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The Young Survivor’s Story

Meet Zanele Kumede…

My story (Zanele Gumede)

“Every woman has something she wishes she could forget. Forgetting is not a memory lapse but it is a memory release”. By Bishop T.D. Jakes. (Philippians 3: 13-15, Isaiah 43:18-19 and Matthew 18:15).

A story of my life, it may not be so moving but it is inspirational because for me, life is not about the movement that occurs but it is about what causes that movement. My movement is caused by my journey of finding my true identity and validation after my rape experience.  My name is Zanele Gumede, I am 23 years old and I am a born-again Christian. I am doing my second year in B Social Work at the University of Johannesburg and I believe that I was called to be in this profession due to my passion for community development and women empowerment. I am passionate about reaching out to those who are struggling to find their true calling and I believe that God had called me for such a time as this.

Between the ages of 8 and 9, I experienced sexual abuse at the hands of people I trusted and the experience completely transformed my perception of how I ought to be as a child. Due to this, I struggled to make friends throughout my primary and high school life. I struggled to relate with people who knew their identity due to my lack of personal identity. I decided not to inform my family due to fear of being rejected. I then made a conscious decision to forget about the experience and I was successful in doing it throughout my primary school life but when puberty hit during my high school years, things took a different turn. I started having the need to belong and to be validated by my peers but my inability to trust hindered me from entering unhealthy relationships. I matriculated from Ganges Secondary School in 2004 in Durban without having to date. Since I had decided not to start dating until I was ready, I am still living up to my decision even today.

After metric, I took a gap year and worked due to financial reasons. In 2006, I moved to Pretoria to study BA Psychology in UNISA and my sister was paying for my studies. It was during my studies that I realized my calling and passion for other people. But moving from a household consisting of only girls to a place where there was a male figure around caused me to relapse which lead me into a deep depression. I was depressed to such an extent that I started medicating myself daily thinking that my actions would numb my pain. I also mutilated myself believing that it will release the inner pain I was feeling but nothing helped. That same year I met a woman from the church I was attending in Palm Springs named Zanele, who helped me find the missing puzzle in my life which was God. I started encountering God in my private space because I was always alone due to the fact that I was only studying part time. Those experiences have enabled me to survive up until this day, although I knew deep inside that I still need to do more to take care of my depression.

In 2008, when my sister and I relocated to Johannesburg, I met a woman I proudly refer to as my role model and inspiration, Ms Andile Gaelisiwe. She referred me to Open Disclosure Foundation due to my depression and inability to cope in the new environment I found myself living in. I received counselling from July 2008 up until March 2009. My life took a different turn and I started healing. The individual session and group sessions helped me a lot because after I started hearing other women share their stories, I realized how blessed I am to be alive and to be able to helped others find hope just by sharing my story. With God by my side, Open Disclosure, my families support and studies at UJ, I have so much to look forward to and I have decided not to be silent but to assist other women who are still struggling to heal by linking them to necessary resources in order for them to heal as well.

I am still in the process of completing my Psychology degree and in the next two years, I will receive my honours degree in B Social Work. While I am still studying, I am spiritually involved in different projects that help a lot of young people in finding their true calling. Late last year I travelled to Zimbabwe (Kwe-Kwe) with SCO on a missionary trip of 7 days. It was during this trip that I learned about the power of being content and I realized the importance of forgiveness. Through therapy and prayer, I gathered the strength to go to Durban during the December holidays and face one of my perpetrators to understand the reasons for his actions and I felt a need to forgive him and move on. Doing that has opened many doors for me and helped me to feel complete.

My Contribution to the Universe after healing

Through my healing, I have been able to reach other women through discipleship helping them overcome life challenges. I am very passionate about helping young ladies who have experienced sexual abuse to move from seeing themselves as victims to seeing themselves as the survivors they are. In April I started a women’s all night bonding session at my place. We usually meet on Thursdays and we use the night to share, to pray, to bond and to seek God. It is so far going well with almost 15 ladies attending. I am also part of a hospital ministry from the church I attend in Melville. We do hospital visits in Helen Joseph every Saturday and during our visitation, we spend time comforting those who are ill and we also pray with them. My future plan is hosting a women’s organization or club that gives young women a platform to talk about their experiences without fear of being labelled as failures and I also desire for them to find their way back to God so that they can find validation in Him, to remember that your life is God’s blessing to the world and the longer you remain unhappy, the longer the world struggles to change because you hold a key to certain doors that no other man can open but you.

As part of my mission to serving others, I am also part of a project called MAP CHRIST, the project aims at redirecting young people back to God and to help them find their identity by removing negative labels placed on them by society.  Since my involvement, we have been able to successfully organize and run 3 camps through the assistance of different sponsors. So far we have been working with a schools in Brixton, we organized weekend camps for 40 grade 6 and 7 students and during those 3 days, we teach help them in finding their true identity, relationships issues and we offer career advice because all of us who facilitate this project are students who are studying different things in universities around Gauteng. We have an upcoming camp in September and we are targeting teenagers this time between the ages of 13 to 19. We are planning to host more than 60 young people and we are currently still seeking funding.

Poem by Zanele Kumede:

“She runs with no direction or guidance but she uses his smell to find her way. She searches for a direction that will lead her away from the smell of his mouth, his hands, his body, his clothes and his touch that he defines as gentle but when it touches her innocent body, it feels rough and unbearable. The road is full of dust and stumbling blocks, she sees people with smiles on their faces, hope arises within her but once again these people are not what they seem. The journey is full of thorns and disappointments but she holds on to the map she has because of her need for validation. As she continues to run, his smell fades and she finds her freedom. This freedom sooths her wounded but yet gentle soul”.

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