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FIRST ON EWN: Sheehan recounts trauma

As a survivor of the abuse by Bob Hewitt I find it extremely disturbing to see how, not just Hewitt, but our community seems to think that what happened to us is OK. It is not OK! It doesn't matter how many years ago it happened. If it happened yesterday or if it happened 30 years ago, it still happened and that does not give anyone the right to pass any kind of judgement as to why we waited so long to "do something" about our ordeal.

The facts are as such. It was reported when it happened. The first known case was in 1981, opened by a 13-year-old victim. A full investigation was conducted and upon the advice of her legal team, she, as a minor, could not withdraw the charges but her parents did. And they live with that every day of their lives. Her dad has subsequently passed away but he did everything he could at the time to try to deal with the problem with the resources they had.

I became a victim shortly after the story hit the headlines and it took me a while but I told my mom, who dismissed me as talking rubbish. Where do you go from there? He told me no one would believe me. He told me he would get into a lot of trouble. I was 12 and didn't want to cause him undue harm or get him into trouble - after all, he loved me.

This is just two of us who tried to do something and the support was very different from both our families. That goes for all the many other women out there who were just young girls. Some parents removed them from him immediately, others reported it to the SA Tennis Union, some young girls said nothing.

I am angered by some of the comments made by the people who read our story. We were not whoring for our careers at the age of 12. We were good at what we did and our parents only wanted the best for us. We ended up with a paedophile.

In the most recent article on News24 someone called us slags and another commented that in Boksburg girls are having sex at 14. I often sit and wonder if these people have children of their own and if they live in a world where they think it will never happen to them.

I was having a discussion today with my partner and his question was, "Why was Hewitt not arrested?". Is he being given special treatment because he is a "celebrity"?

I lived a tormented life for 32 years because of what was done to me and because of the reaction I received when I tried to confront the issue. Only now am I starting to heal.

Why did we wait so long? We didn't. Why are we only dealing with it now? We are grown women; we are bigger, we are stronger and we are wiser. Most importantly, we are not the only ones. There are many, many, many of us out there who for many years thought we were the only one. My best and lifelong friend was put through something similar while at school but we only spoke about it around 20 years ago and discovered that she was fortunate to get away from him before anything happened. But that hasn't come without deep pain for her and her family.

Some people say there should be a statute of limitations on things like this. Why? A statute of limitations of 10 years is in place in the US and one of Hewitt's victims will never get the closure she desires from the abuse she suffered at his hands.

Bob Hewitt claims to be too ill to travel and appear in court. I have to ask, "What are you avoiding Mr Hewitt?" You, your family, my family and some of your friends have ripped me to shreds and torn me apart on radio and in newspapers. He has called me a drug addict. I have received death threats. I have even been accused of selling my story for money. It's easy when you hide behind the radio. I have to ask why are you not able to face me and say what you have to say. I'd like to paraphrase what someone said during an interview on HBO Sports: "When Hewitt was winning he was a great winner, but when he was losing it was ugly."

The abuse was no secret back in those years and the support we have received from people who did try to get us the help we needed back then also have to live with what happened.

I would like to know if it was expected that he was going to make a joke of our judicial system by claiming illness, why can the state not get a doctor to go and give him a medical and see if he really is as ill as he claims. In December 2012, he was not too ill to give radio interviews and tear me to pieces. His tactic can only be a tactic for so long. In November 2012, he was interviewed on SABC and the reporter was told that he had everything under control and she must not worry. Who's worrying? If he has everything under control then why is he not in court controlling the situation?

He claims that this has caused him untold hardship and it has taken its toll on him and his family. What about the victims? What about the personal loss we have suffered? I have lost my whole family because of this. My family support him. It's one of the loneliest places I've ever been. But, I say it again, he claims to be too ill to attend court. I'm also ill. I suffer from fibromyalgia, which is a known disease caused by childhood trauma. I have had 11 lower back surgeries and I used to suffer from severe depression. I have survived but I am in pain emotionally and physically every single day of my life. Again I ask, why is he given special treatment? Am I not famous enough?

He taught me to get every ball back no matter how difficult I thought it would be to reach or return and I would like to thank him for that lesson. Mr Hewitt, you can play sick for as long as you like, but I will be at every court appearance and at some point you will face me. You will face your other victims. It's just a pity that you are allowed to make a joke of something so serious by simply not pitching. You are not above the law by any stretch and if you were you would not have been charged with TWO counts of rape.

You know what you did, we know what you did and to all those people out there who think that this is a joke, your opinion is just that. If you have nothing constructive to say and if you don't think that rape is rife in South Africa and is causing hundreds and thousands of women, men and children the most terrible pain every four minutes of every day, rather keep your uneducated opinion to yourself. You are no better than the perpetrator.On a positive note, through my drastic healing I have managed to put the resources in place to open a safe house for people who need protection and for people who need help with the healing process. I had the misfortune of having to report my case and that on its own is extremely traumatic. I am here to help you and 702 will give you my contact details if you feel that you deserve justice and I promise with hard work and dedication you will be vindicated. It just should not be such a tedious tiresome process.

Suellen Sheehan is one of the alleged victims of former tennis champion Bob Hewitt, who is facing three charges in connection with the rape and sexual assault of girls under the age of 16 during the 1980s. The case has been postponed to January 2014.