Owner of Date Night SA, Leilani Kuter (45) from Roodepoort, Gauteng was brutally raped and left for dead when she was only 18 years old and living at the NG-church Youth Centre in Vermeulen Street, Pretoria. She unknowingly let a dangerous man in his late 20s by the name of “Frankie” into her room and the and what followed changed Leilani’s life forever.
“In a split second, he was on top of me. I tried to reason with him but he wouldn’t listen. He strangled me and then raped me so brutally I lost consciousness. He then took a belt from my cupboard and strangled me more in the hope that I die. I vaguely remember the kitchen knife in my top drawer and weighing up whether or not I should try and reach for it. When he was done, he left me lying naked, bloodied, with a belt wrapped around my neck and my life changed forever. When the police finally arrived they explained it was the sixth rape case reported in the area in just one week. The police were very nonchalant about the rape. Speaking to me, it was as if they were asking me how I liked my eggs done.” – says Leilani
Twenty-seven years later, Leilani decided to break her silence and speak out about her ordeal to start a dialogue to empower other women, men and children and free them from the stigma that rape carries.
Starting on the 16th of September, wearing yellow, the colour her attacker wore, Leilani started a 27-day journey, walking 27km a day to take a stand against sexual assault and gender-based violence in South Africa.
Taking her last step at the Ruimsig parkun in Roodepoort on the 12th of October, completing a total distance of 729km, Leilani says the experience taught her a lot about herself and the kindness of others.
“Taking on this challenge was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it was the best decision I could have made. My ankles are very sore, but I feel fantastic finally reaching the finish line. I learned so much about myself on this journey, I am tougher than I think and that I need to nurture my fighting spirit.” – says Leilani
The challenge which covered 4 provinces and took over 3645 hours to complete was supported by more than 300 individuals (some rape survivors), of all ages.
One of the stand out moments came on Day 22 in Nelspruit. The prefects from Hoërskool Bergvlam and Lowveld High School joined the walk and the entire town came out in support. “I cried tears of joy. It was so emotional. The support was incredible” says Leilani
“Throughout this journey, I never could have expected the amount of support I received. I was so incredibly fortunate to be joined by so many compassionate individuals who supported me every step of the way, shared their stories and this life-changing experience with me. I am so happy that I could give others hope and create a safe space for people to reach out and confront this ‘taboo’ topic.” – says Leilani
Leilani was also fortunate to meet and walk with Bruce Fordyce, best known for having won the South African Comrades Marathon a record nine times. Lending his support, he told Leilani not to give up and that she must finish what she started.
With her campaign launched on donation-based crowdfunding platform, BackaBuddy, on the 14th of August, Leilani raised a total of R 237 110.00 with contributions from 109 donors.
Funds raised will be used to purchase emergency comfort packs to be given to young girls when they report sexual assault and go through the process of telling their stories. Additional funds will be used to help as many women as possible who are in need of rehabilitation and counseling.
“Not one morning did I wake up and think I can’t do this anymore. I knew what I was doing was important and that I was making a meaningful difference. I hope the public will continue to support my crowdfunding campaign on BackaBuddy so we can touch as many lives as possible” – says Leilani
What is next for Leilani?
A documentary called “Born To an Audience” about her life story and the 729km challenge is currently in production. A book about this entire journey will also follow in due course.