Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Jamie's story

Date: 17-02-2008

Producer: Diana Lucas
Presenter: Derek Watts
Researcher: Quereshini Naidoo
Genre: Abuse

"I've been to the worst place imaginable and I've come back."

Jamie Paterson: 'I knew the minute the light went on in my bedroom. I could just sense the violence and the aggression with the people. I knew from that minute that we were in big trouble.'

Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): 'At the end of last year 17-year-old Jamie Paterson, a matric student, seemed to have it all. Academically bright, musically gifted, part of a close and loving family, a great future ahead of her. But what happened on the night of October 2nd was to test every shred of her courage, inner strength and determination.'

Jamie: 'I don't remember anything else except this fear and then my mom came into the room with two guys and said, 'Get out of bed and co-operate'.'

Minutes earlier two armed robbers had managed to manoeuvre themselves through the small cottage pane window, surprising Jamie's mother, Bronwyn.

Bronwyn Paterson (Jamie's mother): 'There was someone standing where you are now - just here ... put a gun to my head and the one behind him went like this. And then the two of them grabbed me and marched me here and said, 'Open the front door'. And I opened the front door and three more came in.'

Jamie: 'I went out into the passage and one of them had my brother and I took him and snatched him away and pulled him against me. They walked us down the passage and I remember saying to the one guy, 'Please don't hurt us. Don't hurt us'. My father was lying on the floor tied up. And they made us kneel down and I wrapped my arms around my brother and I just held him. And I kept my head down and I said to Angus, 'Don't look at their faces'.'

Bronwyn was stabbed in her neck, beaten into a near coma, then thrown onto the floor of the lounge where her husband Alan was lying with a duvet over him. In full sight of nine-year-old Angus

Angus Paterson (Jamie's brother): 'And my mother ... the overwhelming memory that I will have for the rest of my life is getting up and seeing my mother. Her face was just was just'

Bronwyn: 'I kept on saying, 'I've given you all I have' and he said, 'You're lying, you're lying' and that's when they really started seriously kicking me. They threw me on the ground and bashed me across the face, pulling me up by my arms tied behind my back, throwing me back on the bed and then hitting me again.'

Jamie: 'I was lying down and I could hear them undoing the TV and then throwing it across and then something fell on me. I thought it was the TV, but it was my mother. And then I looked up. And then they dragged her away again and the carpet was covered in blood. They kept saying to my father, 'We are going to kill you, we are going to kill you now'.'

Derek: 'As the man of the house, you must have felt pretty helpless.'

Alan: 'That was probably the worst thing of all. I could do nothing. You think to yourself in abstract form I would fight, but you have a man at the other end of the room with a gun, you have your wife behind you held by two other men with guns.'

Jamie: 'My brother was shaking and would reach this crescendo. You keep thinking maybe it's over because it builds to a climax and then calms down. Then it started again and the one guy was saying, 'I love you guys, God loves all of us, so I love everyone. It's just money. I don't want to hurt you guys but my friends are going to kill you'. Angus and I were just talking to him. We were trying to get him to relate to us on some level.'

Alan: 'She was bargaining her flute, she was bargaining her matric badge. She was doing it, almost knowing what was going to happen to her was almost inevitable

Jamie: 'He said to me 'I'm HIV positive. But you're young, I don't want to ruin your life. So if you could just give me gold. I want gold, money and I want your gun.' I said to him, 'We don't have it.' He hit me around the head and said, 'No, you have a gun, don't lie to me'.'

Bronwyn: 'They started to fight over her and I knew she was going to be raped.'

Jamie: 'And then he took me into the bathroom and locked me in and raped me there. Afterwards he climbed out of the window and I sat there in the shower for about 15 minutes. I couldn't hear my family and I had this horrible feeling I was going to be the only one left.'

Derek: 'After being raped in the bathroom and climbing out of the window to find her father dazed and in total shock, her mother beaten to a pulp - Jamie knew there was one thing she needed to do, and that was to get her mother to a hospital as soon as possible. She woke up the housekeeper's boyfriend who had his own car.'

Derek: 'I'm just amazed you could deal with all this happening.'

Jamie: 'It's not easy, but what other choice do you have?'

The Patersons had experienced the worst of humanity. But in the days and months following they were also to see the best: friends and strangers offered not just help but places to stay, to nurse their wounds and for Jamie to study for her Grade 12 examinations.'

