I’ve been re-watching previous seasons of Sons Of Anarchy so I can catch up. I had forgotten about Gemma’s rape and how she reacted to it. The episodes leading up to her eventually speaking out about it, especially that episode, reminded me of the piece I’d written below but never posted because I felt it was incomplete. I could see myself in so many ways in her. There’s a conversation she has with Tara which I felt carried so much weight in it’s own way to how I perceived men/males for a very long time after my incident.
Gemma to Tara: “Gemma: Clay’s never gonna want to be inside something that’s been ripped up like me… Love don’t mean shit. Men need to own their pussy. His has been violated. He’ll find another. That’s what they do.”
On the 15th May 2012, at about 7PM, three young men mugged me as I walked to a friend’s house. I was staying at this friends house while the flat I was staying at (where I was coming from) was under renovation. The lesson I had already known but learnt rather forcefully that evening was that one should never walk around listening to music at that time of night, not even through headphones…
In so saying, I don’t blame the young men for seeing me as an easy target – I may just as well have been walking around with a neon arrow point at me from whichever side you please, announcing in its neon glow “TARGET”. Though I agree I was an easy target, I do think three was quite a drastic number people- I mean, have you seen me? That aside, it was quite a well thought out plan on their part. Each of the young men played a solid role in successfully mugging me, especially in curbing my attempt at fighting them off as I was being mugged. I kid you not, I really think I would have taken one or two on… three is a bit of a stretch. Seriously, have you seen me?
This is where I began my journey of reflection on moments that shaped me in some or other way and will probably continue to do so until the day I die. What makes this mugging so important to me is the fact that it broke open my internal safe room where I had consciously and unconsciously been taking refuge for the past 17 odd years. The beauty of childhood is that when something horrible happens, most times the young mind pushes it into a dark abyss where it might stay forever… this abyss was my safe room.
The moment when that dry, calloused hand grabbed my wrist and reached for my only unprotected possession, my cell phone, the flashbacks began lining themselves up in my head. As I screamed and was pushed to the ground to aid the muffling process, I could almost see the opening credits. As I sat on the pavement shaking my head in disbelief as I watched my assailants running off into the dark, too surprised to run after them, I remembered that taste of blood in my mouth and the feel of slight bruise to my face. I remembered that I had seen a version of this movie before. In fact, I had been in a version of this movie…
When I was 6 years old we moved from a place called Lehurutse to a rather sleepy town, Zeerust, on the outskirts of the North-West province capital Mafikeng. There are quite a few things I’ll remember about that move; life got hard after that. At one point, we sat in the big empty house huddled around a gas heater in the dark eating cereal with water for dinner. Possibly, in that moment, the important thing was that we were a family.
Soon after we moved, time arrived for the new school year to begin. It was an exciting time for me. I was that kid who walked into the school yard and onto the school grounds holding my mother’s hand looking at the buildings as if they held great adventures, wisdom, or some kind of great magic. I remember I had to redo grade one because I was deemed too young to go to the next grade; in addition to having moved to a new area. I also had to walk home from school while my mother was working on arranging a seat for me on one of those taxis (also called “skof”) that specifically pick kids up in the mornings to take them to school and then pick them up again after school to drop them off at their respective homes.
They sometimes say memory is one of the most unreliable sources we can ever claim to have, but I’ll say I remember this day as clear as I will what my name is. It was a lovely summer afternoon, not too long after my 7th birthday- and I was walking home. This man had been walking with me, trying to talk to me and as much as I ignored him, he just wouldn’t leave me alone. At one point, I was that much of a goody-two-shoes that I instinctively remembered the classic: “Don’t talk to strangers.” I tried walking ahead of him, and then tried lagging behind again, but he was determined. I tried walking ahead again… That’s when he grabbed me from behind, muffling my screams with his palm almost covering my face, I mean honestly- have you seen me. I must have been as light as a loaf of bread because my flailing arms and legs and what terrified screams I let out were nothing to him.
He carried me to a ‘field’ immediately across from our front gate. Amongst the bushes, trees and clumps of grass that grew there; in not so many words he had his way, with me. When you’re a kid and there’s a bunch of big rocks, some broken glass around, and a big man on top of you- there’s not much else needed to threaten you. When he was done he heaved himself off, told me he was going to get help, that I should just wait there. I remember as he got up and walked out of the waist-high clumps of grass, a police car drove past. I will always remember that. I lay there for what felt like forever before deciding that home was just across the way, that there wasn’t a reason for me to sit there and wait for this man to return.
The worst thing is that rape victims have the same thought the character Gemma had. That feeling of being worthless on a public and intimate level. Not many can allow themselves to heal to the point of moving away from it. I wrote something about how important it is to find a place for healing, more than anything, for yourself. It’s easy to hate yourself, I got that. I felt it. Hearing those words from Gemma reminded me so much of the moments when I had started remembering (I was in highschool when I started having flashbacks) and how I struggled to get out of it for myself. It does something to you; rape. It kills you. Some people can’t handle it and do away with themselves, some like myself slowly numb themselves and then slowly reverse the numbness. There’s a lot to say about how the world sees rape, will it ever end? One can always hope… And sometimes you experience something that reminds you why you need to be strong for yourself like you did.