Last Updated: Tue Nov 02, 2010 19:55 pm (KSA) 16:55 pm (GMT)

South African rapist campagins against rape

South Africa's government has been urged to solve the rape epidemic (File)
South Africa's government has been urged to solve the rape epidemic (File)

A South African man who participated in a gang rape as a teenager is now seeking to discourage rape amongst African youth by telling his story and asking his former victim for forgiveness.

In a country where one in four men admits to having raped someone, Dumisani Rebombo, now 49, decided to go out and find the woman he raped and beg for her forgiveness.

 My friend and I proceeded to rape the girl. Afterwards, I was terrified. 
Dumisani Rebombo

"When I was 15 years old, I took part in a gang rape," Rebombo said in an interview with BBC.

"Before the incident, I was constantly jeered for not being man enough."

One day, his cousin pressured him to prove his 'manliness' by taking part in the rape of a teenage girl in order to "straighten her up," since she did not want to go out with any of the local boys.

The 49-year-old said he succumbed to the pressure and "my friend and I proceeded to rape the girl."

"Afterwards, I was terrified. I felt guilty but also scared that the news could reach my mother who had a high standing in the community."

Disturbingly Rebombo said after he participated in the rape he was considered one of the boys and was allowed on the football team.

Forced to face the past

 Every Monday morning, the women reported incidents of abuse in different forms. I was forced to go back to my own incident 
Rebombo

But Rebombo said his guilt never left him even after he left his village and went to live in the city where he joined a religious group.

"I started work with an NGO where I mostly worked with unemployed mothers. Every Monday morning, the women reported incidents of abuse in different forms," he told the BBC. "I was forced to go back to my own incident."

Rebombo asked his employers to create new programs to target boys and men to address the serious issue of rape, which the government has been severely criticized for its failure to tackle the issue.

A trade union report found that one child was being raped in South Africa every three minutes. Most of these cases were unreported.

Seeking forgiveness

 I took a decision to go back to find the woman I raped. (...) I wanted to ask for forgiveness, now that I understood the effects and consequences for someone who has been raped 
Rebombo

Rebombo spoke of his decision to go back and find the girl, now a woman, he had raped.

"I wanted to ask for forgiveness, now that I understood the effects and consequences for someone who has been raped," he said.

He went to consult his pastor who asked him if he was ready to go to jail if the woman decided to go to the authorities.

Rebombo replied "If I go to jail, that would be justice for that woman."

When Rebombo found the woman she revealed to him that she had since been raped on two other occasions.

"She started crying. She told me how she often cringes when her husband touches her."

The woman forgave him.

Since then Rebombo has been campaigning against rape. He believes "machismo feelings and beliefs, coupled with patriarchal processes and tendencies" are what push men to engage in un-consensual sex.

Rebombo said he believed there was a problem in the way boys are raised as at first they are told to be tough and later forced to understand love.

Rebombo is now a community development worker and public speaker, working for the Olive Leaf Foundation in Johannesburg.

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