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How Charlene Smith Was Raped In South Africa and the Aftermath Slaps She Received From Agencies


Disclosure: this article is suitable for 18+. Explicit contents ahead…

“First”, he said, “we are going to have sex”. He was a tall man, about two meters, good-looking, not very dark skin with a thin moustache. His eyes had a slightly almond shape. He had a thin gold sleeper earring in his left ear, he wore a good quality long-sleeve green polo-neck type shirt, and he wore an expensive pair of brown corduroys. He took off my slacks and underwear, and undid his pants.

He pushed me onto the bed. I remembered reading of a woman who told a would-be rapist she had Aids and he left her alone, I tried the same thing. He said, “I’ll wear a condom”. He did not. He could not get a full erection. I was very dry making full penetration difficult.

He began swearing. He has to stay in control, I thought. I soothed, “It’s not your fault, it’s the Aids, it does this”. How old are you he asked, I lied and said I was considerably older, it occurred to me that he knew menopausal women could be dry”.

With the funny attitudes of the hospital administrators, if Charlene didn’t have HIV, it was because Medical Rescue International and a concerned young policeman cared.

What would you do finding out that a rape victim was treated this way? How? You will find out soon.

Lest I forget. There are series of daunting life stories coming up. Subscribe here to get em all.

I don’t know the great news you have heard about South Africa but the notion that South Africa is a free democracy is nonsense. We know the black side on how to survive the major rugged crimes and brutalities there. In case you don’t know, this is how to survive the 8th Crime Rates in South Africa.

What you are about to read will make you feel so angry and helpless.

Helpless in general with regard to how little power women have in these situations and helpless like it’s a certain certainty (especially by the title) where you’re just bidding your time till it happens to you. Unfortunately, this is something the victim has to live with for the rest of her life.

How do you rationalize this with a society it is not the ‘done and proper’ thing to let people know that you were raped? Forgive me but the some Muslims have faced this but wouldn’t say it out because it is “not done and proper”.

“In one week, a friend told me, there had been five rapes in her immediate neighborhood. Only one was ‘bad enough’ that the woman ended up in hospital (she’s now in a mental institution, thanks to being multiply raped over days) and only one received attention from police. This is utterly shameful”Farm.G

It is believed that every 26 second a woman gets raped, it was the turn of Charlene Smith one Thursday night.

In a country where 1800 people contract HIV every day, it’s a gamble Charlene Smith refused to take. But the difficulties she encountered in getting the drug, the treatment she received from medical staff at private hospitals and the district-surgeon’s office are an indictment against healthcare policies and the medical profession.

Charlene Smith needs to take these drugs for a month, within two weeks they will be making her feel very ill and depressed. The therapy cost about R4,000 – $286.91 (current conversion)

A general practitioner gave Charlene Valoid to stop nausea and vomiting. Since the rape she frequently felt nauseous, her stomach ached from where the rapist pushed her. But also she felt as though she had something terrible in her stomach that she had to get rid of, she wished someone could scrape out her insides.

New WordValoid- Tablets are used for travel or motion sickness, and nausea which can be caused by radiotherapy or some medicines. Some ear disorders, for example Meniere’s disease, can cause loss of balance.

When Charlene told a male friend about the incident she began vomiting. In two weeks’ time Charlene would need the Valoid because the anti-retroviral drugs by that time, according to a doctor, will give her constant nausea.

How Charlene Smith was Raped

Charlene Smith came home at 8.30pm. She had met with a French television crew she had given some assistance to. She was tired. Her three dogs acted as normal. She opened the door, walked in and locked it again.

She noticed there were more lights on than she had left on, an expensive mustard colored leather jacket with sheepskin lining that she had bought in Argentina was in the middle of the lounge floor, she thought her son had come home needing a warm jacket and had, for inexplicable reasons, left a jacket on the lounge floor. She went to her son’s room and noted the lights were on instead of just his lamp. She left them.

Charlene went into her room, put her bag, car keys and cellphone on a chair next to the telephone and went to the toilet kicking off her shoes as she went. As she stood next to the toilet to flush he was there, he stood briefly in the doorway as if wanting her to admire him in the jacket, and she began screaming.

He walked toward her holding an elaborate silver Argentine gaucho’s knife that was usually in a display among paintings in the lounge, and said, “keep quiet I have a knife”. No ordinary kitchen knife for him.

