Leilani Kuter has done it, she completed her 729km walk in just over 3645 hours, crossing four provincial lines, all to support rape survivors.
Johannesburg, South Africa – Leilani Kuter was brutally raped and left for dead when she was only 18 years old. She was 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 the and what followed changed Leilani’s life forever.
Leilani decided to break her silence after 27 years and spoke out about her ordeal to start a dialogue to empower other survivors. Hoping to free them from the stigma that rape carries.
Leilani started her 27-day journey on the 16th of September, walking 27km a day to take a stand against sexual assault and gender-based violence in South Africa. She wore a bright yellow shirt, the same colour her attacker wore the day she was raped. She took back her power.
Taking her last step at the Ruimsig parkrun in Roodepoort on the 12th of October, completing a total distance of 729km, Leilani says the experience taught her a lot about herself and the kindness of others.
“Taking on this challenge was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it was the best decision I could have made. My ankles are very sore, but I feel fantastic finally reaching the finish line. I learned so much about myself on this journey, I am tougher than I think and that I need to nurture my fighting spirit.” – says Leilani
The challenge which covered four provinces and took over 3645 hours to complete was supported by more than 300 individuals (some rape survivors), of all ages.
One of the stand out moments happened on day 22 in Nelspruit. The prefects from Hoërskool Bergvlam and Lowveld High School joined the walk, and the entire town came out in support. “I cried tears of joy. It was so emotional. The support was incredible” says Leilani
“Throughout this journey, I never could have expected the amount of support I received. I was so incredibly fortunate to be joined by so many compassionate individuals who supported me every step of the way, shared their stories and this life-changing experience with me. I am so happy that I could give others hope and create a safe space for people to reach out and confront this ‘taboo’ topic.” – says Leilani
Leilani was also fortunate to meet and walk with Bruce Fordyce, best known for having won the South African Comrades Marathon a record nine times. Lending his support, he told Leilani not to give up and that she must finish what she started.
With her campaign launched on the donation-based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, on the 14th of August, Leilani raised a total of R237,110.00 with contributions from 109 donors.
Funds raised will be used to purchase emergency comfort packs. The packs will be given to young girls reporting sexual assault and going through the process of telling their stories. Additional funds will be used to help as many women as possible who need rehabilitation and counselling.
“Not one morning did I wake up and think I can’t do this anymore. I knew what I was doing was important and that I was making a meaningful difference. I hope the public will continue to support my crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy so we can touch as many lives as possible” – says Leilani
What is next for Leilani? A documentary called “Born to an Audience” about her life story and the 729km challenge is currently in production. A book about this entire journey will also follow in due course.