Anglican church tribunal clears reverend in rape case, but accuser vows to keep on fighting

01 October 2021 - 10:55
By KGAUGELO MASWENENG and SHONISANI TSHIKALANGE
In 2016 Rev June Dolly-Major went on a hunger strike and disclosed that Rev Melvin Booysen had allegedly raped her in Makhanda in 2002 when they were there to find an alternative school for her son. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/PHARTISAN In 2016 Rev June Dolly-Major went on a hunger strike and disclosed that Rev Melvin Booysen had allegedly raped her in Makhanda in 2002 when they were there to find an alternative school for her son. Stock photo.

“I pray for the day that not only my case, but the many cases of others who have suffered a similar plight, and whose pleas for help, fell on deaf ears or were ignored by the pillars of the church will be investigated.”

This was Rev June Dolly-Major's response to the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town disciplinary tribunal's finding that Rev Melvin Booysen was not guilty of raping her nearly two decades ago.

The judgment was digitally handed out on Thursday by retired bishop, Peter Lee.

“This tribunal finds Rev Melvin Booysen not guilty of sexually assaulting June Major in Grahamstown in 2002. There is no evidence of the complainant laying allegations or informing her bishop prior to 2016 and no corroboration of them.

“We do not find her account consistent with the series of circumstantial factors in the story. Booysen is not her rapist,” said the ruling.

In 2016, Dolly-Major went on a hunger strike and disclosed that Booysen had allegedly raped her in Grahamstown (Makhanda) in 2002 when they were there to find an alternative school for her son.

She took the allegation online and this prompted the Booysen to institute legal action.

The tribunal, however, found Booysen guilty of breaching a resolution which governs ministerial conduct for clergy and lay leaders in the church, by apparently invading the complainant's space in their lodgings.

“Some therapy and retraining have been recommended for the bishop,” Lee said as he read the judgment.

He said Dolly-Major continued to represent herself as an active Anglican priest in good standing, which by her own choice she has not been since she resigned some years ago.

“We recommend that the bishop [Dolly-Major] clarifies the truth to the public.”

In court papers filed at the Cape Town high court years ago when Booysen sought urgent relief against the public ousting by Dolly-Major, it stated that the two had been good friends before the incident.

It was recorded in the papers that she wanted to report the matter to the police but a Bishop in the church persuaded her not to to protect the image of the church.

She later resigned and ended up in a shelter.

Booysen said he first heard of the allegations when a journalist contacted him for a comment, and then the police.

Responding to the findings of the tribunal, Dolly-Major said in a written response: “It is nothing but a travesty of justice, ... and in the process [they] have found with baseless diffidence that my accusation of rape by the Rev Melvin Booysen 19 years ago in Makhanda was untrue.”

“This has been a whitewash not only of my terrible and life-changing ordeal; it is also a snub to the many young boys who have been defiled over the years by recalcitrant deviant clerics and whose stories of sexual abuse have been buried for lack of action by those in authority,” she said.

Dolly-Major said, “but the truth has a habit of revealing itself”.

“There are no blessings in covering up the vulgarity and immorality of a small section of the clergy, some of whom preyed on their victims with impunity.”

She said two clearly opposing views emerged at the Tribunal that could never be reconciled and she was saddened that clergy she once looked up to had so brazenly distorted the truth and chose instead to deny the help, support and protection she needed.

Dolly-Major said instead, senior clerics testified against her and denied that she approached them for help, but she does not harbour any grudges against them. 

In an effort to highlight the difficulties encountered by rape victims when they report the crimes to police and authorities, Dolly-Major is now on a 40-day walk from Sir Lowry’s Pass to Makhanda.

The walk is called, “Walk in my shoes, the shoes of a rape survivor.”

Joined by Cape Town civil rights activist Celesthea Pierang, who is herself a rape survivor, they hope to reach Makhanda on October 30 and are also raising funds to establish a help desk and outreach centre for victims of sexual abuse.

TimesLIVE