Since she’s spoken out about her rape, Cheryl Zondi has been hit with an avalanche of violence. From the legal system to the men in her life, to the church she belonged to, the patriarchy has betrayed her at every turn. While showing immense courage, Cheryl Zondi’s story also shows exactly how unjustly society treats survivors.
Cheryl Zondi was raped at the age of 14 by alleged abuser and sex trafficker, Nigerian Pastor Timothy Omotso. She was then undermined, shamed and mistreated in court with his lawyer asking her ‘how many centimeters?’ (referring to his penis). Her ex-lover has crawled out of the woodwork to sell a sex tape to her alleged rapist for a bribe. And now, after facing death threats, a R500 000 bounty has been placed on her life by one of Omotso’s followers, for anyone who will kill her.
1. She Was Sexually Abused as a Child, By a Religious Leader
2. The Legal System Victim-blamed, Gaslit and Undermined Her
Demonstrating incredible strength and bravery, Cheryl Zondi then testified against Pastor Omotoso in court at the age of 22, only to be mistreated in court.
- Omotoso’s lawyer asked Cheryl if she knew ‘how many centimeters’ her alleged rapist’s genitalia was. This was a question so grotesque and undermining that the judge had to intervene.
- The lawyer, Daubermann, also victim-blamed Cheryl (implied that the assault was the victim’s fault) when he asked her why she did not scream.
- She was then called a ‘good actress’ and framed as a liar. This is a form of gas-lighting (a technique used to make victims doubt their own memory).
Omotoso’s lawyer, Daubermann delivered a cross-examination so inhumane that it caused a public outcry. At the Port Elizabeth High Court, Cheryl Zondi had to relive the horrifying details of her trauma, only to endure further emotional abuse at his hands.
3. The Violation of Using a Sex Tape to Bribe Her Alleged Abuser
Cheryl Zondi’s ex is now trying to sell a sex tape (recorded without her consent) to her alleged rapist, for a possible bribe. Zondi was reportedly in the relationship for eight months and was unaware that he had made the recording. Her ex-lover, Sandton businessman Michael Brits, aims to sell the sex tape for at least 1.5 million rand, to Omotoso, in order to ‘tarnish her reputation’.
Zondi has gotten a court order to stop him from selling or distributing the videos. Should he ignore this court order, Zondi and her team will lay criminal charges against Brits.
Leaking a sex tape is a form of sexual violence. It is defined as nonconsensual pornography (explicit footage obtained without consent). This kind of violation is digital sexual assault: Sexual violence does not have to be exclusively physical. This means that Zondi is being threatened with sexual violence, yet again, while fighting for justice.
Please be warned and informed that it is illegal to share leaked sex tapes, and that this (despicable) act can land you behind bars.
4. Death Threats and Witness Protection Failing Survivors
Cheryl Zondi has argued that asking a young survivor/witness to forget their identity, drop out of school and move away from their family and cut off all communication is more punishment than justice. She laid a complaint with the Public Protector, reporting that witness protection is failing survivors:
‘In my own experience, I have realised that the system does not work for victims necessarily, especially young victims. When a young person helps clean up the country by getting rapists off the streets, it is then the responsibility of the state to protect that person and their rights.’
Information has surfaced that money has been offered for the killing of Zondi and other women involved in the Omotoso case. Cheryl Zondi and her family have reportedly feared for their lives since Zondi testified in court that televangelist and pastor Timothy Omotso raped her at the age of 14.
5. An Actual R500 000 Hit Taken Out on Her Life
Half a million rand bounty was placed on Cheryl Zondi’s life by one of Omotso’s followers, for anyone who will kill her. She was reportedly placed under 24-hours protection after this hit was allegedly taken out on her. The deputy president of the Cheryl Zondi Foundation was contacted with this tip-off. According to the deputy president, R500 000 has been offered to whoever will end Cheryl Zondi’s life.
Cheryl Zondi’s Message for Survivors:
Cheryl Zondi has launched the Cheryl Zondi Foundation to support abused women and children, particularly those survivors who have experienced sexual abuse in sacred places like churches. The foundation’s tagline is ‘turning pain into purpose’. She has a message for all survivors:
‘Women and young people who can hear me, please stop blaming yourselves for evil acts that had nothing to do with you. I want this self-blame and shame narrative eradicated. You need to own your story.’
Omotoso is facing ’63 main charges and 34 alternative counts,’ including human trafficking, rape, sexual assault, racketeering and conspiracy. The trial resumes on 4 February 2019.
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