Her eyes filled with blood, cheeks swollen and an angry wound covering her neck, Millicent Gaika looks as if she was attacked just a few hours ago.
The Gugulethu resident was repeatedly raped and assaulted a week ago by a man she had known for nearly 20 years – because, he said, she was a lesbian.
She sat on a couch in a friend’s home as she told the Cape Times she was feeling better, much better than she had a few days before when she was hospitalised for her injuries.
Reaching out for an energy drink, with the fingers of her right hand strapped together, she appeared calm and ready to speak about her experience.
Her voice quiet and husky, Gaika said she was very worried about her face and about how she looked to friends and neighbours.
She said she didn’t feel able to go outside during the day but waited until dark, when nobody would be able to see her, to venture out for some exercise.
It had taken many days for her to gather the courage to leave the house following her five-hour ordeal which started on Friday night and lasted into the early hours of Saturday morning.
She had put what happened to the back of her mind but it would always be in her head and in her heart, Gaika said, pulling at the collar of the pink shirt she wore with blue shorts.
Gaika said she did not think every man would view her as someone whose sexuality could be changed by rape.
“It was just one person.”
But she had been raped before, by a group of men intent on changing her sexual preference.
Those men had been convicted in court but after a few years had been released.
“I see them every day. They’re out, back on the street. They know what they did.”
Gaika appeared to feel unsafe in Gugulethu and said she wished she could “vanish, out of this world”.
She said she would like to live in a place where she could feel free. Where people wouldn’t point fingers at her knowing she was a lesbian and that she had been raped twice before. Where she would be safe without having to worry about being raped again.
The man who she said had raped her last week was known to her since she was 12 years old. He knew her family, they played soccer together and they’d had fun spending time together, she said.
Gaika said she didn’t “know what got into his mind”.
He had never before mentioned her sexuality or made threatening comments about her being a lesbian.
“Maybe it was something going on in his mind at that time.”
She said on Friday night she had been walking home from a friend’s house when he pulled her into his shack.
Only when she noticed he had locked the door, did she realise something was not right.
Gesturing with her arms, Gaika said he had sat on her chest, with his knees holding down her shoulders as he strangled her with a piece of wire, and then raped her.
He told her he would impregnate her to show her she was a woman, rape her to teach her a lesson, kill her and throw her body into a nearby river.
After hearing the hours-long commotion, neighbours kicked down the door and pulled her out of the shack before beating him.
One neighbour said she had heard someone being choked, but the man had insisted he was arguing with his girlfriend.
He was arrested a few hours later and on Tuesday appeared in court on charges of rape, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and kidnapping.
She would never be able to go back to that house, Gaika said with an emphatic shake of her head. But she added that she had no option but to see the house, because it was just five minutes away from her own.
Gaika said she was “very angry” and would never be able to look at the man without wanting to kill him.
She said he should stay in jail until he died.
With a deep sigh, she said she was tired of talking about the rape and “saying the same old thing”.
What happened flashed into her mind and she was able to visualise the rape.
Gaika did concede that talking about her experiences might help another lesbian by preventing a rape from taking place.
The Cape Times on Thursday visited the man’s shack where Gaika had been raped.
The stench of faeces and rubbish hung heavily in the air.
The floor was littered with personal belongings and other rubbish but it was clear, by the strewn clothing and furniture, that a scuffle had taken place inside.
*This article originally appeared in the Cape Times.