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Nomasonto Zulu’s creative writing piece won first prize for the adolescent sexual reproductive health and rights 2018 competition, My Body, My Rights, which was organised by The ‘Dream Achievers’ youth reporters in Qwa-Qwa, South Africa. Here is her brave and poignant story…
*TRIGGER WARNING – Contains content relating to sexual harassment*
A Young and Unhappy Student Under Sexual Harassment
My high school was a horror. Living in fear and imprisoning myself for fear of what people would say. He began to touch my private parts. I was hurting and there was no room for air to flow. The scars were growing deeper and happiness faded. I could not handle it anymore, because I was a she. I hated my life and myself. I enclosed my feelings.
My high school was a nightmare – one I wished I could wake up from. Several weeks passed, but I did not stop counting. It was a mountain – so hard to get to the top. To wake up in the morning and go to school was a nightmare. I would never have expected to have trouble from a teacher. In a place where I expected to find light, I found darkness. A place of education, became a place of sexual harassment. A respected man, my male teacher said he could be ‘‘my boyfriend.” I looked at him and thought, “He’s joking.”
He started to touch my body. It was everyday, where no-one could see. It was unwelcome sexual behaviour. It was so bad. It happened so often. I told him to stop. He refused. He made me feel uncomfortable, scared that it would interfere with my school work. I sometimes did not attend his class. I thought of reporting him, but stopped because I thought I would be seen as a troublemaker. He said, ‘‘Let me take you out on a trip – just the two of us – for a day or so, and I’ll make love to you’’. I could tell he really meant it. He grabbed my ass and he said, ‘‘You ’ll pass this year.’’ He was my teacher. He was an adult. A man in a position of power. I wanted to scream so loud the heavens would kill him. What happened to the right to bodily integrity?
I WAS UNHAPPY. I felt the problem was surely mine. I lost myself. Time and time again. I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t share with my family and friends. Here I lie a broken mind, soul and heart. So enclosed against the wall. So many thoughts. I had to escape them all. I kept my secret close. Much to my horror, I was aroused. My scars were deeper. I was young and unhappy at school. Inside my walls I was forever enclosed. Wasn’t it the Lord who promised to protect me? Why would he let this guy do as he pleases to me? All I wanted was the earth to open in half and let me in.
I hated myself and my life. I developed physical and emotional reactions. I had eating and sleeping problems. I lacked confidence. I did not want to see him again. I rejected his calls, blocked and deleted them. I got angry with myself, upset and anxious. All I wanted was to die. I still hate myself for repeating a class. I was so disappointed in myself – even for believing he’d make me pass. I changed school and thought it would be my new beginning. I’ve attempted suicide several times. Going to psychotherapy sessions was a nightmare.
Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. We are young people and we have human rights. The right to life, to privacy, to freedom and to bodily integrity. It’s time to claim our rights back. To know and exercise our rights, including the right to delay marriage and the right to refuse unwanted sexual advances. Lets protect ourselves and speak out.
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