From Victims to Superhero

While Tshepiso* was a victim of sexual violence herself, it was her younger cousin’s abuse that brought her to LvA.  Tshepiso’s 6 year old cousin, Karabo*, had confided in her about the sexual abuse she had experienced and Tshepiso was going to testify on her behalf at the upcoming trial.  Tshepiso began meeting with LvA’s drama therapist, Bandile, to prepare for the trial.

When Tshepiso came to LvA she was plagued with anxiety, guilt and shame.  Recognizing this, Bandile thought movement work would help her release some of the physical anxiety she was harboring.  Upon suggesting this approach, Tshepiso responded, “But I can’t dance.”  Bandile asked her to try the approach and assured her that if she was uncomfortable they could stop immediately and try an alternative approach. 

Using a technique called Laban’s effort actions, Bandile guided Tshepiso through a series of movements that allowed her to channel and release the tension that may be causing her distress.  After the process, they sat to reflect on the experience.  During reflection, Tshepiso appeared, finally, at ease and ready to open up about the true source of her anxiety.

For years, Tshepiso had hidden that the same man attempted to rape her had later raped her cousin.  Tshepiso had never told anyone about the attempted rape, as she was afraid that no one would believe her.  So she hid it.  Realizing that her secret may have contributed to her cousin’s abuse she was overcome with guilt and shame. 

Working with Bandile allowed her to finally confront her past. By creating a safe and trusting space in drama therapy, Bandile was able to help her start working through the inadequacy and shame she felt through role-play. In role-play, she expressed the desire to be a superhero that protected women and children from abuse in Diepsloot.  Bandile was delighted by her request to play a superhero as it demonstrated her desire to overcome her feelings of inadequacy by reclaiming her agency. It also showed that even in their short time (5 sessions) together, Tshepiso was already beginning to make a profound transformation.  He was assured of this when he asked her, “As this superhero, what would you tell the women of Diepsloot?”  She simply responded, “You will always find someone to trust your story.”

*Clients names and certain details have been changed to protect their identities.

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