Charlene Smith Was Raped

Photo: Gaucho’s knife- Medallion Militaria

She had no choice than to obey. He pushed her out of the bathroom holding the knife close to her, “where is the money?” “I don’t have any,” she said. “I am poor.”

He looked into her bag and saw just R10, he was furious and threw it on the floor. “Is this all, he asked. Yes, she said. Where is your ATM card, she gave it to him. “Give me the number, and don’t lie.” she did as he said. I can take you there in the car, she said, (at this point all Charlene wanted was to get out of the house).

No, he said. He grabbed her by her arms, which days later still ached. “Is anyone coming here?” “Yes,” she said. When? She thought, if I tell him it is soon he might panic — “in an hour or two”. “Is it your husband?” “Yes.” He asked, “where is your son?” “He is sleeping at friends tonight.”

“Don’t move, I’m going to tie you up.” He opened her cupboard. He’s going to bind me with scarves or stockings, Charlene thought. But this was a man who had prepared while waiting for her return, thick masking tape normally kept in a kitchen cupboard was waiting in her bedroom cupboard. He tied her hands behind her back, making the tape go round and round her wrists and hands.

First”, he said, “we are going to have sex”. He was a tall man, about two meters, good-looking, not very dark skin with a thin moustache. His eyes had a slightly almond shape. He had a thin gold sleeper earring in his left ear, he wore a good quality long-sleeve green polo-neck type shirt, and he wore an expensive pair of brown corduroys. He took off Charlene’s slacks and underwear, and undid his pants.

A week before the incident on a Saturday at about noon, the phone rang, Charlene picked it up, a man with a deep voice said, “Hello Mrs. Smith what are you doing,” she queried: “who am I speaking to?” He said, “Aaron”. She asked, “can I help you?” He said, “I’ve been watching you a long time, I love you”.

She put the phone down. His voice troubled her so he had to phone the Parkview police and spoke to a sergeant on duty who said there was nothing they could do, if she wanted she could get Telkom to tap her phone. We went out and on our return the same man had left a message on the answering machine, “If you don’t want to speak to me I will fuck you – Charlene recalled.

Point to note: a sergeant on duty said there was nothing they could do, if Charlene wanted she could get Telkom to tap her phone.

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So, using a manly power, he overpowered Charlene who had no choice than to lay there and thought, be calm, be calm. He finished and did up his pants, “now I’m going to get the money, but I will only be 15 minutes, don’t do anything stupid because I will kill you”.

He wound tape across her eyes and around her head, “don’t put the tape over my nose because I won’t be able to breathe,” she begged. He wound it over her mouth and around her head, bound her ankles and her knees. Throughout she spoke in a calm, level voice.

Charlene recalled. I could hear him go to my bag and rifle through it, “don’t you have any credit cards or other bank cards”. “No, I told you I am poor.” I heard him pocket my cellphone.

He picked me up as if I weighed nothing (I’m 1.62m and weigh 57kg), “I’m going to lock you into the toilet so you don’t try anything”. The silver fingerprint powder on the door later showed he had big hands.

When he put her on the ground, she realized she must look like a victim. She was crouching forward, knees bent, head down. “I’m going, I will be only 15 minutes”. He closed the door, but did not lock it, this told Charlene he would not leave the house immediately.

She heard him lifting the lids of Chinese urns in the lounge, he was still looking for money — but he left her laptop on the bed where he had raped her, a radio on a living room couch, a brand new mountain bike, antique earrings in her ears.

He took off her watch but dropped it on the floor. His real motive was not robbery said Charlene. Although he also took a Chinese silk rug on her bedroom floor, leaving behind an Indian dhurrie, he had expensive tastes. Charlene admitted that he wasn’t just any normal petty thief/rapist. He speaks well, he has had a decent education. He was clean. He planned this all so carefully, she said.

When he came back into the bathroom, he asked her, “where are the front door keys?, since Charlene couldn’t speak she indicated with her bound hands, “you’re not tied up well enough,” he went back and applied layers more masking tape to her hands and wrists.

He slid a latch across the bathroom door. She heard him quietly leave through the front door, onto a patio blazing with light in full view of the street.

Charlene said, I waited a while in case he returned to check on me, and then I struggled to free myself. I floundered around with my eyes bound, I had to get my hands freed, it was unbelievably hard, at one point I stopped, I was exhausted, I was terrified, and I felt like giving up. But I thought, if you give up, he will come back and kill you.

