Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Ripper Rapists

Finding Meaning

Alison made the decision to show her face to the rest of the country and to tell her story. She didn't want to be the "Noordhoek victim" any longer. Also, rape was very much still a "hush crime" in mid-1990s South Africa, where victims often feel ashamed. Alison was fortunate in that she never felt this way, and she wanted to do something to tell other rape survivors that they didn't need to hide their experiences — that they had done nothing wrong. She wanted to start breaking down the notion that women are somehow to blame for being raped.

Since Alison, somewhat naively, believed that she would only tell her story once, she approached a national magazine called You (which also has an Afrikaans version, Huisgenoot). In this manner, she reached the masses.

Alison had, however, fallen into a deep depression. She went to work, but did the absolute minimum. There was no joy left there.

An anchor for Radio Algoa contacted her about appearing on his show. Seeing it as another opportunity to reach other rape survivors, she agreed. The experience was very positive, even breaking through her depression, albeit only temporarily.

Following more publicity, Alison held a press conference the next week at the Murder and Robbery Unit's building.

Later she was contacted by Carte Blanche, a journalistic program, and again she agreed to appear.

Meanwhile, inside Alison was struggling. She was consumed by a numbness, and had lost her former sparkle. She sought for meaning in what had happened to her, but it stayed beyond her grasp. This numbness is of course a natural defensive measure, protecting the person from the painful emotions of traumatic experiences.

The Rotary Club invited Alison to speak to them. She did, and gave another couple of talks to other small groups. It felt good, forcing her to examine her experience and deal with the underlying issues.

In December 1995, she quit her job. It was difficult since her boss had been so supportive, but there was no other way.

Two weeks into the new year, Alison had to undergo some more plastic and reparative surgery. While she was recovering, more people and groups contacted her about speeches. She also received many letters, some from trauma survivors telling her of the impact her story had had on their lives. Some found the courage to deal with their own experiences in Alison's strength.

She had found some meaning after all, and she was slowly beginning to heal.

After someone asked her fee for giving a speech, Alison discovered that she had stumbled into a new career. Today she is an extremely popular and influential motivational speaker, having visited more than 30 countries. She has shared her story and her ABC system of dealing with trauma and life with countless people, including some of the survivors of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001.

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