Five kilometres outside Bitterfontein, there was a reservoir next to the road. This was where I decided to quickly take a bath and wash my t-shirt. The sun was not out, and there was no time to wait until my t-shirt was dry. So I put it on wet and start walking to Bitterfontein. It was cold walking with a wet t-shirt on.
I arrived in Bitterfontein very early. I think it was around five o’clock. It was summer. I was still too scared to go home, so I decided to go to work. I was also glad I did not run into anyone because I was not ready to explain anything.
The Café where I was working for the summer holidays wasn’t opened yet. So I decided to wait at the petrol attendants. Since Bitterfontein is a very small town, they heard what happened the previous day. They kept asking me where I was the previous night, but I decided not to say anything.
When the Café finally open, the workers were surprised to see me. And they, too, had a lot of questions. They asked me where I was and where I slept. But I decided not to say anything. I was too ashamed and scared to tell them what happened.
Later on, one of the local cops came to see me. He was notorious for beating up or“disciplining out of hand youngsters”. Without asking what happened, he scolded me and accused me of being “uncontrollable”. He insinuated that I did not appreciate what my grandparents were doing for me. Little did he know that I was working so that we did not starve to death.
But like many outsiders, he did not have a clue what was happening inside our household. He did not see the abuse, nor did he live in the environment I did. Like many outsiders, he only looked at that event. To him, I was another problem child who needed the system’s discipline to set me straight.
More shocking was the realisation that my grandparents called the police on me. I never asked them why they did it. Was this because they were scared something might have happened to me, or was this an attempt to intimidate and discipline me.
I felt betrayed. It did not make sense to me why I was the one who supposedly needed discipline, whereas I was the one who needed rescuing. To me, it was clear that there was not much protection for poor abused children in the society I grew up in.
To be continued