Tag Archives: Nairobi

Sexual Abuse- A survivor’s story

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liz

(Photo credits: Internet stock photo)

A few years ago, a girl I went to school with faced some life altering experiences. Whereas I had heard that she was going through a rough patch, I did not fully comprehend the extent of her suffering. Now as adults and as very good friends, she narrated to me the incidents that left her a changed woman. Here is the verbatim version of her story.

You’ve probably heard the rumors and you wondered how true they were.  I feel it’s time to break my silence. Yes, it happened. In the latter half of my first year at university, I was physically, verbally and sexually abused by an acquaintance. Many of my close friends and family were drawn into the aftermath too.

I had lived with this man for just over six months because I believed that he loved me. The truth of my situation hit me like a jolt. For a long time, I was gripped with fear that was accompanied by an adrenaline high and panic attacks that I had multiple times a day. A lot happened within a very brief period of time. I couldn’t believe how much power I had given up, how uncontrollably helpless I had become, how awfully shaky and insecure I had turned out. A cloud of disappointment hovered over me. How could I  have let the boundaries that surrounded my private life collapse? How could I have exposed and involved other innocent people in a burden that should have been mine to carry? Life was dark and loaded with uncertainty. I suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), weight loss and abortion guilt (I discovered I was pregnant with the perpetrator’s child after the abuse and had the baby removed). My body couldn’t handle the stress and I found myself throwing up consecutively for nearly a fortnight. Everything I ate and drank came back up and I wilted like a dying flower feebly shedding its leaves. I continued to shrivel under the weight of it all. Another huddle was the nightmares; particularly those in which I dreamed of bottomless pits into which I was yanked by strong forces. I also dreamed of cages where I was locked up and howling for help because I could not find the exit. Those nights were rough and often they left me suicidal.

There were moments during which silence and isolation were the order of the day.  At these times I relived my experiences of rape in a world of grim quietness. I had an internal debate during which I paused questions like; “What I could have done to prevent it or what I could have done that caused it to happen?” These questions never left me peaceful. Overwhelmed by confusion and hurt, I began to look for a ‘scapegoat.’ Coming from an evangelical Christian background, I felt compelled to make God a part of my solution. I searched for Christian literature that could address issues like mine and I finally came across some that offered healing for sexual abuse survivors. I felt like a horrid sinner, though, and I noticed that many of the churches I attended failed to get an in-depth understanding of these issues, their causes and impact. I found myself feeling like I was a combo of good yet guilty, and light mixed with darkness.

Nothing I could have done would have averted the situation. I came to this realization months later. It was intentional, meant to hurt me and destroy my life for good. I began to accept this reality and to accept that I had value, that my life was priceless, regardless of how my partner had made me feel. The will to live kicked in and I put up a fight to reclaim me. This is the point at which a genuine interest in me started to develop. Suddenly my imperfections appeared oddly beautiful to me. My appreciation for humanity flourished further when I listened and watched Lauryn Hill’s MTV Unplugged album. She uttered something profound during the performance when she said; ‘We are all in the same mess.”  These words remained with me. The song “I Gotta Find Peace Of Mind” resonated with the need for me to connect with a peaceful cosmic force. I found some relief and this album compelled me to delve into the wondrously strong and broken person I had become.

This made me scared and thrilled at my own existence. I picked a selection of India Arie’s jams to listen to such as “I am not my hair”, “Little Things” and these songs were like my therapy. There was a masterpiece record which held my pieces together and sealed the wounds so that they became scars. The song is called “I am light” and it flung open the doors of the most fulfilling source of healing to me. It unlocked a myriad of gates on my path to liberty.

I picked interest in other women’s experiences and even sought for dialogue when the need arose. I strengthened my ties with the feminist movement, and went on a search about its history, core elements, objectives and its current state. The curiosity I had once had about my identity and sexuality began to return but in a fresher light. I embraced my body and hair in its natural state. I was glowing, putting on weight and loving this. I started to feel good. I also renewed my spiritual walk.

