Leilani Kuter has spent 27 years with a secret but now she is sharing it in the hopes that other rape and GBV survivors will feel less alone.
*This article contains sensitive content that may be a trigger for gender-based violence survivors.
Pretoria, South Africa – Leilani Kuter (45) from Roodepoort, Gauteng was brutally raped and left for dead when she was only 18 years old.
Now exactly 27 years later, Leilani is speaking out about her ordeal, to shine a spotlight on survival and empower young women affected by sexual assault and gender-based violence (GBV).
Born to a middle-class family, Leilani was Independent from a young age and started working at the age of 15. By the age of 17, she was working at the Department of Finance as an admin clerk and had moved into a room at the NG-church Youth Centre in Vermeulen Street, Pretoria.
She had taken the day off work, to run some errands in town and settle into her room. It was a seemingly ordinary day, the dorms were quiet and mostly empty, so Leilani spent time at the pool before returning to her room.
While waiting for her friend, Dewald, to visit she sat on her bed and later heard a knock on the door. It was a man in his late 20s, who introduced himself as “Frankie”.
“He explained that the resident living next door to me was his sister and that the family had just lost their grandmother, and he needed me to pass on the sad news. Not thinking much, I let the stranger inside,” Leilani recalls.
What followed would change 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 took his belt off and wrapped it around my neck while he raped me so brutally I lost consciousness. I vaguely remember the pocket 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
Rape is an epidemic in South Africa
According to The Crime Against Women in South Africa Report by Statistics SA, only 1 in every 9 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 27 years, but I still make that decision every day” – says Leilani
Crowdfunding on BackaBuddy
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.
On the 16th of September, the 27th anniversary of her rape ordeal, Leilani will begin a 27-day journey, totalling 729km, starting in Pretoria and ending with the Ruimsig park-run in Roodepoort on the 12th of October.
“I plan to walk 27km a day for 27 days in defiance of systemic violence against women and in celebration of our collective survival. I will be wearing yellow, the colour the perpetrator wore when he attacked my spirit. With my BackaBuddy campaign, I hope to honour young women like Uyinene Mrwetyana, Jesse Hess, Leighandre Jegels, Lynette Volschenk and Meghan Cremer who lost their lives due to senseless acts of violence. I also want to honour the women whose stories we haven’t heard and the names we don’t know” – says Leilani
With her campaign launched on donations based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, Leilani hopes to raise funds to purchase emergency comfort packs @ R200 to be given to young girls when they report sexual assault and go through the process of telling their stories.
Additional funds will be used to help as many women as possible who are in need of rehabilitation and counselling.
“I think back to the day I reported my rape, the lengthy process of having to recount the most traumatic experience of my life, the invasive medical examination, how cold and impersonal it all felt. With these packs and counselling sessions, I hope to restore some dignity to women and girls who are brave enough to come forward and report their ordeal.” – says Leilani
The campaign went live on 14th of August and has so far raised a total of R 59 278.38 towards the fundraising target of R 100 000.00 with contributions from 39 donors.
“I hope my BackaBuddy campaign will encourage as many young women as possible who have been raped or have been victims of sexual assault to speak out and be heard. With a case number you are taking back some of your power from the perpetrator and God willing putting them behind bars” – says Leilani
Funds raised for the comfort kits and counselling sessions will go directly to the supplier. You can donate to Leilani’s fund here.