A MASERU woman has suffered the double jeopardy of being raped and turned away by police officers who refused to attend to her at Maseru Central Police Station.
The 36-year-old Ha-Abia woman said she was allegedly raped in broad daylight by two men on Saturday morning and later turned away by unsympathetic policemen who said her story was unbelievable. They also accused her of violating lockdown regulations.
Police Spokesperson Senior Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli said he was unaware of the alleged rape case and the behaviour of the police officers. He, however, said such behaviour was unacceptable and called on the woman to take the matter up with the police complaints desk.
Narrating her ordeal to the Lesotho Times this week, the woman said she had gone to visit her friend in Tšenola before taking a 4+1 taxi back to town on the fateful day.
She said there were already three passengers- two men and a woman when she boarded the taxi.
However, the female passenger dropped off soon afterwards, leaving her with the driver and the two male passengers.
“Instead of driving towards the central business district, the driver took the direction of Ha-Tšosane and stopped the vehicle somewhere near a dumpsite,” the woman said.
“At first I thought the driver was going to drop off the other two passengers but when we got to the dumpsite, the driver and the passenger who was sitting in front disembarked and started talking outside.”
The other male passenger who had been sitting next to her then pulled out a knife and ordered her to take off her trousers.
“He ordered me to put off my trousers because he wanted to have sex with me and I refused. At this point, he flashed his knife in my face and ordered me to sit on his lap. Shaken and scared, I obliged. But as I was moving onto his lap, he was then reprimanded by the driver and the other passenger who had returned to the car.”
They then drove off towards the CBD and the man blindfolded her with a hat and forced her to lie on his lap so that she could not see where they were going.
“After a while, the car stopped and I was dragged into a bushy area by the two men. The vehicle then drove off leaving me with the two men. They said they would each rape me thrice and if I caused any trouble, they would kill me.
“At this point I asked them to put away the knife and they did. They proceeded to rape me three times each as they had said. While one was raping me, the other would stand guard to watch out for passers-by as this was happening in broad daylight,” she narrated in between sobs.
When they were done, the rapists simply walked away leaving her in the bushy area. On realising that the rapists had left, she said she walked towards the main road and asked for assistance from motorists who were parked at Setsoalle Park near the Maseru Golf Club.
Two men took her to Maseru Central Police Station.
“On arrival, I narrated the story and one of the police officers immediately started accusing me of lying. He said I was lying because what I was saying did not make sense. He also said that I was raped because I was on the streets too early in the morning in contravention of the Covid-19 regulations.
“I am still failing to understand the accusation because when I arrived at the station, it was around 8am and the curfew had ended at 4am. I left my friend’s house slightly before 7am, therefore the accusation of contravening lockdown regulations is ridiculous. Even then, does that mean all women who are suspected of contravening lockdown regulations must be raped?”
Noticing she was not going to be assisted, she walked out but was immediately called back by another officer who told her that she could not be assisted because the station did not have stationery. The officer asked her to return on Monday.
She subsequently reported the case at Pitso Ground Police Station.
“At Pitso Ground I felt safe and welcome. I was asked to wait for female officers who handle rape cases by a sympathetic male officer. I waited patiently and I was referred to a doctor at Queen II Hospital,” she said.
While she was happy with the treatment at Pitso Ground, she said she still cannot believe the cold treatment she received at Maseru Central Police Station.
She said she was now finding it difficult to feel safe even in a police station.
“I don’t feel safe in my home, on the street and not even in a police station. I also don’t understand why the taxi driver helped my attackers. I am wondering how much they paid him and how he would have felt if they had killed me,” she said.
While the rape was unbearable it is the treatment at the hands of the police which is hurting her the most. For her, such treatment is the reason why many women do not bother to report when they are raped.
“After my ordeal, so many women have shared their rape stories and the numbers are alarming because I don’t recall hearing or reading of so many rape stories in the media. This means that women who have been raped have decided to keep their harrowing experiences to themselves for fear of being judged and humiliated.
“I therefore, encourage all rape victims to open up about their experiences as this will help them in the healing process. In as much as I am pained by the rape, I feel better because I am speaking about it,” she said.