I have since continued my journey to freedom and equality for all. I have become increasingly compassionate towards broken and marginalized people such as survivors of abuse, persons discriminated against because of their sex, orientation or other demographic attributes and persons living with HIV & AIDS. Also, I had never thought I would fearlessly profess to be feminist despite the stigma around it, but I do.  My lessons are inestimable.

***

Here are some of the responses I received when people learnt of my rape experience.

  • I have been cautioned about what I was wearing at the time of these events and even after.
  • I have been with people that shut me down shortly after I had started a conversation about my experiences.
  • I have been told by some that I should not bother speaking. After all, who will listen?
  • I have been told that after observing the good relationship my parents had I was wrong to have allowed the abuse to happen.
  • I live under constant scrutiny of people about my personal decisions especially those concerning my sexuality and relationships.
  • Many have felt that after that experience I am maybe incapable of loving.
  • I have been told to man up and not whine about my pain.
  • Some people out of ignorance have said that I couldn’t have been raped by a man I loved; let alone conceive a baby by him against my will.
  • I have been told that maybe if I fought harder the abuse wouldn’t have happened.
  • I have been accused of murder committed in cold blood because of the abortion.
  • I have been confronted with the challenge of explaining that the abuse happened and having to talk about some of these things while my wounds were still fresh.

I could go on and on, but what I would like to draw your attention to is the fact that many times attention is drawn to the victim of such crimes instead of to the perpetrator and this causes the victims unbearable pain.

What do I think should be done?

The way to go is to approach these issues with compassion, caution and wisdom. Abuse alone can be extremely alienating. It causes potential harm and real harm to victims as concerns their health, safety and image in the eyes of their loved ones as well as in the eyes of the public. They live with the traumatic effects months and years after it happens. They require real love and acceptance. Survivors need to feel normal- because they are. They need to be given platforms to speak when they feel the urge to.

Society needs to accept their decisions about matters of public concern but also respect their right to privacy. The empathy and compassion that we show them is what will give them fortitude to overcome the caustic forces that besieged them during the most difficult times of their lives. Ignorant and generalized speech directed to them must stop.

Survivors need to be helped to understand that they are worth much more than these painful experiences.

It’s been several years of being a survivor for me. Everyday I am changing and learning, trying to make life better for the next person out there that may go through or has gone through similar experiences. Are you being compassionate and empathetic? Take a moment to pause and think about your behavior!

As told by KWE; survivor of sexual, physical, verbal and mental abuse.

 

 

 

 

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OMG…I’m at the Police station!

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Time check: 5.30 a.m. My phone alarm goes off. I open my eyes, drag the phone out from under my pillow(it’s always under the pillow or down on the floor when I wake up) and put it on “snooze” mode. Sighing, I stretch my limbs, pull the duvet closer to my chin,plop my head on the pillow and drift back to sleep.

Boom, boom, boom,” I hear a loud thud on the door.

Oh craaappppp, it’s morning already!” I think to myself.

It’s the same routine everyday. I wake up, switch off my alarm and go back to bed. Minutes later, either my mother or my brother will come knocking on my door. All hell then breaks loose. My mother, tired of my morning habits will proceed to tell me how selfish I am and how I’ll make my siblings late for work. My brother, sister and I use the same car to work every morning.

I get their point. I really do. But I am not really a morning person. And it doesn’t help that I take the longest time in the bathroom. My shower time is usually punctuated by singing and an arduous delay that makes brother dearest(Jordan) and the tough talking sister(Miriam) to almost tear out their hair in frustration(Jordan’s head is bald but you get the drift 🙂 ). Many a time, they have threatened to leave me home. Now that my sister moved out to her own place, Jordan and I have to be more diligent with time as she has vowed to drive off without us if we are not ready to leave home by 6.30 a.m everyday. Never mind that  her apartment is just next door.

Yesterday, they carried out their threat. After my usual struggles to get out of bed, my brother dressed up and sat in the living room to wait for me. Taking my time as usual(by the way, I am a remorseful sinner in this regard), I then thought of how lovely it would be to make scrambled eggs with vegetables and diced potatoes for my lunch.