Derek: 'Apart from friends and family, the schools have been tremendous support: The Ridge in the case of Angus, and for Jamie, Roedean has been a wonderful source of inspiration.'

Mary Williams (Headmistress, Roedean School): 'She has a focus, she has a direction and certainly she has always achieved what she has set out to achieve. Don't ever be fooled by her very fragile physical appearance.'

It was to Mary Williams, the Headmistress of Roedean, that Jamie spoke about her decision not to hide behind whispers and rumours about the rape.

Mary: 'She wanted her matric class to know and she wanted the staff to know.'

Derek: 'There must be pros and cons about being so open and honest about it.'

Mary: 'You know, I think in each case - and certainly this is not an isolated case - there are many young men and women in schools who are subjected to the devastation of an attack like this. It is a very personal choice.'

Derek: 'The stance you've taken - being open about it - do you think it has helped you through in a way?

Jamie: 'I think it's helped me absolutely to be open about it because then you receive everybody's support. That is where I feel I am lucky because I have got that support system and so many women don't. I 'm really glad I did it.'

And the Paterson's best defence was not to let the barbaric actions of the five thugs destroy them.

Bronwyn: 'We decided we were going to go on and do what we do best as soon as we can.'

Alan: 'We sat down together and we actually toasted survival. We had survived.'

Bronwyn: 'I am not saying it was easy. You have a choice: you either do it or you don't do it. And what do you do afterwards if you haven't done it?'

A week later Angus played in his piano exam, Jamie, fighting off the possibility of HIV with a cocktail of nauseating anti-retrovirals, had her music practical, the first of her finals. Nell Williams, Jamie's music teacher, helped pick up the pieces.

Nell Williams (Music teacher, Roedean School): 'They do compositions. She had stuff on her computer. Her history project, her music history project ... that was lost. Some of her compositions were dirtied. They had blood on them so we had to redo her compositions. Through it all she just put her head down and she did it. I know sitting across from me she was fighting nausea, she was scared and she just carried on and did it.'

Derek: 'Jamie had worked hard throughout her school career and she was expected to do well in her matric. But after the ordeal, the HIV drugs, her family were more than a little apprehensive and concerned before the results were announced.'

Derek: 'You have got to say that to get seven distinctions after the night that she went through is just fantastic.'

Nell: 'The seven distinctions are wonderful. But it actually goes beyond that, to have such courage and the refusal to be a victim and you actually just take charge of what you have to do.'

Mary: 'Bad things do happen to good people. We know that. But if you give up hope, if you simply just give up, there's nothing, there's no future.'

Jamie's mom's ear had been torn, two ribs broken, neck stabbed, nose shattered into seven pieces. Her body has healed but internally she's angry.

Bronwyn: 'As for our security company I hold them culpable. I am very angry. I feel the way they [the criminals] came in was in full view of the street, through those cottage pane windows. They loaded our cars in the driveway in full view of the street with all our belongings. There was no patrol car in sight. They drove straight out through the booms with all our belongings. They know our comings and goings ... we have lived here for 30 years.'

Derek: 'Coming back home after all those weeks?'

Angus: 'It was nerve racking but in the daytime I'm fine with it. It's at night in this place that really I'm jittery. Every single little noise that you hear freaks you out. When your dog barks, even if she's barking at nothing, you curl up and ask your parents if [they] can just go check that out.'

Derek: 'Whether we talk about it over dinner parties or brood about it silently, what has happened to the Paterson's encapsulates just about every one of our thoughts and fears. Is the situation getting better or worse? Is it worth the trade-off of living in this beautiful country despite the dangers? Should we stay or go? And not all of us have the luxury of that decision.'

Alan: 'We've had house breakings. We have had smash and grabs. There's nothing new. If they had taken things again we would have said 'Oh God, again!'. This was very different, this was gratuitous, awful violence.'

Jamie: 'That is what is so sad. I was so full of optimism before and I had planned my future in this country. I'm not going to stay here. I'm not going to stay in a country where I don't feel safe.'

Jamie and her family are not unique. There are thousands of stories like theirs and worse untold. Jamie hopes that by speaking out, her ordeal will have some meaning.

Jamie: 'Coming out of all of this, out of this interview will help others. I've been to the worst place imaginable and I've come back.'

Source:Carte Blanche

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