Model Lerato Moloi says she will not be silenced.
This after she accused a man of sexually assaulting and raping her in 2014. The model also named the alleged perpetrator on social media. This decision got her into hot water with authorities and she spent a night in jail for contempt of court, after failing to comply with a court order saying her post must be removed.
Editor’s note: The Criminal Procedure Act places restrictions on what information may be published regarding alleged sexual offences, which may include the identity of the alleged perpetrator until he has pleaded in court. While we support the #MeToo movement entirely, The Citizen withholds publication of the alleged perpetrator’s name on legal advice.
Moloi maintains that she is being silenced because it is “uncomfortable for many”. Also, people close to her are advising her that she shouldn’t speak out because it would negatively impact the alleged rapist’s private life.
Moloi says she was raped in 2014 during a television production for a video in Paarl in the Western Cape.
“The trauma, guilt, and shame of the assault has left me with immeasurable emotional scars for the past six years. I am seeking to fully heal and move forward from these traumas… As a result, my coming out and finding my voice has been met with attempts to silence me.”
Speaking to The Citizen, she said when she told her management and those close to her about the sexual assault, not receiving their backing at first was discouraging.
“It’s a feeling I can’t explain or try to explain. It’s a physical thing, like you falling off (a cliff). No hope. It was like they were putting the concern of others first rather than mine. It felt like the earth was swallowing me.”
When the #MeToo movement started in 2017, there was a groundswell of support for victims of sexual abuse, and calls for creating a culture of accountability for sexual abusers.
Moloi said she felt it was now the right time to speak out as she was tired of remaining silent.
“It’s definitely taken time to speak out not just using the #MeToo. Mostly I didn’t speak out because I would see the re-traumatising of survivors, it was frightening to see what was happening. When I gained the courage to name names, that definitely took time and healing to get to that point. I have the unshakeable courage to speak my truth and have gained so much strength in doing so.”
Deciding to share her experience on social media in June 2020 and naming her alleged perpetrator, the model trended due to her revelations.
The man she identified decided to take legal action against Moloi to have her remove her posts accusing him of rape.
The court order dictated that she remove her tweet, but Moloi refused to do so.
She was arrested and released the following day, after the charges were dropped at Vereeniging Magistrate’s Court.
Moloi says she was not surprised or shocked by the legal action taken against her but she still wasn’t prepared for it.
“The whole process of being arrested I wouldn’t want anyone to experience that, you get to see the ugly side of the law. Some of the police officers lacked compassion, it was not pretty at all.”
Moloi says while she laid criminal charges at Vereeniging police station in July, the case has been transferred to Paarl police station as the incident in question occurred there. Police are investigating.
Mentally, she says, this has taken a toll on her, however, her past of having to deal with mental health issues has helped equip her. This includes much therapy and introspection for years before she decided to speak out.
“I know my triggers, my lows, and highs. I have been in a self-composed lockdown long before Covid-19.
“I couldn’t keep quiet any longer and by 2020 I made the decision. The growth I have experienced over the years and how I needed to reach the next phase of healing. It is okay not to be okay.”
She also revealed that she had been molested as a child and she owed it to her younger self to be open and honest.
“I am in a good place now, a lot of internal dying had to occur to be reborn again. This has been a long time coming.”
With many cases of gender-based violence in South Africa, Moloi has a simple message for survivors: take your time.
“Reassure survivors that it is not a requirement to speak out immediately about the abuse. A survivor should not be pressured to speak –take as much time as needed. It is okay to say nothing and it’s more than okay to say something. Speak up or accept and acknowledge your pain. It is going to be okay.
“The shame belongs to the abuser.”