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My Story - Jane Valentine

I asked to be put in prison. At the end of the day it made me a better person. I got a three year sentence. If I was still running from the law I would have hidden behind drugs. I would never have been able to talk about my rape and I would have died. 

The first thing I did on my way to the shelter home after prison was jump into the icy sea in Seapoint. I had to let the salt water wash the excess of Pollsmoor off me.

Finally I am free of the secrets of my past, of prison, of my inner demons. 

In an odd way the horrendous events of that night may have turned out to be a gift. 

It wasn’t my first brush with the law but it was definitely my last.  I absconded from a sentence passed several years ago when I was on drugs and I needed a fix.  Then it was petty theft.

Before that I was in once for eight months. 

When I regained consciousness this time my first thought was I had miraculously been given a second chance. I had been on a morphine drip for days. My front teeth were knocked out and my anus, nose, head and forehead were stitched.  I was so traumatized I couldn’t speak.  Then I went through cold turkey.  When they kidnapped me I hadn’t slept for four days from the rocks.

In my sedated condition I gave the two detectives from Maitland Police station a statement charging the two men with kidnapping, rape, abuse and drunken driving and they arrested them that night. 

Unbeknown to me the Magistrate simply closed the case and they walked free.  

It happened on September 2003 when I stayed over at a friend’s house in Maitland.  We decided to watch the late night movie on E. TV.  I volunteered to go to the shops to buy snacks.  I was walking towards the nearest 7/11 two blocks away. 

A cream Mercedes Benz stopped next to me.  I was a sex worker so I assumed that they knew me and wanted my services.  I was really tired and about to tell them it was my night off. 

Before I had time to open my mouth, the passenger jumped out of the car and opened the back door.  I stepped back and said I was not interested. 

“Get in! We want to have some fun.” 

They were drunk so I hastily walked away.  They both grabbed me and forced me into the back seat.   Behind me I had just passed the police station and I remembered thinking that it must have been a busy night because all the cars were out.  Still I screamed for help, hoping a policeman would hear me. 

A gun was held to me head and I was told, “Be still and do as you’re told.”  It was the coldest voice I had ever heard.  Terrified, I was sure that they were going to rape and then kill men. What if they had accomplices waiting for me as well?

They drove around the nearby industrial area for a while and stopped in a dark, quiet road, where they ordered me to undress.

Fear-stricken I was not fast enough for their liking so they pushed me down on the backseat and roughly pulled my jeans and panties down to my ankles.  “Don’t hurt me!” I begged.    

“Shut up!” the passenger said angrily and the driver told me to enjoy it. 

One put the gun in my mouth, while the other took what he wanted – first from the front and then from the back. Then the other one had a turn. It went on for hours and hours. 

They flipped me round like a sex doll.  The pain was excruciating.  The gun had a go too- in the front and at the back – to their total amusement. 

I prayed they would stop and finally they did – at least for the time it took to down a couple of neat whiskeys.  There were two empty whisky bottles lying on the floor and I guessed that they were onto their third bottle. 

Soon they were at me again.  I pleaded and tried to fight them off.  Then to my surprise the gun snapped in half.  I had endured the terrible ordeal with a toy gun! 

I fought back harder than ever now.  But the driver grabbed the broken gun and smashed it into my forehead with all his might splitting my forehead.  Blood trickled down my face and into my mouth.  They then did what they wanted with me, this time with malice.  I felt my rectum tear. 

I hoped I would die; anything to make them stop.  But then I thought, “Why should I die?  Let them rather die. I hope to live long enough to see them get their just deserts for doing this to me!” 

When they had finished they told me to pull up my panties and to stop crying.  They seemed to have sobered slightly by now and were talking in Afrikaans about how they were going to kill me and dump my body in a dumpster near Wynberg.  I knew I had to get out of the car.  As they drove off, I put my hand on the door handle and said loudly, “In the name of Jesus, help me!  I made a pact in that instant with God that if I got through this I would cut myself off from the Young Americans gang and drugs and prostitution. 

Moments later, we were hit by an oncoming car.  The back door flew open and I felt a pair of powerful feet kick me out onto the pavement, where I was left for dead. 

Thankfully, the couple who had run into us had taken down their registration number and stayed with me until help arrived.  The police were first on the scene, followed shortly by the paramedics who took me to Groote Schuur hospital. 

In prison I lived with scars, internally and physically.  I couldn’t close my eyes to sleep because I saw them laughing at me and saying they would kill me.

I tired to re-open the case against the rapists while in Pollsmoor to no avail. 

