27 years after her brutal rape ordeal, Pretoria woman takes on a 729km journey

45-year-old Leilani Kuter from Roodepoort, Gauteng was brutally raped and left for dead when she was only 18 years old. Now, exactly 27 years later, Leilani is speaking out about her ordeal, to help empower young women affected by sexual assault and gender-based violence.

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Leilani Kuter

Leilani’s story

Born to a middle-class family, Leilani was independent from a young age and started working at the age of 15. By the age of 17, she was working at the Department of Finance as an admin clerk and had moved into a room at the NG-church Youth Centre in Pretoria.

It was at the Youth Centre that she was approached at her dorm room by a man who introduced himself as Frankie.

Leilani recalls some details of the day. “He explained that the resident living next door to me was his sister and that the family had just lost their grandmother, and he needed me to pass on the sad news. Not thinking much, I let the stranger inside.”

What followed would change Leilani’s life forever.

“In a split second, he was on top of me. I tried to reason with him but he wouldn’t listen. He took his belt off and wrapped it around my neck while he raped me so brutally I lost consciousness. I vaguely remember the pocket knife in my top drawer and weighing up whether or not I should try and reach for it. When he was done, he left me lying naked, bloodied, with a belt wrapped around my neck and my life changed forever. When the police finally arrived they explained it was the sixth rape case reported in the area in just one week. The police were very nonchalant about the rape. Speaking to me, it was as if they were asking me how I liked my eggs done,” says Leilani.

The rape culture in South Africa

According to The Crime Against Women in South Africa Report by Statistics SA, only one in every nine rape cases is reported. Of those, only 4% result in prosecution. Unfortunately for Leilani, these statistics echo her story. Like so many survivors, her case was never solved.

Leilani, however, chose not to be a victim – a strength rose in her because of her vulnerability.

“I had no choice but to pick myself up and move on. I was alone in a big city, with no one to rely on but myself. When I realized that the act of rape is about power and not sex, I made a conscious decision to regain control over my life and give myself the respect that was stripped from me. It’s been 27 years, but I still make that decision every day,” says Leilani.

Until now, Leilani’s story has remained a family secret, but she wants to share what happened to her in hopes that she will empower other young women who may have experienced something similar. She hopes to free others from the stigma that rape carries.

Crowdfunding on BackaBuddy

On 16 of September, it will be 27 years since Leilani’s rape. On this day in 2019, Leilani will begin a 27-day journey, totaling 729km. It will start in Pretoria and end with the Ruimsig Parkun in Roodepoort on 12 October.

“I plan to walk 27km a day for 27 days in defiance of systemic violence against women and in celebration of our collective survival. I will be wearing yellow, the colour the perpetrator wore when he attacked my spirit. With my BackaBuddy campaign, I hope to honor young women like Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess, Leighandre Jegels, Lynette Volschenk and Meghan Cremer who lost their lives due to senseless acts of violence. I also want to honor the women whose stories we haven’t heard and the names we don’t know,” says Leilani.

With her campaign launched on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, Leilani hopes to raise funds to purchase emergency comfort packs that cost R200 to be given to young girls when they report sexual assault and go through the process of telling their stories.

Additional funds will be used to help as many women as possible who are in need of rehabilitation and counseling.

“I think back to the day I reported my rape, the lengthy process of having to recount the most traumatic experience of my life, the invasive medical examination, how cold and impersonal it all felt. With these packs and counseling sessions, I hope to restore some dignity to women and girls who are brave enough to come forward and report their ordeal,” says Leilani.

“I hope my BackaBuddy campaign will encourage as many young women as possible who have been raped or have been victims of sexual assault to speak out and be heard. With a case number you are taking back some of your power from the perpetrator and God willing putting them behind bars.”

Click here to support this campaign.

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