“You are no good. You’re damaged goods and no one will ever want you.”
These are words which echo through Gloria Veale-Oliver’s mind.
Ms Veale-Oliver grew up in Athlone, then Bonteheuwel, moved to Mitchell’s Plain, and currently lives in Muizenberg. She was gang raped at a party at the age of 12.
What she describes as the worst night of her life, unfolded one evening at a party in Mitchell’s Plain.
That evening, Ms Veale-Oliver’s drink was spiked and she was gang raped by her best friend’s group of guy friends. She woke up later that evening and remembers feeling sick. She tried to get off the bed but she couldn’t and fell asleep again.
A few hours later, she woke up again and noticed that her best friend was missing and the guys who had raped her were still asleep on the bed.
Ms Veale-Oliver decided that she needed to leave and go home, which was when she went to the bathroom and discovered that she was bleeding. “I had extreme pain and realised that I needed to go home because my friend was nowhere to be seen. I went home and never said anything to anyone, I just kept quiet.”
The following Monday, the mother of the boys who had raped Ms Veale-Oliver, called her mother and said she had heard that while her sons had visited Ms Veale-Oliver’s house earlier that week, some items went missing and that Ms Veale-Oliver’s mother had better not call the police or she would tell everyone that her daughter had slept with all the boys.
“I told my mother that I wasn’t feeling well. She immediately said that I needed to go to the doctor. It was the worst day of my life. We went and the doctor confirmed that there had been forced entry because my hymen was broken and there was a lot of damage on the inside. The doctor took a urine sample and found traces of the drugs, but my parents blamed me and said that it was my own fault. They asked why I was at the party and they believed that I had taken the drugs voluntarily,” she said.
Ms Veale-Oliver said being raped had changed her life forever. The feeling of having a loving family was no more. Her father had stopped speaking to her and her mother had blamed her for being raped. Her siblings never spoke to her about the incident and everyone just ignored the subject.
She became a rebellious child and often spoke out about wrong things happening to people.
She never laid a charge at the police station because she said that it seemed as though everyone had blamed her for being raped.
When she was 14 years old, her life started changing for the better. She became involved with the United Democratic Front – a major anti-apartheid organisation formed in the 1980s.
Shortly after, she became president of the Mitchell’s Plain Student’s Congress, secretary of the Western Cape Student’s Congress, and secretary of the National Student’s Congress, and was later imprisoned three times as a result of her political activism.
Two years later, she left home because she no longer wanted to live by her father’s rules. She stayed with many different people including pastors, teachers, and priests.
“My father had said that if I wanted to live under his roof I had to live by his rules and I didn’t want to, so I left. I didn’t want to be a girl so I cut my hair very short. I always wore long clothing or pants and wanted to cover up my femininity as much as possible. I didn’t want to be a girl and I didn’t want boys near me. I would fight with them all the time if they so much as looked at me,” she said.
At the age of 26, she got married. She wished to start a family, but was diagnosed with endometriosis. After five miscarriages she finally had a daughter and had her son two years later.
At the age of 44 she got divorced.
Ms Veale-Oliver started her own church ministry in Muizenberg five years ago and works with the police at different schools and wherever else ministry is needed among the poor and needy.
Two years ago, she got married again, and, with her husband, started an initiative called Men and Women Unite Against Darkness, through which they educate men and women on how to treat each other daily with respect, and they counsel both rape survivors and perpetrators.
They also formed a network called Women Impacting Change, where they unite women of different communities around social issues and encourage them to help and take care of each others children and rebuild the community.
Counselling sessions take place in Muizenberg. Call Ms Veale-Oliver at 084 303 6705 for details and to get the street address.