The Story of a Boy

If you’re looking for a story with a happy ending, I’m not sure how this one will do.

During a day spent with the Social Justice Coalition, Mandla Majola – the coordinator of the organization – received a call from a social worker who was working with a family in Khayelitsha. She asked if we would go meet the family later that morning.

We made our way to the street where we were to meet, and parked next to a community water tap. As we followed the social worker, I watched as she tip-toed around sewage and mud as we made our way up the path to their house. We came to their home – like many homes in this area – which is smaller than my one-stall garage.

The mother starts to tell the story: Mendoza, their now nine-year-old son was raped by a neighbor man two years ago. They went to the hospital that night, and provided samples for a rape kit – everything that they could do at the moment. The standard next step would be to send the samples in for DNA processing, which they supported. The DNA samples or results were lost; they found that out earlier this year. In April of this year, another sample was processed for the police, but since then, there has been no report back to the family.

Mendoza is still receiving medical treatment because of the physical brutality of the rape. And he suffers seizures from the stress of seeing the man who did this to him, who still lives in his home, just a few doors from his victim.

The family of four – the mother, father, Mendoza and his younger sister – all still live in their home. They are not in a position where it’s possible for them to move. They receive the equivalent of $200 USD per month for the father, and now Mendoza’s disability. And because of the seizures he still experiences, most neighbors stay away from the family, worried that they could be contagious. When we made a second visit to the family, they were so glad to see us return. We were able to meet Mendoza, who is now in a special school, and their daughter, who they are afraid to let out of their sight.

This family is not asking for much. They just want to know that their children are safe. They want to know that the person who committed this crime will be brought to justice for it. They want to be treated with dignity.

The Social Justice Coalition works on several cases such as this, when the police or judicial system seem to have stalled or completely failed the citizens of the Khayelitsha community. SJC is looking at this case to see if they can lend their voices to see that some justice can be achieved, and to improve the system for the next family.

So I’m not sure if Mendoza and his family will have a happy ending.  I do know that the Social Justice Coalition will do what they can to make their community safer and better for everyone.  If you’d like to learn more about them, visit www.sjc.org.za  You can also donate to Acacia Global to support SJC’s work.