I am a 24 year old teacher, step mom, daughter and sister. I am a survivor and over-comer! I grew up in a family that is fully Portuguese, and live in Johannesburg.

I have been through something incredibly traumatic, quite hard to write on paper or put into words. It’s quite a long story, but I’ll explain briefly. I was in my first year of varsity, young and carefree. I met a man a lot older than me, he spoiled me and I now realise took great advantage of my vulnerability.

It changed

We had been seeing each other for almost 3 months when one day he locked me in his home, he tied me up naked with zip ties and tape and he did the most awful things to me. He threatened to kill me and place my head in a box to give as a gift to my mom.

I managed to walk away with a few scratches and bruises, by the grace of God (I’m not really religious, but I simply don’t see any other way). I endured 2 years of court where I had to face him and share my story with the world with a poor state sent attorney who didn’t know what he was doing, after which he was acquitted and walked away free.

I have faced it

Since the attack, honestly, there are so many challenging moments. A year later for the first time in my life I became depressed, so depressed I didn’t even know I was depressed. I had suicidal thoughts.

My hardest moment was hearing a magistrate tell me my story sounded so torturous that it sounded fabricated. This I think was one of the worst part and I began to second guess myself. I kept trying to replay that day and imagine something else took place, imagine my mind had made it up. I actually questioned myself.

My mom was sexually assaulted as a child, by someone she knew. Nobody believed her. It was built into me through the strength of my mom to fight my own trauma, to not give up and to fight for justice whether it came or not.

You don’t give up

I didn’t give up for the next girl. He told me he had done it before. And I never want it to happen to anyone ever again and if it were to, I want my fight to help hers, I want my load to lessen that of hers.

I had the greatest support system, from a family who encouraged me to seek a psychologist, to send me away to find myself again and to be there every single court date encouraging me and holding my hand.

I later met someone who when hearing about what happened to me didn’t judge me as I feared but rather swore to protect me no matter what. He has been a rock and a safety blanket.

Where am I now

I am now at a place of strength; however, I still have triggers and those make me feel like I’ve taken a step back. Like I’m not as strong as I thought I was. I do take pride in small steps though, some, that some would find strange or minute. Like driving through Edenvale where it happened. Wearing a jump suit like the one I wore that day. Like making use of zip ties no matter how much it makes me want to throw up.

And I am actually able to change the black bag in our dustbin from time to time (even though I avoid it like the plague) as he laid me down on one before placing a hammer on my head.

It doesn’t go away

I am hindered by a lot out of fear. I’m still young and I cannot drink alcohol, the thought of not being in control of the world around me terrifies me. I literally have anxiety attacks where I feel as though the room is getting smaller and I need to go straight home. I so want to be the person that can drink and have a fun night out but I just can’t.

I get scared every time I see a black polo. There are also some intimate blocks that I have because of this.

My wisdom for others

Don’t stay silent, ever.

Speaking will give you so much strength. You are the victim, it happened, it’s not your fault, but it happened, don’t let anyone try to convince you it didn’t. It’s not your fault but it happened. You are going to get so much stronger.

This will always be part of your story but will never be who you are, it may feel Never-ending, but you will see the light I promise.

The best outlet I ever had for this was writing. I began writing just a few hours after it happened. I have a little book with all of it in there and often look back as a FORM of strength, to remind myself how far I’ve come and how strong I’ve become. And when I still have thoughts or weak moments, they normally weigh on me until they are out on paper.

My life’s saying had always been that I am stronger than I was yesterday.