With the situation at hand, Charlene continued and finally got one hand freed. Being a woman of not much strength she struggled and opened the window and began tugging at the burglar bars. In the aftermath of this, Charlene began screaming, “help me, please somebody help me”.

The bad side of the event was that Charlene had a quiet voice and even when she raised it, it was not very loud. The rapist had put her in the middle bathroom furthest from neighbors, it was also the beginning of a long weekend, and her neighbors may have gone away.

Not even dogs barked when she shouted. No one seemed to hear. She kicked the door some more. “Please God, let me live,” she prayed under her breath. The lights were off but she felt for something in the bathroom cupboard to break the window, perhaps that sound will carry further than her voice.

The first few containers she used had no impact, and then she took one that made the glass broke, she kept smashing the glass out of the frame, “help me, someone please help me”.

Let’s break it down here.

When you see thieves and some bad guys being executed by jungle justice, how does your mind beep, in support or against? Now, in this Charlene’s scenario, have you thought of other murder victims, they must have felt like this before they died, right?

As Charlene was trying to get her freedom she couldn’t smash out the top window frame, her strength seemed to be failing. At one stage her mouth went absolutely dried and no sound left her lips. She drank water from the tap and carried on shouting. Suddenly she saw a torch glow and heard the voices of men at her back gate.

At first she was terrified, is that him (rapist) back with more? she panicked. And then she recognized the voice of a neighbor who asked, “What is wrong”. “Call the police,” she shouted, “I’ve been raped, he has a knife, please get me out of here, he is coming back. Be careful, he has a knife …”

The neighbors managed to get to the window, “help me please, get me out of here, I’m locked in the bathroom and I’m terrified”, she exclaimed. “We’ve called the police, how do we get into the house,” they asked. “I don’t know, break the doors or the windows but please get me out.”

Seconds later she heard voices in the passage, she was frightened again, it must be him in the house. But it was them. The back door was wide open, the rapist also managed to get through a locked interior door without any sign of it being interfered with.

The neighbors unlocked the door and stood looking at her in horror. Charlene was wearing only a longish top, the lower part of her body was naked, she had masking tape all over her head and her body, her left hand was bleeding where the knife slashed her, but was still attached to masking tape and her jacket hampering her movement. She cried, “I’m terribly sorry, but he raped me I don’t have my clothes with me”.

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Pitifully, while one of her neighbors went to fetch his wife, the other neighbor led her gently away, she said “please cut off this masking tape I can’t move properly. She tried to move her bloodied hand. Her neighbor got something and with the greatest gentleness cut off the masking tape and freed Charlene’s hand.

The police arrived, she could see the shock on their faces, they asked for details and she still astonishingly was calmed, she knew it was important that she should be, they immediately began broadcasting details on their hand radios.

Charlene’s neighbor’s wife arrived and held her. I want to put on my clothes, at least underwear, Charlene said. But the neighbor cautioned her not to, she helped her find a gown instead – (perhaps to keep the evidence or something).

Charlene kept saying to them and the police, I’ve got to get AZT fast so that I don’t get HIV. She searched and found her doctor’s phone number, called him, and unfortunately he was away for the weekend. She then phoned a close friend, her answering machine was on.

She phoned another, she told her what happened, and asked her to try and find her doctor. She was concerned and confused. She told her she was fine but she just needed AZT.

Charlene Smith Was Raped

Photo: National Library of Medicine

The police asked her not to remove the remaining masking tape because they wanted to fingerprint it. A young police reservist took her outside, a neighbor and his wife drove by, they stopped and asked one of her rescuers what was going on, he spoke quietly to them.

New Word-“Reservist”: A reservist is a person who is a member of a military reserve force. They are otherwise civilians, and in peacetime have careers outside the military. Reservists usually go for training on an annual basis to refresh their skills –Wikipedia)

Another came and also spoke to him. The streets were dark and Charlene didn’t know if the monster was somewhere watching her. Charlene didn’t mind the neighbors knowing what happened, they and their families must be aware of the danger in this otherwise quiet neighborhood. But she didn’t want anyone looking at her as a victim.

She had all her medical aid details, the police had radioed ahead to Milpark Hospital telling them she was a rape victim (how she hated the word victim) and that she wanted AZT.

