Stop bashing victims of rape

In recent weeks we have been exposed to the trial of Pastor Timothy Omotoso who is the senior pastor of the Jesus Dominion International Church.

During the trial, we have seen a witness being bashed and called names for speaking out about abuses she went through at the hands of the “man of God”.

The pastor is on trial charged with rape, human trafficking and sexual harassment.

He is also accused of keeping young female congregants at his lavish house in uMhlanga, north of Durban, where he allegedly sexually abused them.

He was arrested last year and the case is heard at the Port Elizabeth High Court.

Since the beginning of the trial, the witness, Cheryl Zondi, has been called names, threatened while her pictures and videos circulate and are shared on social media. This is a ploy to try to discredit her testimony in court, and sadly all of this is done mostly by women.

Maybe it will be best if I bring this matter closer home. Last year Bishop Jabu Ndaba of Trinity Apostolic Church was arrested and charged with raping a minor at his home for a period of over two years.

We saw and learnt how members of his church, especially women, came out guns blazing, calling the victim all kinds of unsavoury names under the sun.

In the two cases I am describing, the victims have been accused of being liars, and that their only aim is to tarnish the reputation of “men of God”.

I followed with interest the two cases of these two men who are said to be “men of God”. They have been alleged to have preyed on young girls who were under the age of 15.

They allegedly used their power to manipulate their victims into believing they were the selected ones, and that if the girls acceded to their sexual demands, they would receive holy blessings.

But the tables turned when they learnt that their victims reported them to the police. They were threatened and told they would be punished for life by both the pastors and their followers.

I am embarrassed. In SA it is said that at least two in three women are raped on a daily basis.

In a country where we are calling on victims to come out and report rape cases, no matter when and how they happened, it is strange that it is women who support the perpetrators when they should, in fact, be holding the rape victims’ hands. Instead, women have become the number one bashers of rape victims.

Do we honestly think, in our heart of hearts, more young people will come out to speak out and report a case of sexual abuse if we continue to treat the victims the way are currently doing?

I am trying not to be harsh. Throughout the years I have refused to agree with other women who argued that women are their own worst enemies. I have now changed my mind.

We really need to look deeper and question some of our motives.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with supporting and believing the accused to be innocent. But we should refrain from calling victims of abuse names. This does more harm than good.

We should also remember that “Men of God” are human, and like all of us, can make mistakes.

Can we try to allow the courts to carry out their responsibilities without interference?

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  AUTHOR
Doreen Mokgolo
Journalist

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