As the country commemorates 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children, the mother a child who was raped when she was only six weeks old, said that they have managed to move on from the incident.
Baby Lerato made national headlines after she was raped by her uncle when she was six weeks old. Today, she is a healthy, busy three-year-old.
The mother said that Lerato had recovered well, both physically and mentally, since the horrific incident, which occurred on October 17 2013.
“She (Baby Lerato) is currently going to crèche and leading the normal life of a three-year-old. She is healthy and has no recollection of the incident. She underwent eight operations to repair damages done to her female reproductive system. Doctors said she must return for a final examination when she is 13-years-old to ensure that all is fine,” the mother said.
She added that they have both grown stronger since the incident.
“I did not want to take my child outside after the incident. I also did not want to go anywhere because I felt like people were staring at me. It has not been easy to come to terms with the ordeal but I have learned to forgive my brother in order to find peace.
“I was very angry and hurt that he did something like this to my child. Whenever I used to go visit him, I would question and grill him on why he did that to my child. He also could not provide me with an answer and repeatedly apologised and wept.”
She said that, before the incident, her brother had been in the final year of completing his degree in Chartered Accounting at the University of Free State when he became hooked on drugs.
“He came home when the institution closed. We could see that he was not mentally well as he used to talk to himself. He was just not the same person he was prior to his drug addiction. We knew him as a person who never failed at school and had a positive outlook on life. He also used to assist other learners with their schoolwork, so we knew he had a bright future.”
She said that on the day of the incident, she did not think that her brother had raped her child.
“I was lying in the bedroom with the baby. He came to the window and peeped through it. Every time I looked up to see who was standing at the window, he would run away. The third time that he came to the window, I got up to see who it was as I could not see clearly as he kept running off. I got back to the room and he was holding the baby at knifepoint. He had the knife to her neck and I screamed and ran out of the house to a relative’s house.
“When I returned, I saw that the street was full of community members and we rushed the baby to hospital in an ambulance. The baby was covered in blood and I thought he had stabbed her. What I found strange was that the blood was running from her legs and she had no injuries to her throat. It was only at the hospital that I was informed that she had been raped,” the mother said.
She added that although she had forgiven her brother, she is not sure how her daughter will react to finding out that she was raped by her uncle.
“I spoke to her about the incident but I know she does not understand what I am talking about. I do have a psychology background and know that it will assist me in addressing the matter. I, however, do not want her to find out from anyone but myself. My brother said I must tell her the entire truth and even take her to him should she have any outstanding questions about the incident.”
She added that forgiving her brother had been a hard process which she now found comfort in.
“I always used to ask why this happened to me and my child. I later realised that the anger I had for my brother was depriving me of leading a normal life. Even the questions I raised with him, when asking why he did what he did, now makes me see that it was part of my healing process.
“Talking about the incident has also assisted me in healing and rebuilding my life. I saw that I have let my child out, to develop, and to be free instead of constantly fearing that she might get hurt again.
“I also realised that my brother will never be able to take back what he had done.”
She urged anyone who may be going through a similar experience not live in isolation.
“One really needs to talk about matters like these. Sometimes you find help in the most unexpected people. Just because someone did not go through a similar thing as you, does not mean they cannot be of assistance and you cannot draw strength from them.
“We need to heal ourselves and talking about horrific incidents is one of the greatest parts of healing,” she said.