Andiswa’s story began in early 2019 when she was just seven years old.
Statistics reveal that South Africa has some of the highest cases of GBV in the world, including high prevalence rates of violence against children. Most often, the perpetrators are known to the victims. In the case of Andiswa*, her story began in early 2019 when she was just seven years old. She and a friend were walking home from the public swimming pool when a man known to their family asked them to come over to him. Andiswa recalls that they refused, and that he ran after them into a secluded area where he raped both girls. The children immediately told their families of what happened to them and they reported it to the local police. The perpetrator was arrested shortly thereafter and Andiswa was referred to LvA by the Court Preparation Officer with whom LvA has a strong relationship.
During the initial consultation, Andiswa’s mother was resolute in her determination that the perpetrator be held to account for his actions and that LvA provide her daughter with every type of support available to help her cope with and recover from the trauma endured. LvA knows that this determination and caregiver support are crucial elements in every client’s long journey to justice and recovery.
Over the next two years, LvA’s legal and psychosocial teams worked closely together to provide Andiswa with comprehensive support. Andiswa began receiving individual therapy from LvA’s therapist in 2019 and, in early 2021, also began participating in a group therapy process with other children her age who had also experienced some form of sexual violence.
During her individual therapy sessions, Andiswa shared that she faced several challenges at home which increased her overall vulnerability, such as her mother’s chronic medical condition which resulted in Andiswa often having to care for herself from a young age. As a result, she struggled to express her needs at first because she had become accustomed to being self-reliant. In response, one of the therapy goals was to strengthen her ability to trust that other people would provide the support she needed. Over time, LvA witnessed a positive shift in Andiswa’s ability to trust others for support. For example, Andiswa felt comfortable to share that she and her mother were struggling to adhere to their medical treatment due to ongoing financial and food insecurity. LvA was able to work with health practitioners from a local clinic and social workers from the Department of Social Development to provide Andiswa and her mother with the necessary assistance. Through this process, Andiswa saw that her needs could be met and that she deserves to be safe.
At the same time, LvA’s legal team provided comprehensive support to Andiswa and her family in the criminal case against the perpetrator. Throughout the investigation and pre-trial stage, LvA’s legal officer liaised with the investigating officer and prosecutor assigned to the case and updated Andiswa’s mother on its progress. The trial was scheduled to begin in early 2020 when South Africa was hit with the global COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in ongoing postponements of most criminal cases for the remainder of the year. Despite these postponements, Andiswa and her mother’s commitment to pursuing justice remained strong, largely attributed to their consistency in accessing psychosocial support from LvA.
In late 2020, Andiswa’s case was transferred to another Sexual Offences prosecutor. This required her to complete a second pre-trial consultation with the new male prosecutor. Andiswa remained her energetic and outspoken self during the consultation and even shared her apprehensions with the prosecutor about testifying.
The day finally arrived for Andiswa to testify.
In March 2021, the day finally arrived for Andiswa to testify. While there was some nervousness, she was mentally and emotionally prepared thanks to the tools provided by LvA over the two-year period, and her recognition of court officials with whom she had engaged previously. Her testimony exceeded everyone’s expectations. She was able to articulate her story clearly and respond to the questions from the defence attorney without wavering. After completing her testimony, Andiswa confidently pointed out the man who had raped her and her friend two years ago. She later shared how seeing the perpetrator on the monitor had scared her, but she remembered that she was safe and that he could not get to her. The criminal trial is still proceeding.
LvA celebrates the strength, courage, and resilience that Andiswa has demonstrated over the last two years in her dual pursuits of seeking justice and personal healing. Andiswa was recently awarded with a Certificate of Bravery by the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for the completion of her testimony in the criminal case. But perhaps, most importantly, Andiswa shares that she now believes that safety is not a privilege but is a human right which belongs to every child including and especially her.