Cheryl Zondi: The story of an ordinary person who became an exceptional woman

Cheryl Zondi: The story of an ordinary person who became an exceptional woman

Cheryl Zondi made headlines when she became the first alleged sexual assault victim to testify on live TV. She stood up against a man that many still think innocent, and her bravery and determination are inspiring to witness.

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22-year-old Cheryl Zondi became the "poster girl for sexual assault survival" and with it gave hope to so many young girls who go through the pain and humiliation of sexual assault.

Her testimony against pastor Timothy Omotoso was aired on live TV and millions watched as she was grilled by his lawyer.

While it must have been a daunting and tiring ordeal, Cheryl stayed strong and became a beacon of light for women.

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Who is this brave young woman who dared stand up against a "man of God"?

Cheryl is an outspoken, determined young woman who believes in standing up for what she feels is right. She showed this characteristic when she became a gay rights activist in school.

Cheryl grew up Evander in Mpumalanga, and while her parents did get divorced when she was young, she was a normal girl who did great at school. She was very dedicated to her academics and enjoyed dancing, singing and being a girl in general.

She was also very fond of public speaking. One of her proudest moments was when she got to speak in front of the late anti-apartheid stalwart Ahmed Kathrada.

I always had a passion for public speaking, so I was chosen by my school to represent it in a district competition where we had to prepare a prayer for SA, and I came out the winner.

Death threats forced her to temporarily leave her family

Cheryl received death threats even before the trial against Omotoso started. She got calls from anonymous people who claimed that God would kill her because she is going against a "man of God", as reported by TimesLIVE.

Since the trial, she had to move away from her family and into 24-hour private security protection.

I miss going to the mall, going out for movies and just being with my family and friends.

While the police were aware of her life being threatened, the justice minister, Michael Masutha, had to be contacted before she could receive state protection.

I was kept waiting, no-one was getting back to me for a week and a half. The whole time I lived in fear and my family didn't know what to do. That is when I moved out of [university] residence and private security was organised.

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Cheryl could have gone into witness protection, but she felt it came at too high a price. gathered she would have been moved to another province, used another identity and dropped out of university, had she accepted.

Dropping out of school was a big issue for me. I would also be cut off from my support system. Isolating someone who went through a traumatic experience is re-traumatising for them. I don't want to die but the conditions made [the offer] impossible to accept.

Cheryl does not regret speaking up against Omotoso

Testifying against Omotoso has not been easy for the young woman, but her bravery is beyond compare. She has indeed gone from an ordinary person to an exceptional woman.

Looking back at what my testimony has done, I have no regrets as I believe my testimony encouraged more victims who suffered the same kind of experience to come out.
I wanted other survivors to see hope walking in front of them.

The words of a young woman who carries the interests of others in her heart.

She launched a foundation that aims to help victims of sexual assault, and it has reportedly already received R1.5 million form the National Lottery in support.

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