It was a Sunday afternoon in March 2008 when 21-year-old South African Jes Foord gets a call from her father Tim. He asks if she was up for a dog walk in the park around the Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Shongweni Dam. She was game and the father and daughter drove there together with their dogs. Down at the lake they start their walk, casually passing by and waving at five young men upon passing. The dogs romped in the lake and it seemed like a pleasant Sunday afternoon in the park.
Unfortunately it was not. The men from earlier on came back, now with weapons. They robbed them and took their car. They were held at gunpoint and just when they thought it was over, the worst part had just begun.
Jes describes the horror that was to ensue:
“I thought they wanted to rob us. But instead they tied my father to a tree and held a knife to his throat.”
The others took turns raping Jes.
“I am here Jes. The sound of his voice was the only thing that kept me sane during the nightmare. But then they stuffed my dad’s hat in his mouth. When it was over and they drove off, I saw the expression in my father’s eyes. It was heartbreaking.”
When it was over, the father and daughter immediately got a private detective who worked with the police to catch these five waste of life human beings. Indeed the filth were caught in 48 hours.
To reduce the risk of contracting HIV, Jes was forced ot take an extremely powerful medication, causing her to lose her hair while making her very ill for weeks on end.
All five of the scum were behind bars. Jes testified in an empty courtroom. Her parents would not have to hear what she went through. The defendants’ laughter didn’t deter her as she went through what happened.
Three of the rapists got life sentences, as well as 15 years for armed robbery.
One was acquitted of rape, but convicted of robbery.
The youngest offender was 17-years-old, and he got a 17-year prison sentence.
Jes talks about how she is able to move forward from something like this:
“I could have let it destroy me.”
Instead the now 29-year-old went through very intense counselling. The family also went went through counseling. As a result, Jes and her father became closer than ever.
It would be 2009 when Jes would meet Jonathan through a mutual friend. Two years later, the two would marry and father Tim would walk his amazingly strong daughter down the aisle. It was a wonderful moment as Jes points out:
“That was wonderful. I will never let what happened overshadow all the wonderful things that have happened since.”
Jes also started the Jes Foord Foundation in 2009. It aims to help other rape and abuse survivors. Help them recover from the experiences they had as Jes wanted to be sure to make some positive change out of the horrifying ordeal she had to go through.
Sadly it’s not an uncommon ordeal as a woman is raped every 17 seconds in South Africa, with very few being reported.
Jes set’s out to change that:
“I really do feel privileged to be doing what I’m doing because of all the people I’ve been able to help. So many people come to us and they just say, you know, ‘My life’s over. I’m never going to get anywhere. I’m never going to do anything. I just want to go and lock myself in the bedroom and never leave.’ And then you work with them and you talk to them and you just… to see them evolve, see them become them again. It’s just the most special thing.”
She speaks to hundreds of school children across South Africa. This is a vital step in changing the horrific reality of rape culture in South Africa.
“We live in a society where we are teaching our girls how not to be raped instead of teaching our boys how not to be rapists.”
Indeed, with cases such as the recent Brock Turner/Stanford University incident, it shows that South Africa is not alone but that the U.S. needs to do it’s part in changing behaviors.
Here’s Jess on dealing with rape:
“I always say, it’s like when something—trauma—happens to you, it’s like a ball of poison. It goes inside you and every time you talk about it, and every time you cry about it, you’re spitting a little bit of that poison out. So I’m constantly doing that. I’m constantly releasing that poison.”
Twins Layla and Daniel were welcomed into the world in 2014. Jes is already preparing what to say to her kids when they get older:
“To begin with I said I’d let her live her own life. Now I am worried about her, but when she’s old enough I will tell her what happened. I want to be open with her. I don’t want to let one moment of my life control me forever.”
Jes indeed is an incredible individual who has taken an unthinkable incident and turned it around into positive change.
Spread awareness and share her story with friends and family.