Saturday, 17 May 2008

Rene Burger's courage hailed

UNITED: Schalk Burger (far right) with his sister Rene (left), brother Tiaan and mother Myra on a recent vacation. (Deon, Ferreira, Die Burger)

16/05/2008 08:37 - (SA)

Sarietha Engelbrecht, Die Burger

Cape Town - A brave René Burger, 20, broke her silence on Thursday when she confirmed that she was the student who had been kidnapped from Tygerberg Hospital and raped.

René, who is Springbok rugby player Schalk's younger sister, was overpowered by three men in a parking lot last week, before being taken away and raped.

She said in a statement on Thursday: "You stop being a victim when you choose not to allow something like this to destroy your dignity and self-worth, your trust in others, your hope in the future or your commitment to the country you love."

René gave the statement via a friend of the family, Elna Boesak.

She said: "To fall victim to brutal abduction and rape is one of the most-traumatic experiences that a woman can have.

"You do, however, have a choice in how you respond to this reality.

According to advocate Dup de Bruyn SC, René came forward to end the speculation about who the victim might have been.

"She is not ashamed about what happened. She is fighting back and wants to show people that they mustn't give up hope."

Public thanked for their support

According to the statement, René's family were relieved to have her safely at home.

They thanked friends and strangers who showed solidarity and support during this difficult time.

Boesak said she had offered to help the family and they had asked her to act as a spokesperson.

"I am a woman, too, and feel very strongly about this."

Boesak said she had enormous respect for René and her family.

"They're making a huge contribution to the awareness and destigmatisation of this issue. It took a lot of nerve and courage for her to come forward.

"It says a lot about the Burger family that they are talking about this. They decided to use their position to stand up for women.

Boesak is full of praise for René.

"She is an extraordinary young woman. I've met few people who are this strong and determined.

"René did a very brave thing by coming forward. She is not going to allow this thing to define her."

Challenge their rapists

Kathleen Dey of Rape Crisis in Cape Town confirmed Boesak's comments: "There are many taboos when it comes to speaking about sex, and women can feel exposed. It's a very personal thing."

She said that women should talk about their rapes to encourage other women to do so, to challenge their rapists, to waken the public to the issue and to help their own healing.

"Rapists often count on their victims' silence. By talking about it, you say that it's unacceptable. People also think it only happens to other people."


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