Journalist. Writer. Researcher. Editor.

Why I didn’t report my sexual abuse #6

I wasn’t raped. He only fondled my private parts. Nothing thing to see here. Nothing to report. Only a fondle. Several on different occasions over the span of a year or so, actually. But it was nothing too invasive, or violent. Nothing too serious, right? So it felt ridiculous to make a big deal about it.
Besides, my body reacted to his touch. My 12-year-old body’s pleasure centres responded to how the hand of a man almost three times my age felt rubbing my penis through my pants. I even had the capacity to stop him when he went too far, like when he tried to slip his hand down my pants or the times when he tried to get me to feel his penis.
Forget what the law said about capacity for consent and other high-minded ideals, such as justice. I responded to his touch and I didn’t know why and I was ashamed. So I didn’t report him. Not to my parents. Not to the police. Not to the staff at the dental centre where he worked. Not to my friends.
It didn’t matter that none of it was my fault, even if I did agonise over what he’d seen in me or what I’d done to invite his actions. I couldn’t bear the thought of explaining to anybody why my body reacted the way it did and why I didn’t stop him, because I was scared people might think I was gay.
At school I heard a few boys mock each other.
“You go to Dr Geldenhys as well? Did he try to touch you? You let him touch you, did you? Fag!”
They laughed. I retreated further into silence, and shame.
I tried to forget it ever happened. I tried to imagine that someone had the courage to blow the whistle on him, because I already had reason to doubt I was his only victim. I also tried to ignore the guilt and culpability I felt from knowing that somewhere out there, he might be doing the same thing to another boy.
The more time passed, the more hopeless and impossible saying anything seemed to become and the greater the shame became.
At 19 I finally told my mother. She tracked him down and discovered that he had been found out and suspended from the dentist practice after another boy had reported him for inappropriate touching. She wanted to file charges. She pleaded with me to file charges. I refused. I was still too ashamed for waiting so long, for how my body reacted, and for the confusion I felt about my sexuality and how or whether the abuse changed me in some way.
I was just happy to close the chapter believing erroneously, as I found out while writing this, that some measure of justice had been done.
It was only after reading the first ‘Why I didn’t report my rape‘ article posted here that I punched my abuser’s name into Google. To my horror I learned that early in 2008, he appealed successfully to the Supreme Court of Appeal to have the age of consent for same-sex sexual acts lowered from 19 to 16 so that he could have six of the 10 counts of child abuse he was convicted of thrown out. The Constitutional Court in November 2008 upheld the lower court’s ruling, meaning that he had to serve only four years in jail for the remaining four counts.
That’s four years for four of the 10 counts he was initially convicted of, out of the 13 he was charged with, out of the countless that went unreported.
Mine was among the unreported.
Reading through the Supreme Court of Appeal ruling, I got a play-by-play recount, some parts almost verbatim, of some of what he had done to me, except it wasn’t me. It was another 14-year-old boy and his younger seven-year-old brother. The courts had found that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict him for abusing the younger boy.
It’s July 2013. His four years are up. He’s probably a free man now and the only thing standing between him and repeating what he did is the effectiveness of the parole system and the National Register of Sex Offenders and Child Protection Register, which by some accounts is a mess.
I suggest that he is likely to repeat what he did because he had been caught at least once before he abused me. Being caught was no deterrent. And through lax court systems and poor management of sex offenders, he had been allowed to roam with free, which is why I must ask:
Were you sexually abused by a dentist and some-time tour bus driver named Izak Andreas Geldenhuys?
Do you know where Izak Andreas Geldenhuys is, or do you have any other information on him?
Email me at justicereclaimed[at]gmail[dot]com. All information will be treated as strictly confidential.
This isn’t call for vigilante justice. Do not go after him and do not confront, abuse or taunt him. All I want is information to do what I couldn’t do before. I realise that at this stage the abuse will be my word against his, but I would like to do something, anything, to ensure that he doesn’t ever get to do what he did to me and who knows how many other boys.
This also isn’t to pass judgement on the millions of victims of sexual abuse, rape and other forms of violence who choose not to come forward. We all deal with what is often a very confusing, traumatic experience in our own way. It’s taken me almost two decades to get here. Knowing the demons I’m inviting back into my life by doing this still makes me doubt the wisdom of writing this.
Because in the mid of the startlingly confident conclusions currently being made publicly about consent, power, the credibility of reports of rape and abuse, what it means to accept or demand gifts from your abuser, and the possibility of justice, I’ve accepted that no safe space exists yet in South Africa for victims of rape and sexual abuse to come forward. The benefit of doubt, it seems, is given to the accused, but the accuser’s actions, motivations and judgement are all up for public derision.

If you are rape survivor and need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to call the ‘Stop Gender Violence‘ helpline at 0800 150 150.

Note: Rape myths abound after the Vavi rape accusation was brought to light. These myths hurt all rape survivors – and if you ever experience sexual violence, these myths will hurt you too. The most common myth I’ve seen is the fallacy that if you don’t report to the police, it didn’t happen.  (See here.) I put out a call on Twitter for survivors who didn’t report to send me their story. To follow the series, see here.

If you would like to include your story in this conversation, please email me: michelle at journoactivist dot com. I will assume anonymity for all submissions unless specified otherwise.

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  1. The Traumatic effects of Sexual Abuse | talscrazylife