Miracle is a word often associated with Alison Botha’s story. Alison’s life almost ended in 1994 after Frans du Toit and Theuns Kruger stabbed her multiple times in the neck and abdomen. Botha’s harrowing ordeal started when one of her attackers forced himself into her car, ordered her into the back seat, and drove off to pick up his accomplice.
Frans and Kruger drove Alison to a deserted area of Port Elizabeth, where they raped her. The monsters tried to strangle her to death, but they failed. They then stabbed her and left her for dead, but through luck and the sheer will to live, Alison Botha survived.
Alison’s attackers stabbed her 54 times in the neck and abdomen
Alison Botha and her friends had enjoyed a fun evening before everything turned awry. Alison’s knife-wielding attacker pounced after she’d parked her car at her apartment. “Move over, or I’ll kill you,” the attacker coldly said.
The man told Botha that he only needed her car for an hour. Frans drove to another area of Port Elizabeth to pick up Kruger. The pair then drove to a secluded spot outside the city, where they informed Botha of their intention to have sex with her.
A terrified Botha chose not to resist rape. In her book I Have Life and film Alison, Botha detailed how her body responded to the rape. To guard against pain, her body involuntarily responded as if it were aroused.
Per The Sunday Times, many rape victims respond this way but fail to speak about it due to the needless shaming they endure. Alison Botha told the publication that she might also have glossed over that fact without her co-writer’s intervention:
“I was so nervous about saying that. If I’d written the book on my own I probably would have brushed over it, but Marianne [Thamm, co-writer of I Have Life] made me see how important it was, and I have lost count of the number of women who have come to thank me for saying it.”
After raping her, Kruger and du Toit tried suffocation, but it failed. Frustrated, the pair stabbed Alison 37 times in the abdomen. They might have left Botha alone had her leg not twitched.
In a final attempt to end Alison’s life, they stabbed her in the neck 17 times. Botha talked to IOL about her experience:
“All I could see was an arm moving about my face. Left and right and left and right. His movements were making a sound. A wet sound, it was the sound of my flesh being slashed open. He was cutting my throat with the knife. Again and again and again. It felt unreal but it wasn’t. I felt no pain, but it was not a dream. This was happening.”
Botha used all her strength to get to a nearby highway, where she received help
“No one can survive that,” one of Botha’s attackers said. But they were wrong: Botha survived.
The men left Botha to die, and for a moment, she thought she would. “I know I had to at least leave a clue about who did this to me so I wrote their names in the sand and ‘I love Mom’ beneath it,” Alison said.
Determined to live, Botha decided to move towards headlights she’d seen through the bushes. As she got up, her intestines nearly fell off. She held them in using a denim shirt she found at the scene.
“It was time to move,” Alison said. “I crawled, struggling through dirt and broken glass, my one hand holding the shirt. With each successive movement I became increasingly tired. At some point I collapsed onto the sand, exhausted.”
Crawling proved too slow for Alison, so she decided to walk. After getting up, her head fell onto her back – the attackers had sliced so extensively, they’d nearly decapitated Alison. Botha walked with one hand supporting her intestines and the other her head.
“I pulled my head forward with my free hand and my vision returned, at least temporarily,” Botha explained. “As I struggled forward my sight faded in and out and I fell many times but managed to get up again until I finally reached the road.”
Tiaan Eilerd, a veterinary student, stopped to help the struggling Alison. He kept her conscious long enough for paramedics to arrive. Dr. Alexander Angelov later stated that in his sixteen years as a doctor, he’d never seen such severe injuries.
Alison’s surgery lasted three hours, and after three weeks, she left the hospital. She remembered everything about the attack, helping authorities arrest du Toit and Kruger.
The Ripper Rapists were tried and convicted in The Noordhoek Ripper Trial, one of the most high-profile cases in South Africa. Judge Chris Jansen sentenced the pair to life in prison.
Botha survived because none of the 54 knife thrusts nicked a main artery. Therefore, she did not bleed to death and kept breathing through her severed trachea.
Alison’s purpose is to spread hope through her miraculous survival
Alison ditched her career as an insurance broker to tour the world speaking about her ordeal. Botha has spoken in more than thirty countries about her system of dealing with trauma. Her purpose is to spread hope through her survival story.
“Believing that I could live the night of my attack and seeing the miraculous result of that belief is also a great life achievement for me. The personal e-mails and notes that I receive from people whose lives have been ‘saved’ because they heard or read my story has to be the most rewarding and valuable achievement – they make it all worth the while.”
Uga Carlini resolved to make a documentary about Alison’s ordeal after hearing her speak in 1999. “She speaks right into your heart and you feel like you’ve known her all your life,” Uga told The Sunday Times.
Carlini said that Alison’s story resonated with so many people because of its uplifting message. “Something so bad happened to her but she turns it around and shows you it’s not about that,” Carlini said.
Uga’s documentary isn’t a crime drama, but it doesn’t shy away from describing the horrific events of that night. Most people interviewed for the production struggle to hold back tears as they recall Alison’s injuries.
“I needed to make it clear that they were a threat to society and should never be released,” Judge Chris Jansen said in the film. Unfortunately, all prisoners sentenced before October 2004 in South Africa are eligible for parole.
Du Toit contacted Alison from prison, asking for a letter of forgiveness and profits from her talks and books. Alison swiftly declined the offer.
Botha hopes that the film portrays the need to protect victims. She told Sunday Times that she wasn’t approached to when Du Toit and Kruger became eligible for parole:
“I was not approached or guided at all. I have connections and the know-how to find out what is going on and try to change it – but what about all the others? What about people who don’t even know where to start?”
Botha has hidden her past from her two sons
Botha and her husband, Tienie Botha, were friends for years before they started dating. They connected a year after her attack and bonded over their shared depression. Tienie’s depression resulted from unresolved childhood trauma. Alison told IOL:
“I think our mutual desperation was the basis of our friendship deepening as we helped each other get out of the ‘dark.’ It was just the most natural thing for us to discuss the future knowing that we would spend the rest of our lives together.”
Alison and Tienie wed in February 1997. They welcomed their first child, Danial, in November 2003 and their second child, Matthew, in November 2006.
“Being a mother is the most important thing that I have ever done in my life,” she said. “To know that it is all actually about someone else is an incredibly humbling experience.”
Botha has resolved to open up about her experience to her sons. She told The Sunday Times that she’d rather they found out from her than from a book or television production. However, she waits for them to ask before she talks about it. She said:
“My oldest son was about five when he asked about the scar on my neck. I just said, ‘Mommy was hurt, and sometimes when you get hurt, you get a scar afterwards.’ And that was enough. They guide themselves in what they are able to digest. As they have got older and can comprehend more they have wanted to know more.”
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