• A memoir like no other – Claudine Shiels and her sister Lisa van der Merwe have brought South Africa’s oldest sexual abuse case to court, lodged in April 2018

• The sisters used the Frankel 8 Criminal Procedures decision to bring court action against their sexually abusive step-uncles– this is their story

• The case is ongoing. In 2021 the laws governing sexual offences were challenged in the High Court, which was won. The defence appealed and in May 2024 the appeal was lost with costs

• The perpetrators have applied to ConCourt. It remains to be seen if the application will be accepted or rejected

• The case is now 50 years old


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Silence sides with abuse. Every harrowing story needs to be told.
On a hot summer evening in 1967, seven-year-old Claudine Brown watched from the back seat of a car stalled on a railway track in the suburbs of Cape Town, as a fast-moving train hurtled towards them. Her mother sat frozen with fear in the driver’s seat.
The events leading up to this moment were unremarkable, giving no clue to their catastrophic timing. The aftermath was brutal and childhood wrecking, leaving Claudine and her younger sister Lisa world-weary before they had even got started.
When her mother, unravelled by post-traumatic shock, abandoned the family, and her father reached for the nearest comfort to ease his pain – a new wife – Claudine had only one defence against the years of exploitation and physical, emotional and sexual abuse that followed: hope.
She remembered what normal life was, and plotted her course back there.
“The best view of your future is often the one looking back.”


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Claudine Shiels has lived on three continents, studied architecture, and is presently studying for an English degree at the University of Cape Town. Her love of writing began with stories published in her school magazine, and continues with recent magazine and devotional book publications. Shiels has two adult sons and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.