Break the cycle of violence

As a former court and crime reporter I have spent many hours inside a courtroom and have witnessed unthinkable things at crime scenes.

Sadly, you become desensitised and before you know it, all you do is process information, write it down, go home and try to forget what youhaveseenand heard.

And then there are times that no matter how desensitised you are, you are so horrified by what you have seen, you are scared to close your eyes and go to sleep. One such case was the torture and rape of Ina Bonnette in January 2012 at the hands of her estranged husband, Johan Kotze and three men he had hired off the street.

Kotze, who became known as the Modimolle Monster, lured his wife to his Modimolle home where he pulled a towel over her head, tied her to the bed with ropes and cable ties, tortured her and had three men rape her. She later testified in court although being stripped naked, tortured with a side cutter, fondue fork, nails and then raped by the three men while having a rifle to her head was unbearable, the worst pain she had felt was when Kotze phoned her 19-year-old son, Conrad, asking him to come to the house.

She heard her son enter the house and walking down the passage and then the words: “No uncle, please don’t”, and then a shot. A few days later I covered the first court appearance of Kotze and his three co-accused and an hour later attended the funeral of Conrad Bonnette.

Ms Bonnette, who had undergone several emergency surgeries after her torture, could hardly walk and had to be held up by her parents, but she was determined to speak out and had, given the media permission to attend the funeral and to disclose her name as the rape victim.

Kotze is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of Ms Bonnette’s son, a life sentence for
the rape of Ms Bonnette and a 25-
year sentence for kidnapping and assault.

Last week I read an article online on the Daily Mail’s website about how Sarah MacDonnell, a British model was robbed by a “masked machete-wieldinggang”while staying in the luxury £870-a-night
(R16 343.65) Maison Noir in Hout Bay.

Ms MacDonnell tells the Daily News how a screwdriver was pushed against her throat and how she, her boyfriend and her crew were violently pushed around and tied up by the robbers. Sadly, Ms MacDonnell’s experience is not unique as thousands of South Africans are victims of violent crimes on a daily basis and her ordeal became nothing more than a crime statistic.

Although Ms MacDonnell’s ordeal was nothing like that of Ms Bonnette’s, to her it was extremely traumatic and one of her quotes made me think about how society especially women think about crime. She said: “When we five were all tied up, the gang were arguing among them-
selves about whether they were going to leave. That’s when it got really scary because you think you’re going to get murdered – or worse.” Murdered or worse. What can be worse than being violently murdered?
And when I thought about it I
thought if had been in Ms Bonnette’s position, would I rather want to be dead?

Sadly my first thought was yes even though I know there is help available and speaking out is the first step to healing and making the monsters who do this to women and children, stop.

But somewhere in the back of my mind I could not forget what had transpired in so many court cases I had attended where paedophiles, molesters and rapists were given light sentences or walked off scot-free due to insufficient evidenceoragood defence lawyer.

One such case was that of a man who had raped and sexually abused his daughter, from when she was seven, between December 2007 and April 2009. His senior counsel advocate told the court he was aware that his client would face a long-term jail sentence but asked the court to show him clemency.

He presented the court with various versions of South African case law where convicted rapists were given a lesser sentence compared to the sentence suggested by the State and argued that different degrees of seriousness required different sentences and said life imprisonment was not suitable in this case. He submitted to the court that the rape of a 7-year-old by her father was in this case not the “most serious the court has seen”, (“Rape of daughter ‘not too serious” Pretoria News/IOL, March 14,

How much more serious does it have to be for someone to say enough is enough? From Saturday November 25 till Sunday December 10, the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children campaign will start.

The aim of the 16 days is to raise public awareness and of the negative impact that violence and abuse have on women and child-
ren. Make sure, this year, you do something different. Break the cycle of violence by breaking silence, knowing your rights, acting against abuse and by not looking away. Make your voice heard.

For more information, or if you are in need of help, call the Gender-based violence command centre on 0800 428 428, the Stop Gender Violence helpline on 0800 150 150, the Family and Marriage Society of South Africa (FAMSA) on 021 447 7951 or 082 231 0373,Childline on 08000 55 555 or the National Crisis Line on 086 132 2322.