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My father took away my innocence book review

Disclaimer: The book and this review contains triggering content regarding rape and sexual assault.

I first met Zizo in 2010 when her, her siblings and their nanny moved into the flats next to my brother and his family. She was a sweet shy girl who went to my old High School and as time went by and we spoke more we realized we had something in common. We were both rape survivors, raped by family members yet her perpetrator was her father. Her story was harrowing.  Typical of the strong survivors who take that step and report the crime her life was in limbo as justice was being delayed by the system. After she matriculated and they left the flats we lost contact except for the odd meetings in town. I was proud of her when I saw her telling her story on cutting edge, seeing her speaking at events and finally writing her own book.


In my father took away my innocence Zizo Izabelo Zam Apleni takes a walk back to her young past. She takes her readers through her journey of innocence, her loss of childhood at the hands of a trusted adult. She details her loss of self and how it is restored, her story is detailed (explicit).

My thoughts

I struggle to read books on rape as they are very triggering for me. In the same breath I had to read her book as I know her and I am proud of her owning her story and navigating how she deals with her trauma. In the same vein I am weary of new writers as such I found her writing a bit cluttered. I struggled with some of her statements for example page 35 as she details the first time she is being raped. She barely knows what is happening to her is a violation but she writes “I knew my mother’s God was very angry” I paused at this and exclaimed how?

I enjoyed chapter 5 as there was a semblance of her getting her childhood back and even discovering new talents. What I definitely appreciated about her book was her honesty and her vulnerability and her showing that healing is not linear. I related with her account of after the rape (o ratleast once it known) and the many tests being done to you by doctors. I too at five went through this and I know at this age you might not fully understand but it would be great if someone were to sit you down and at least explain the tests being administered. It feels you go from one violation to another. I do hope things in this aspect have changed. As we have just come out of the 16 days of Activism,  this book is a cautionary tale of how our perpetrators are often people we know and how far our justice system still has to go. Her account of the trial of her father is not only frustrating but exhausting yet not unique. She doesn’t even know how many years he will be imprisoned for.

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About the Author

Zizo Izabelo Zam Apleni is a 25 year old gender based violence activist. She is also a motivational speaker and shares her story with many other rape victims in the hopes of helping them begin their journey of healing.


I long for days we don’t have to write or read such books but being a South African women is an extreme sport so I will have more realistic dreams. I hope that if you read this book you may know that you’re not alone and healing is messy and hard but there’s hope. To all survivors, take it one day, one breath, at a time and let know one dictate your healing.

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