In the crowded cell I thought about how my life had spiralled so badly out of control and set about rehabilitating myself.  I wanted to repay my debt to society. Without actually paying penance and showing remorse I could never face my two sons. I wanted to look good in my own eyes before I would look them in the eye.  Until three years ago I had been a button kop who also smoked rocks for 22 years. 

By trade I am a receptionist, photo-lithographer, typesetter and receptionist.  But I didn’t stick to that trade.  I was working in a massage parlour and was also an exotic dancer. 

At 21 my first son *Neil was born.  Unsurprisingly he was taken away form me at the age of 9 and brought up by foster parents. 

One day I met a drug merchant who made love to me with his eyes.  Gary smiled and said, “One day I will get you off the drugs.”

We fell in love. He wanted me to be a housewife. We moved in together and I fell pregnant.  I loved him.  He would do anything for me. 

We went cold turkey and stopped all drugs.  He worked as a welder for Stone Marine at the Cape docks.  But then he started coming home with stolen goods. I didn’t like crime. He then started taking the odd mandrax tablet or two a night.  He ended in prison with a ten year sentence for armed robbery when I was four months pregnant.   Our son *David, now 10 years-old was born while Gary was in Pretoria Central Prison. 

I supported Gary for two years while he served his sentence.  Then I met Jerome, the gangster.  Ours was a narcotic love story. I was depressed and started drugging again becoming permanently drugged. I rejected *David.  I gave him to my friend Hester when he was 2 years-old.  She subsequently gave him to Gary’s mother, where he still lives, when he turned 4.  

I always loved Gary but was terrified of Jerome. Every time I wanted to visit Gary, Jerome beat me so badly. It was impossible to go out with my black eye.  He beat me and I ended in hospital. He threw bricks t me, broke my ribs and left me on the side of the road. 

I tried to run away from Jerome and cried constantly for Gary, blaming him also for messing our lives.  I was so high while hooking for Jerome. I didn’t even see David for four years. I could do anything when I was on rocks. It was the only time I felt ‘normal’.  

Jerome taught me to steal. First cells, then guns, gold cards, wallets and finally together we stole cars.  We were knick named Bonnie and Clyde.  We robbed and put men in car boots.  We couldn’t be caught. 

I was trapped in a world with him and I couldn’t get away. . 

My only support was a wonderful woman, Ellen Betrice Pretorius who cleans toilets for the City Council.  She would find me lying on the grass or sitting on the Seapoint park bench.  She would put on the heater in her work room and make me black coffee and give me bread.  She would let me wash in the mornings and often made me porridge.  She always begged me to give up prostitution and drugs.  When she saw me outside in the rain she would call me in, wipe me with a towel and say, “You have a black eye or a puffy cheek again.  I will moor dadie bloody Jerome.” 

I told her that if she said anything he would kill me. 

Once I deliberately stole a gun and made sure I was recognized.  I wanted to get caught and jailed. Unfortunately I was given bail.  I went back to Jerome, to being a sex worker.  I was abused, insulted, assaulted and threatened with death. I did just one thing for myself by insisting clients use a condom regardless of how drugged I was.   

Last week I was released on parole after serving two years and two months of my sentence.  I was so excited I got a haircut and tint in the prison hairdressing salon. 

Freedom is fantastic. 

Amazingly my first contact with the outside world was toilet cleaner Ellen Betrice Pretorius.  I bumped smack bang into her while changing into my bathing costume at the Seapoint toilets. She was so pleased to see I was alive. She couldn’t believe how well I looked.   Ellen told me that Jerome had been murdered by a member of a rival gang while I was in prison. 

I am still a little frightened of the traffic and outside noises after being in a small cell with twenty other women and only an hour spent outside in a courtyard daily.  

I go for walks and spend time thinking and growing spiritually. I have rape trauma counselling which wasn’t available in prison. 

This is an important part of my healing process because prostitution is not traumatic like rape because when a man forces sex on you he cuts you open and beats you to a pulp.  They use objects as well as their penis. I had been raped before and I could get over it. This time my face was scarred and I have to get new teeth. I was left on the street to die. 

I’m not whole yet. When I finally face my kids I want to be completely healed.  I want them to know where I am coming from and what happened in my life.  I must have turned my life around completely.  At some point I hope to be completely healed. I want to set a good example and be able to say to Neil and David I want to give you what you have never had before – a real mother.

Ultimately I will go back to my printing trade. But for the moment I am concentrating on my inner growth. I have so many issues to overcome. I can’t remember another time in my life when I was out of prison, a civilian, not on drugs or prostitution.

It’s heavenly. 

I will feel whole when the case is reopened.  I do not want revenge.  But I do want to see justice done.  I am fighting for my rights for every woman’s rights.

Written by Lana Jacobson for Marie Clare Magazine

 

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