Time check: 6.00 a.m.

I lit the gas stove, peeled a few potatoes and diced green beans, carrots and onions, got two eggs from the tray and whisked them together with the vegetables. Jordan was in shock.

“Like seriously?” he asked as he shook his head in disbelief.

He grabbed his phone and keys and stormed out. In the compound next door, I heard the rev of an engine. Surely, it was my siblings. They had left me. I didn’t blame them. However, I didn’t want to have a double loss. I whipped up my meal, packed it in a food flask, got my handbag and left after a few minutes.

Anyone who lives in the Kireka, Bweyogerere, Naalya, Namugongo, Kiira, Seeta, Mukono area knows that it is almost suicidal to leave home after 6.30 a.m in the morning. As expected,the traffic was backed out for almost 4 kilometers from Kireka to Spear Motors. Imagine my horror. I did not like the prospect of being stuck in traffic for almost 2 hours. So I did what I thought was best at that hour. I hopped onto a boda-boda(Note: they are reckless motorcycles plying our traffic routes). It was a tough balancing act as the boda-boda weaved its way through the maze of cars stuck in jam. A few times, I brushed against side mirrors and car guards. I whispered to God to keep me alive till I got to Spear Motors junction. Amazingly, I by-passed my siblings who were in the thick of the traffic in the Kyambogo area. Talk about ironic situations!

I did get to the junction but my hair, backpack and food flask were soiled with dust and dirt. Well done boda-boda man(sarcastic eye-roll! 😦 ). I got a pack of wet wipes out of my bag and cleaned my shoes, and the casing of the food flask. I dusted the back pack and made a mental note to have my hair washed at the saloon near my work place later in the day.  I got all my stuff and got into a taxi to Ntinda. I was relieved to get to work in one piece and on time. Among the “few” things I do at work are social media management,profile interviews for publication, blogging and lots and lots of writing.

Something else was added to my plate. Since last week, I’ve been doing radio stories for my workplace’s daily news digest. The bulletins air on over 50 radio stations within Uganda. Yesterday, I was doing a story on boda-boda crime in the country and so I needed a police source to give me statistics and more information about the topic I was covering. But like all Ugandan technocrats, the top brass that I called turned down my proposals for interviews. I guess when you’re in their positions you grow weary of media presence(*eye-roll* Le sigh).  So I turned my guns to the smaller fish. Armed with a recorder and a microphone, I headed out to interview the in-charge of a near-by Police Station.

The Police station was nothing to write home about. Dirty, torn leather sofas lay sprawled in front of the run-down building. Comprising of four tiny rooms and a jail cell attached to the building, the paint peeled off in layers. Rusty iron-sheets covered the weather beaten house. A few relatives were speaking to their kinsmen holed up behind bars. The incarcerated men peeked out through the metallic iron bars crusted above the jail door. A woman, distressed by the sight of her beloved, sat herself down outside the door and started wailing while pounding her fist on the rough concrete veranda.

I felt suffocated already. Looking around for the inquiries desk, I spotted a room to the side of the building that had a black sign with white engraved letters reading, “ENQUIRIES.” I climbed up the four cracked stairs leading to it and got in. Eight men sat on two long benches placed side by side. A plain clothes police officer sat at a wooden desk atop which lay a large book frayed on the edges. The yellow pages showed the wear and tear of years of scribbling and constant flipping of pages. The police officer yelled at the suspect being accused by the eight men seated. The suspect was a tall, dark, lanky young man. The law had caught up with him and here he was trying to convince all the concerned parties that he was innocent. Laughing, he waved his arms in the air as he kept repeating his plea of innocence. Obviously frustrated with his denials, the plain clothes officer decided they would put him in the cell as they sorted out the case. The suspect had deserted a security firm and made off with a rifle, the company uniforms and three of his colleagues’ phones. These items were in a green plastic bag on the floor. A yellow gooey liquid dripped from it. Disgusted, the police officer asked the suspect to clean the liquid off the floor. The slimy liquid now spread all over the floor. One of the complainants insinuated that they were broken turkey eggs.

