Leilani Kuter spent almost 3 decades with a secret… but now she is sharing it in the hopes that other rape and Gender-Based Violence survivors will feel less alone.
Johannesburg, South Africa (20 August 2020) – In September 2019, rape survivor and activist, Leilani Kuter (46) from Roodepoort, Gauteng, began a 27-day journey, covering a distance of 729km, to take a stand against sexual assault and gender-based violence (GBV) in South Africa.
Wearing yellow, the colour her attacker wore, Leilani sought to break the stigma rape carries and raised over R250 000 on BackaBuddy to support and empower rape survivors throughout the country.
According to The Crime Against Women in South Africa Report by Statistics SA, only one in every nine rape cases are reported, and of those, only 4% result in prosecution. Unfortunately for Leilani, these statistics tell her story. Like so many survivors, her case was never solved.
Leilani was a young woman trying to find her place in the world and through a traumatic event, was forced to find strength in her vulnerability. She made a conscious decision to survive, to be a victor, not a victim
“I had no choice but to pick myself up and move on. I was alone in a big city, with no one to rely on but myself. When I realized that the act of rape is about power and not sex, I made a conscious decision to regain control over my life and give myself the respect that was stripped from me. It’s been 28 years, but I still make that decision every day” – says Leilani
Until now, Leilani’s story has in many ways, been a private ‘family secret’. In speaking publicly about her ordeal, she hopes to empower other survivors, to speak out and free themselves from the stigma rape carries.
This year, on the 28th anniversary of the traumatic sexual assault that left her for dead and changed her life forever, Leilani will once again tighten her laces to shine a spotlight on survival.
Leilani’s rape ordeal
Leilani was brutally raped and left for dead when she was only 18 years old and living at the NG-church Youth Centre in Vermeulen Street, Pretoria. She unknowingly let a dangerous man in his late 20s by the name of “Frankie” into her room and what followed changed Leilani’s life forever.
“In a split second, he was on top of me. I tried to reason with him, but he wouldn’t listen. He strangled me and then raped me so brutally I lost consciousness. He then took a belt from my cupboard and strangled me more in the hope that I would die. I vaguely remember the kitchen knife in my top drawer and weighing up whether or not I should try and reach for it. When he was done, he left me lying naked, bloodied, with a belt wrapped around my neck, and my life changed forever. When the police finally arrived, they explained it was the sixth rape case reported in the area in just one week. The police were very nonchalant about the rape. Speaking to me, it was as if they were asking me how I liked my eggs done.” – says Leilani
Leilani’s nostalgic walk
This year, starting on the 1st of September, and ending on the 16th of September, Leilani will begin a 16-day nostalgic journey, walking 28km per day (448km in total), revisiting significant moments in her life.
“Every step of my 2020 challenge will be taken in defiance of systemic violence against women, men and children in celebration of our collective survival spirit. I hope the public will get behind me and support my BackaBuddy campaign” – says Leilani
Her journey begins where she was born and raised in Pretoria, and along the way, she will be visiting her old primary school, high school, the area in which she bought her first property and finally ending in the West Rand, where she got married, and her ‘new life’ began.
Her walk is once again, focused on raising much-needed funds for rape crisis centres across South Africa on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy. In anticipation for her walk, Leilani has already raised a total of R147 154.50 towards her target of R280 000 to empower rape survivors.
“Walking has become a big part of my healing process, and I’ve learned, as I get older, that you can’t run away from your past. You need to confront it head-on in order to move on. For this reason, I am going back to the places where I’ve shared both good and bad memories, in hopes to inspire others to do the same” – says Leilani
Breaking the stigma
Up until last year, Leilani’s story was in many ways a private ‘family secret’.
She has since become an outspoken advocate and voice for women’s rights and gender-based violence in South Africa. Leilani has also launched a charitable organisation, YellowForSurvivors to raise awareness about rape and sexual abuse.
“Sharing my story was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it taught me so much about the person I am and the woman I want to be. I feel like the reason I didn’t die on the 16th of September 1992, is to free others like myself, who have experienced unforgettable trauma and show them that they can overcome and regain control of their lives” – says Leilani
To support Leilani’s campaign, make a donation on BackaBuddy here.