She hated getting out of the car and walking past the people in the casualty unit who stared at her, her left hand still caked in blood, she was wearing a gown and had masking tape in my hair, around her wrists, neck, ankles and knees.

As a young nurse guided her into a private cubicle and left, Charlene said I don’t want to lie on a bed, I don’t want anything to do with beds. I don’t want to sit down because then I feel moisture between my legs, even though I do not believe he achieved orgasm.

Even in the heat of this event, Charlene realized and gasped, I’m standing with my arms at my sides facing the wall saying quietly over and over, “I’m alive, I’m alive”.

After about half an hour there, the two nurses led her back to the police car saying she had to go to the district surgeon first. The male nurse gave her rape crisis numbers. The policeman told her Milpark (hospital) refused to give her AZT because her medical aid was for hospitalization only.

This was despite the fact that she had been admitted as a patient to Milpark Hospital before with heart problems, the last time was in September before she was on medical aid and she paid her bill in full and promptly. But in South African private clinics, economics are more important than lives.

Point to note: The policeman told her Milpark (hospital) refused to give her AZT because her medical aid was for hospitalization only. Above a human life?

Charlene Smith Was Raped

Photo: Netcare Hospitals

There was a young police officer who showed concern about Charlene. He raced to Hillbrow Hospital, to the district surgeon’s offices. They battled to enter, and then drove through darkness to the back of the now empty hospital.

There were no lights outside the district surgeon’s office, no bell to press, the police officer banged on the windows, until two security guards came and battled to open the door. They went in, a police officer from the child protection unit was there, and a child under the age of 18 who had been raped was being examined.

The lighting was dim, it was like a third world airport. It had no phone, no water or tea or anything for victims or police. Rows of benches were shoved against the walls, with filing cabinets, desks, it looked like a furniture storage depot, and a narrow three panel screen shields curious eyes from victims.

Pamphlets titled “Realizing Our Hopes”, Nelson Mandela’s final speech were scattered on one table, there were others about Rosebank Vaccination Station, nothing about how to cope after sexual assault. (What do you term that?).

There was no AZT there —recalled Charlene, how could I forget, Minister Nkosazana Zuma, a woman too, won’t allow government to give AZT to rape victims and pregnant women to reduce transmission of the disease to their babies.

Officers from the sexual offences unit arrived with the quest to take a statement and for her to undergo an examination by the district surgeon first. It has now been two hours since the rape.

Charlene refused to comply with anything until she get AZT, which her now guardian angel in the form of the police constable had now discovered it was at Garden City Clinic.

Charlene had cards for Medical Rescue International in her handbag she phoned them, she told them what happened, they left her holding on for a while and then spoke to the police officer and arranged to cover the payment. If Charlene didn’t have HIV, it was because Medical Rescue International and a concerned young policeman cared.

The police reservist raced her across to the clinic. He took a receptionist aside and told her what had happened and the name of the contact person at the clinic who had given approval for the drug. She was young with long dark hair and pursed lips, she went into bureaucratic mode, and she said she does not know of any such person.

This, by the way, was the clinic where if she had injured her rapist and he was taken prisoner he would have been admitted without question and treated free at the state’s expense. Charlene was getting desperate, she leaned across, “this is my life we are talking about,” she reminded her. “There must be someone who can expedite this, find him.”

As things were winding up she directed them to the casualty unit. A nurse there also went into bureaucratic mode – (Bureaucracy refers to both a body of non-elective government officials and an administrative policy-making group).

Charlene took her chance by grabbing a passing doctor and told him she needed help, he said, he couldn’t help and the doctor in charge was (suturing).

Suturing means – holding a medical device used to hold body tissues together after an injury or surgery.

It became threatening so she had to tell him the time that had lapsed since the rape and that she needed AZT fast. Others in the casualty ward watched. The doctor ordered the drugs, and said another woman who had been stabbed with a needle also needed it and they had summoned the pharmacist.

Point to discern: did they doctor finally agree to order the drugs because another woman who had been stabbed with a needle also needed it?

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Charlene had no choice than to wait. The doctor finally came by half an hour later and offered her tea, he was the first person to do so. It took one and a half hours before the drugs arrived, it was astonishing that there was no fast access to anti-retroviral in the casualty ward for needle stick injuries and rape victims. This was the country with the fastest growing incidence of AIDS in the world.

