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domenica 11 dicembre 2016


Cape Town - Thirty five years after she was raped, Suellen Sheehan found the courage to pick-up her tennis racquet once again. Sheehan was one of several women who came forward to press charges against convicted rapist and disgraced former Wimbledon doubles champion Bob Hewitt

The 76 year-old Grand Slam doubles-champion was found guilty on two counts of rape and one of sexual assault in March last year. He abused three young women in the 1980s and 1990s while he acted as their coach.
Hewitt is serving a six-year jail term at the St Albans Correctional Facility in Port Elizabeth.
Sheehan, who testified during the trial, had been beset by angst and fear after Hewitt raped her.
But on the day she decided to push her fears aside, the game that had affected her life would once again prove to be a game changer.
With each blow she dealt the tennis ball, a piece of her confidence was restored until eventually she found serenity in her exhaustion.
“A tennis court was a horrible place for me, but now it is a happy place. When I hit the ball, I realised that I can be good again. I could be anything. I could be a winner - despite his stench.”
For Sheehan, now 47, her abuse was a vivid memory. Sheehan changed her name to escape the realities of the 12-year-old girl who could not emotionally process what had happened to her. But she could not escape the horrors in her sleep.
He raped me and it made a massive difference in my life. People have said that I am running away from it by changing my name, but in a way I am leaving it behind. Some people will never get the justice that they deserve but a lot of healing came from me falling in love with tennis again,” she said.
She said Hewitt had groomed her for more than a year before he raped her.
“It was a cool winter’s day. Coach collected me from school and drove me to tennis practice - except we were the only ones there.
“The whole time in the car he was having inappropriate conversations with me about sex. He made me touch him. He raped me and made me clean up after myself. After my rape, I had to march back onto the court and play tennis for him.”
During the trial, Sheehan was asked whether she consented. “I told them I did not consent. He told me such amazing things - that I was the best tennis player. It hurt me deeply when it came out in court that he did not think I was any good.
I suffered from chronic depression all my life. I suffer from a terrible sleeping disorder. I struggled with relationships - I was only married for three months. This was enough time to have my only son.
“I think I primarily suffered from a lack of self love, my mother did not believe me when I told her I was raped and I had to continue training with my rapist years after the abuse.”
She said the sexual harrassment continued but Hewitt did not rape her again.
One of the biggest issues Sheehan had to grapple with during her childhood was the “crushing feeling” of abandonment.
“I felt as though he had abandoned me. I carried that around for years until I started dealing with it. That was when the healing started. To women in a similar situation, you have to get to a point when you are ready to deal with it,” she said.
Sheehan’s breakthrough happened when she took her first tentative steps onto a tennis court, holding the hand of her childhood friend. She said she broke free of the “chrysalis” that enclosed her and emerged as a “butterfly”.
“I was free from the weight of the pain,” she said.
One of his victims told the Johannesburg High Court that he had told her rape was “enjoyable” before assaulting her during a private tennis lesson when she was still a teenager
"He was quite jovial. We were discussing tactics, and he said to me 'rape is enjoyable in all cases and if I rape you, you need to lie down and enjoy it'," she said.
Another victim described how he had touched her inappropriately and forced her to perform a sex act on him when she was 12 and 13.
She said he went on to rape her during a tournament at Sun City. A third victim described how Hewitt raped her in his car under some trees before tennis practice in Boksburg one day in 1982, when she was 12.
Hewitt was born in Dubbo, Australia but spent most of his time in South Africa where he took citizenship in 1967. 
He won numerous Grand Slam events during his career in the 1960s and 1970s and was named to the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1992. He was expelled from the International Tennis Hall of Fame because of his conviction after the allegations surfaced in 2011. 
Judge Maya said Hewitt could have been handed a life sentence for raping a minor. “Our courts have, in countless cases of this nature, consistently expressed society’s abhorrence of sexual offences, which once earned South Africa the shameful title of being the rape capital of the world, and the devastating effect they have on victims and society itself,” he said. 

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