Rape victim plans 729km walk over 27 days to empower women
Twenty-seven years to the day she was raped, Leilani Kuter, will on Monday begin a 27-day journey to shine a spotlight on survival and to empower young women affected by sexual assault and gender-based violence.
The total journey will cover 729km.
Kuter, 45, the owner of Date Night SA, is from Roodepoort, Gauteng, and was brutally raped and left for dead in 1992 when she was only 18 years old.
She said her story had in many ways been a private "family secret" - but in speaking publicly about her ordeal, she hoped to empower other survivors to do the same and to free themselves from the stigma that rape carries.
Kuter said she plans to walk 27km every day for 27 days, beginning on Monday, in defiance of systemic violence against women and in celebration of their collective survival. Her walk will start in Pretoria and end with the Ruimsig park run event in Roodepoort on October 12.
With her campaign launched on donations-based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, Kuter hopes to raise funds to purchase emergency comfort packs - worth R200 - to be given to girls and young women when they report sexual assault and go through the process of telling their stories.
"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," Kuter said.
The campaign went live August 14 and has so far raised more than R60,000 towards the fundraising target of R100,000.
Kuter, who was born to a middle-class family, 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 admininistrative clerk and had moved into a room at the NG Kerk Youth Centre in Vermeulen Street, Pretoria.
On the day of the rape, she had taken the day off work to run some errands in town and settle into her room. She was waiting for her friend to visit her when she heard a knock on the door. It was a man in his late 20s, who introduced himself as “Frankie”.
Kuter said the man said the resident living next door to her was his sister and that the family had just lost their grandmother, and he needed Kuter to pass on the sad news.
"Not thinking much, I let the stranger inside," Kuter said.
She said that in a split second, the man was on top of her. She said the man took his belt off and wrapped it around her neck and raped her so brutally that she lost consciousness.
"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," Kuter said.
She said that according to the Crime Against Women in South Africa report by Statistics SA, only one in every nine rape cases were reported and, of those, only 4% resulted in prosecution. Her case was never solved.
Kuter said that when she realised that the act of rape was about power and not sex, she 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."
She said 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 counseling sessions, I hope to restore some dignity to women and girls who are brave enough to come forward and report their ordeal," Kuter said.