By this time it was now, they went back to the district surgeon’s office. No one asked her name or attempted to befriend her. To them she was just another victim. After some examination Charlene asked to go to the toilet, she had not been allowed to go for the whole evening. By the way, there was no toilet paper so she was given a sanitary pad to wipe herself with.

The young police officer, the only person who showed kindness to her took her home close to 2am, the two police officers from the sexual offences unit were waiting outside her home.

A daring report is that in the five and a half hours since Charlene rape took place a further 7200 women and children had been raped in South Africa. During this time the police reservist had ascertained where her son was, had ensured he was safe.

There were silver-grey fingerprint dustings throughout the house. The police officers walked her through the house listening to her story, but not before they canceled her cellphone and bank cards. Vodacom which could trace the vicinity of the cellphone through their tracking systems said they needed permission from Teljoy, no-one answers calls at Teljoy.

Vodacom said then they couldn’t do anything. Thanks for helping in the fight against crime Vodacom* and Teljoy, Charlene said.

Charlene Smith Was Raped

Photo: Hisense

“What happened to me was not half as bad as what happens to other rape victims but it is still hard to get through each day. The SAPS were wonderful to me. Private clinics and the district surgeon’s office are a disgrace, in a country with such a high incidence of rape why are they not more sensitive to victims? The fact that anti-retroviral drugs are not immediately and freely administered is criminal”Charlene Smith

Point to discern: in a country with such a high incidence of rape why are they not more sensitive to victims? The fact that anti-retroviral drugs are not immediately and freely administered is criminal.

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The third night after the incident, Charlene was trying to sleep when she thought of the oft-quoted statement by rape action groups that rape is about men exerting power over women. And she thought that is so wrong.

There was only one person who was powerful during Charlene’s rape and that was her, she remained calmed and in control of herself, while always allowing him to believe that he (rapists) was in charge. What power did he have? A knife. A weapon does not make you powerful, it is only the weak who have to resort to weapons and violence and force.

The forsaken rapist had a mission because he was a good-looking man, lots of women would find him attractive, why did he need to do this to an innocent woman was the question?

Charlene said.

“The truth is, he does not, and there are places where he can get help. I’m sorry he, and others like him, lack the courage to get that help. He never took me prisoner because my mind was strong and clear, there are times now and there will be times later when I will feel depressed and fearful.

But he cannot imprison my mind. I have the power. He will never be as powerful as me, even if he had killed me, he would have been left with the knowledge that I, and the others I am sure he has raped before, we were the ones with the power.

And if I have HIV? I pray that I don’t, but I believe all of this happened for a purpose, God sent me this challenge, I have to turn this evil into good and that too is why I am speaking out.

Rape victims are not statistics, we are people, and this is our story. We have nothing to be ashamed of, it’s a so-called moral society that does nothing that should be filled with shame”.

Listen up now: There are a series of Daunting Discoveries & Life Stories coming up. Subscribe here for more.

Final Thoughts

Really, I don’t want to end this but I most. So to cut the long story short, the rapist kept phoning Charlene 3 to 4 times a day after the rape. Every time from a different number but finally that is how a friend of Charlene who was a private investigator traced him. The police lost the docket within a week but for the DNA, thank God.

New WordDocket a document or label listing the contents of a consignment or package.

But even then at the end of the trial the rapist almost walked away because forensics failed to do proper chain of evidence. Charlene had to cry for two days then drove to the Forensics Dept. in Pretoria & said, ‘you have to do this.’

The result? The son of a devil got 15 years for raping her & 15 years for stealing a few things.

While you can take offences for many things, points of notices, and discernments, the good point here is that in the decade since Netcare, owners of Milpark and Garden City Clinic have spent millions converting all emergency rooms to be rape survivor sensitive and giving special training to staff and every year they give free ARVs to prevent HIV to thousands of indigent rape survivors.

Also, Vodacom has trained all its emergency call center staff in how to assist rape survivors and now will trace calls from those who experience crime.

The Experience – Charlene Smith

Charlene Smith is a multi-award-winning journalist, author and media consultant. She has had 14 books published, one of which was shortlisted for an Alan Paton award. Television documentaries for which she has worked have also won awards. She has worked as a broadcast journalist and radio-station manager. Smith’s areas of expertise are politics, economics, women’s and children’s issues and HIV. She lives and works in Cambridge, USA.

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  1. Do you have any type of ideas for writing write-ups?
    That’s where I constantly battle as well as I just wind up staring
    vacant screen for long period of time.


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