You man, are you a witch doctor?” the police officer asked in horror, his face twitched as if in agony.

All of us in the waiting room burst out laughing.

Superstitious Ugandans!” I thought to myself, shaking my head in amusement.

Yanga mani (young man), but I have just mopped this floor. You remove that gasiya (rubbish),” he said.

The suspect got one of his shirts from the plastic bag and wiped the floor. Picking up the moist cloth, he stuffed it back in the plastic bag.

I rubbed my nose in disgust. The already stuffy room became even less bearable. The stench from the suspect’s plastic bag was almost as damaging to the nostrils as decomposing rubbish at a waste site. I pinched my nose to avoid inhaling the toxic scent.

The police officer noticed our discomfort. He asked the suspect to remove his shoes and personal effects. These were stored away behind a counter and the now barefooted suspect was led away from the room. The police officer was holding the suspect’s trousers with his hands placed on the belt buckle.

The officer came back after less than five minutes and mentioned to the plaintiffs that they should come back the next day. The suspect was going to be in custody for 24 hours.

Eh, but boys of today like to steal,” another police man with a rifle strapped on to his shoulders said. He had just walked into the Inquiries room to exchange a few pleasantries with the plain clothes officer.

Yes madam. What is the problem? How can I help you?” the plain clothes officer asked me.

Finally, he’s noticed my presence in this room,” I thought to myself.

I had been sitting there for almost 30 minutes by that time. He had been so enamored by the gooey-turkey-egg guy that he’d forgotten that some of us were there waiting to speak with him. The good thing was that I had called the person that I needed to see prior to my showing up at the Inquiries desk.

I would like to speak with the Officer-in-charge,” I told him.

Eh, what do you want to tell him?” he asked.

It’s official. He is expecting me,” I said.

Eeeehhh. Okay. You sit there and wait for him. He is in a meeting,” the police officer said pompously as he flipped through the gigantic book on his desk.

Duh! I’ve been sitting here for the past one hour,” I thought, my face creasing with frown lines.

Bored waiting for my news source(the officer-in-charge), I turned my phone on and got online to distract myself from the smelly, depressing environs.

On the bench next to me was a young man of about 32 years. He had come to file a case of fraud against a furniture dealer. In November 2014, the young man had paid the furniture dealer who goes by the moniker, “Afaayo” a handsome sum of money to make for him a 7-seater sofa set. The young man wanted to take the sofa set to his mother-in-law on his traditional wedding, the “kwanjula” ceremony that was slated to take place on Valentine’s day. Four days to the D-day, Afaayo had not made the sofa. A dodgy character, Afaayo(who was also around) said he was hard up on cash and he had used the money the young man had paid.

“You man, you want to kulemesa(frustrate) your friend’s marriage?” the plain clothes officer asked Afaayo.

Yii bambi, munsonyuwe(forgive me),” Afaayo begged.

The young man had no kind words for Afaayo. He said he would not leave the police station until Afaayo had written and signed a document saying he would pay the money within 48 hours. The police man drafted the letter and Afaayo put ink to paper. The young man, seemingly satisfied, told the officers that he would be back the next day if Afaayo did not come through on his promise. The aggrieved young man and Afaayo then left as Afaayo swore that he would refund the young man’s one and a half million shillings the next day. After they walked out, a deadly silence fell upon the room. One of the policemen walked out to get some fresh air while the plain clothes officer buried his head in his paperwork. I drifted into a day dream as I scrolled through my phone contact list.

I was jolted out of my reverie by the unmistakable tough talk of a Mukiga man. I knew it was a Mukiga because c’mon, we can tell an angry Mukiga from 500 kilometers away. In a raised, high pitched voice, he hurled abuses and jeered loudly. Protesting against the charges leveled at him, he mentioned that as a son of Kabale, he could not do something as despicable as what he was being accused of.

