Who is Yellow For Survivors

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Yellow for Survivors is an NPC, founded by Leilani Kuter in 2019. It was established to provide survivors of rape and gender-based violence with resources to find the support they need for healing after severe, life-changing experiences. These resources are provided through fundraisers and include self-defence training, counselling and dedication walks, giving a voice to the voiceless.

About Leilani Kuter

This is a translation of an article that appeared in Afrikaans on the Maroela Media platform.

WARNING: This article might contain triggers and is not suitable for sensitive readers or children.

Woman believes she had to survive her rape to tell her story
She is strangely thankful to her rapist for strangling her so severely that she lost consciousness. It means she doesn't have to relive the actual rape in her mind. 

This is what Leilani Kuter (45) shares about the day 27 years ago when her life was changed irrevocably. She was only 18 years old at the time, and focused on making a success of her life after she'd just finished school.  Little did she know that there would be dark depths that she would have to live through before she'd be able to realize her dream. 

Kuter has an easy smile that is noticeably genuine - an honest smile that reaches her eyes and gives no inkling of everything that she has been through.  "Many people have told me that I don't look like a rape victim, and that really irks me. What is a rape victim supposed to look like?" she asks with a frown.

Her voice is strong and measured when she talks about that day. Every now and again she goes quiet and looks away when the remembered trauma brings a lump to her throat. A sip of water, a deep breath, and then she continues her story.

It was 16 September 1992. She was working at her very first job in the department of finances and staying at the Dutch Reformed Church Youth Centre in Vermeulen Road in the heart of Pretoria. There was no money for studies after school and the youth centre offered affordable accommodation for students and young working people.

It was a Wednesday and she had put in leave that day to use her bonus to buy new linen to make her room in the boarding house feel a little more like her own. She remembered exactly what the white-black-and-red duvet cover looked like that she bought that day. She was so happy.

That afternoon she decided to make the most of the Spring weather, so she headed to the public swimming pool to spend a few hours there. Afterwards she walked back to the youth centre to wait in her room for Dewald, a young man with whom she had gone on a few dates.

Stuck to her door was a homemade sign that was used to show where she was at any given time. Everyone at the youth centre had a sign like that on their doors at the time - it was actually a bit of a competition to see who could make the prettiest sign. When she went out she would move the arrow to show where she was headed - to work, to the bathroom, out with friends, etc.

When she got back from the swimming pool, she moved the sign to 'in the room'.

It was around 15:00 when she heard a knock on the door. It wasn't Dewald. The man at the door was young, somewhere in his early 20s, and introduced himself as Frankie. He said he was looking for his sister who stays on the same floor because their grandmother had passed away.

"I immediately developed a feeling of empathy and told him I was very sorry to hear about his grandmother. However, I could not help him because I had only just moved to that floor and I still did not know everyone's names. He thanked me and left."

She left the door slightly ajar because she expected Dewald to arrive at any moment. The hall was quiet; everyone was at class or work. She would be able to hear Dewald if he came down the hall.

When she looked up, 'Frankie' was at the door. "I got a big fright and told him that my boyfriend was on his way in the hopes that he would leave. In a split second, he was inside, locking the door behind him. He jumped on me and started strangling me."

She remembers how she shouted and fought back, thinking about the knife in her top drawer and whether she would survive if she jumped out the second-floor window. But there was no getting away from her attacker.

She remembers the sore on Frankie's hand that she saw when he forced her to perform sexual deeds on him. She remembers the smell of old smoke that clung to him. She offered to clean the sore on his hand in a bid to buy some time, hoping and praying for Dewald to arrive to end the nightmare.

But Dewald never came.

Frankie knocked her onto the bed and used a belt from her closet to strangle her. This is when she lost consciousness.

When she regained consciousness, she was naked on her bed with the belt still around her neck. The pain pulsing through her body and the blood on her new duvet was proof that it wasn't just a nightmare - it had really happened. Frankie's yellow T-shirt lay on the floor where it had fallen when she ripped it from him during their altercation.

The small things she had bought earlier the day to cosy up her room he had taken with him, along with other items he had stolen.

She got up, dressed, and stumbled into the hall. Someone called the police, and the hall became a sudden hive of activity.

She would only later see that Frankie had moved the arrow on her sign to show that she was out. It would be years after the fact that she would find out that Dewald had been there that day, but had turned around when he saw the sign showing that she was out.

The search for healing
The road to healing after the rape was difficult, uncertain, and unpredictable. Kuter says that for the first ten years she was unable to talk about it at all. She couldn't even get the word out. It was 'the incident and there was no talking about the incident. Not even her mother knew exactly what had happened to her that day.

It was only after she did an enrichment course called Turning Point that the wall inside herself came down and she was able to move towards healing one step at a time. "At this course, I met a man who had raped women before. I nearly killed him with my bare hands, but after that, we walked a meaningful road together," she says.

"We had a connection for a while and could talk about it. It sounds so unreal now, but I do believe that God has a plan for everything. I had to be there in that situation for that man to realise what damage he had done. And he had to be there for me to come to the point where forgiveness was possible."

It took a lot of counselling and therapy for Kuter to understand that nothing that happened had been her fault. The rape did not happen because she left the door ajar, because she was wearing a pair of shorts, or because she was kind to a stranger who knocked on her door. She had no reason to be ashamed or feel guilty.

 "I finally realised that God had a plan - I had to use this experience to help others," she says. "This is why I decided that I want to do something amazing this year. Because it happened 27 years ago, I am going to walk 27 km each day for 27 days, and my birthday also happens to fall on the 27th. I hope that I can show people with this initiative that there is hope and healing after something terrible like this happens to you. If my story can help others and inspire them to speak about their experiences, then I am serving my purpose.”

Kuter also wants to raise R 150 000 throughout the course of her 27-day walk, which will be used to fill care packages for rape victims. These packages will be distributed to organisations that support rape victims and contain items that can provide immediate support after a rape, e.g. clean underwear, sanitary wear, something to eat and drink, a soft toy for child victims, etc.

Kuter says she remembers all too well how cold and impersonal the procedure can be, that follows a rape. While you actually want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world, you have to be examined by doctors, have DNA samples taken and give statements to the police. She believes that in times like these, a care package can make all the difference to a rape victim.

Her walk will begin on 16 September and end on 12 October at the Parkrun in Ruimsig. “Every step of my 729 km journey will be taken in defiance of systemic violence against women and in celebration of our collective fighting spirit," she says.

No, she has never been able to write "The End" after her story. Her rapist was never caught and brought to justice and until he is, there will never be a final end to it. She still hopes that he will be caught. To her, the docket on this crime will never be closed.

But she is aware of the bigger picture, and her bigger goal. "God has chosen me to be here. I could have died that day when he strangled me. But I had to stay, I had to be here to tell my story."