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Teenage rape survivor gets new lease of life

by Lesotho Times
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Pascalinah Kabi

QUTHING businessman, Bothata Mahlala, has given a 16-year-old rape survivor from the same district a new lease of life.

This after pledging to provide for her school and home needs.

The girl, *Liteboho, was early this year raped twice by her own father who snuck into her bed on two consecutive nights.

On the morning after the first rape, she reported to a fellow villager but she did not believe her. The father, thinking he had gotten away with the abuse, raped her again later that evening. The following morning, she reported to her friend who helped her seek attention from the whole village.

Since the rape, she had become destitute, hopping from one neighbour’s house to the other seeking refuge. She was later taken in by her uncle and aunt but the couple later separated and she was left in the care of another man, whom she is struggling to trust.

The rape, according to her teacher, ‘Masamuel Thamae, had turned her into a vulnerable and mentally disturbed teenager.

Seeing Liteboho’s plight, Ms Thamae approached Mr Mahlala a fortnight ago seeking assistance on behalf of the girl. And last weekend, he invited Liteboho to his home where he gifted her school shoes, uniform and some food parcels, further pledging to take care of her upkeep.

Mr Mahlala said he was touched by Liteboho’s story and had decided to play an active role in the teenager’s life.

“I am assisting her with uniform, clothes and food for the entire family,” Mr Mahlala said.

“I cannot buy food for her alone when she is staying with other people. I have already started assisting her.

“She is in primary and I have told her teacher that I will assist her for as long as she needs assistance. She is likely to be more vulnerable growing up and I need to protect her. She is already a victim of her own father and is likely to be abused by other men as she grows up therefore I am stepping in to protect her”.

He said he was considering enrolling her into a boarding school next year.

Mr Mhlala’s wife, ‘Manala, said her family would provide all material needs for Liteboho.

“I told Ntate Mahlala that I am going to give Liteboho love because in most cases, children who have been hurt lack a sense of belonging. Ntate Mahlala and I are going to give her love – I am now her mother and he is her father,” Ms Mahlala said.

The visibly disoriented Liteboho told the Lesotho Times last weekend that at the time of the rape, she had been living with her father after the death of her mother.

On the night of the first rape, she had been sleeping naked when her father slipped into her blankets and raped her. The two shared the room but slept in different beds.

“He came into my blankets when a neighbour, had just left our house and raped me. I told him that I didn’t like what he was doing to me but he did not listen to me. After the rape, he left me and went into his own bed,” Liteboho said.

She said he then threatened her with unspecified action if dared tell anyone what had happened. She however, reported to a fellow villager, only identified as Ms Zamkelo.

The woman did not believe her and she was to face a repeat of the same ordeal later that evening. On the second morning, Liteboho confided in her friends who made “holy noise” leading to the convening of a village meeting.

Holy noise is a cry for attention and solidarity made by young girls to alert the community of the abuse of a peer. The concept was taught to Bolula Primary School learners during the Grassroots Soccer (GRS), a programme introduced by Americans who were attached to the school through the Peace Corps volunteering programme.

It was only then that the Ha-Mahlokoana villagers convened a meeting to question the father. During questioning, he initially said he had not penetrated her but only ejaculated between his daughter’s thighs. He later confessed claiming that he raped his daughter because he was afraid that older women would turn him down. Although the details are sketchy, he was later arrested and is now behind bars.

Ms Thamae attended the GRS trainings and is currently training 25 learners after the Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated early last year when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out last year.

She said the programme instils self-confidence and teaches learners how to handle harassment and how to stand in solidarity with their abused peers.

In the event of the abuse of a peer, among others, the learners can show solidarity by making “holy noise” publicly denouncing the abuse and showing support to the victim.

The GRS training enabled Ms Thamae to easily identify that Liteboho was a troubled learner.

“A learner is expected to properly wear school uniform and anything contrary to that raises a red flag. Liteboho wears a uniform that is different from ours and that makes her stand out,” Ms Thamae said.

Added to that, Liteboho is 16 and is in Grade 6, an age gap which draws undesirable attention to her and Ms Thamae said this only exacerbated the learner’s trauma.

In search for help, Ms Thamae remembered Mr Mahlala donating 20 pairs of school shoes to her school in 2019. She contacted him hoping that he would have some shoes lying around for Liteboho and two other vulnerable learners.

Ntate Bothata Mahlala requested that I bring the children to him and we came last weekend. He paid for her uniform on the same day and today (Saturday), we have come here to collect her school shoes, shirts and food,” she said.

On her part, Liteboho said Mr Mahlala’s assistance has lifted a huge load off her tiny shoulders.

Ntate Bothata Mahlala said he was going to assist me with my needs, that is school uniform, clothes and food. I am happy. I will no longer worry about where the next meal will come from,” Liteboho said.

Together with her uncle’s family, Liteboho used to struggle for food to an extent that they would sometimes eat papa with no relish. Only on good days would the family get indigenous vegetables for relish.

Growing up, Mr Mahlala used to helplessly watch his father mercilessly beating his mother. Those images made him swear to be a better father for his own children. To him, every father should be their child’s protector. It is that conviction which has driven him to provide for and protect Liteboho.

He said he could not fathom how her father could become sexually aroused and go to the extend of violating his own child.

“Children see their fathers as their protectors. They must run to their fathers whenever they are in danger. It is unthinkable that Liteboho’s father raped his own child instead of protecting her.

“It is unbelievable that a father can be sexually aroused to the extent of raping his own child,” he said.

He called on the authorities to come up with stiffer laws for perpetrators of sexual abuse.

“Anyone who rapes must be locked up for good, especially those who rape their own children. This is because I have seen the trauma that Liteboho is suffering from. She has become mentally disturbed,” Mr Mahlala said.

*The name has been changed to protect the victim.

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