The officer with the rifle had dragged him into the room and ordered him to remove his shoes, socks,other personal effects and to hand them over to the boisterous plain clothes officer.

I didi nont do yit (I did not do it),” Mukiga man argued.

Hearing the commotion, I switched off the phone and turned my attention to the unfolding drama.

You koro her for me (You call her for me),” he told the rifle-clasping officer.

The rifle holding officer went back outside and came back with a heavily pregnant young woman into the room. A skinny, short-haired woman, she had bloodshot eyes. She avoided the gaze of Mukiga man as she sat on the bench next to me.

“What is the problem exactly?” rifle-holding officer asked.

“My brother sent me mobile money on my phone from Kabale yesterday. I went to a mobile money agent to withdraw it, came back home and put it in my handbag. This morning, when I checked my bag, it was gone. I am sure my husband here stole it,” she finished.

She turned her head away. Her back was now turned to Mukiga man, who we all gathered was her husband.

“Why would I take my wife’s money? This woman just doesn’t know what she wants. Sincerely how can you bring me to Police saying I stole your money? It’s okay. I will give you your money but when you go home, pack your things and leave my house,” Mukiga man said bitterly.

His face was contorted in pain.

Eiiii, yamawe!” he exclaimed- visibly in disbelief at his wife’s accusation.

“But you people, this is a family dispute. You shouldn’t be wasting our time with such trivial matters,” the plain clothes officer said, very irritated by this drama.

Ssebo (sir/gentleman), give her the money and you leave my office. This is just nonsense,” the rifle-holding police man said.

“But I only have 20,000 shillings officer. Let me call my friend to bring the money and I give it to her,” Mukiga man told the police officer.

The police men handed Mukiga man back his personal items. He got his phone and called his friend-who it turned out is a boda-boda rider in the neighborhood of the police station.

Superman(the boda-boda rider) came to his friend’s rescue; draped in a dusty jacket, cracked helmet and oversize bell-bottom pants. He was quite the sight. Trying very hard to stifle my laughter, I turned my head away and pretended to read posters about terrorism that were pinned on the walls.

Superman opened his wallet and pulled out a crisp, new 50,000 shilling note. He handed it over to the plain clothes officer. The officer, agitated by the childish display of marital squabbles, motioned for the woman to pick the money. She went over to his desk and he put the note in her hand.

She muttered some unintelligible gibberish, picked her bag from the bench and walked out.

Shell shocked, Superman(boda-boda guy) helped Mukiga man to his feet as they made their way out of the room.

Another couple walked in with a curly haired little girl as the two men made their retreat. The plain clothes officer motioned for me to get up and follow him at this point. The in-charge was done with his meeting.

I went in to the in-charge’s office and did a speedy interview. The news bulletin was supposed to be compiled by midday. It was already 11.30 a.m and I was running extremely late. Packing up my equipment, I thanked the in-charge for his time and practically flew out of the office. I needed to flag down a boda-boda(motorcyclist) ASAP if I was to have any chance of having the story aired that day.

I saw one riding past the station and motioned for it to stop.

It was Superman! On another day, I would have interviewed him as I sat behind him on the boda-boda. The drama involving his friend and his friend’s pregnant wife would have made for a novel story. However, I did not have the luxury of time this day. Urging him to ride faster, my mind raced to how my narration script would look like and what part of the news source’s audio I needed to edit out.

I got back to office and started work immediately on the news story. But I couldn’t forget how much drama I’d witnessed at the police station. I wonder how police men/women deal with all the bizarre cases they encounter!

Till next time, stay out of trouble. You don’t want me to find you at the Police station- your shenanigans may end up on these pages! 🙂

Blessings!

Sarah

In the spirit of love.

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We all like warm, heartfelt stories that make us laugh, cry and believe in humanity and love all at the same time.

Here is Richard Wagaba’s book aptly titled “How to love a woman’s feet.” Prepare to get your heartstrings violently tagged at. ❤