a rape kit and took me through the process,” said Tsotsi.

Tsotsi said her life is in Tsomo and she will be returning to her home as soon as she has made a full recovery.

Sunday Independent