Tag Archives: Rape

She Never Asked For It

She was one…

Bubbly. A ball of energy, leaving her mother breathless and everyone else infected by her hearty laughter. She was a joy to be around, easy to pick up, warm to cuddle. She was easy to love.

She was three…

Standing on her own two feet. The wobbles had disappeared and her legs ran around on errands and in play. She was navigating the world with fresh eyes, a mouth with more teeth and a tongue that professed words that had grown clear from the mist of her two-year old mumbling. She was introduced to the curves of the O and the waves of the W, keeping count of her progress on ten fingers and, where necessary, ten toes.

She was five…

She had mastered her ABCs, flew past counting to a hundred and was now stringing words on paper and working magic with numbers. Sometimes, she needed the bottle tops to fill in spaces where her fingers and toes would no longer suffice. Other times, her frustration budded in the lines scratched over a word, the number of lines mirroring the attempts it took to spell a word right. She was fascinated by words and numbers, by what they could do, and by how she could hold command over them through her thoughts. She was taken on adventures through the colourful pages of the books she read; and when she returned, plotted out her own adventures and painted pictures of the many journeys she would take.  Her imagination ran wild.

She was seven…

She overheard the whispers at home and even in school. She was smart, they said. Perhaps, too smart for a girl her age. She spoke of things that confused her peers and asked questions that left her parents and teachers scrambling for the right words. She soon became tired of playing house and would rather lose herself in yet another book, going on another journey that did not just limit her to the house and an hour of playing Mother. The whispers told her she knew too much, too soon. Yet, she knew she was still a child and there was so much more she didn’t know, and so many lessons she still had to learn.

She was still seven…

She wasn’t ready for the one lesson she would learn but still not be able to absorb and understand, at least for another decade. It happened so quickly, so quietly and would gradually become her normal. There was no sense to be made from that first time, and still none from the many that followed, each one ending with a promise of silence, of words to never utter, of pictures that would stay in her head, banned from the pages that nestled the plans of her adventures. She wasn’t ready for this lesson. No one is.

Something was wrong with this lesson that she had been forbidden to share, but all the light bulbs in her head weren’t bright enough to guide her to understanding it. Resigned to the fact that this was one of those questions without answers, she endured and fell into the routine.

She was eleven…

In school, she went through new lessons that taught her new things about her body. She discovered new names for parts that were just there and some that she had been taught to never mention. She would learn about the birds and the bees, but in the absence of that metaphor, her lesson brought her a new revelation of how she was created and the journey to her birth. She had started learning French and was struggling to understand the accented letters. Yet, when this lesson sank in, the accents in déjà vu slowly made sense. The words, however, remained stuck in her throat, further squeezing the lively, energetic child out of her being.

Promises were made to be kept. Promises were made to be broken, too. She kept her promise, but her soul was broken. The windows to her soul, that pair of brown glass, looked perfect and guarded her broken pieces. The world did not need to know. She kept her promise.

She turned twenty…

She had seen and heard enough to understand that over time, she was guarding her secret, not keeping her promise. The world had taken her through a roller coaster of experiences and emotions that taught her more than her books ever could. In the years leading to her new age, she watched and learned, accepting a new understanding of that one lesson. She knew that promises came from a place of love, of care, of concern, of will. What she had guarded for those many years was a shield for the teacher she never wanted, a cover for the lesson she never needed.

Deep down, she knew it was protection for herself. It was a cold world and she had seen many like her pushed back into corners for simply doing the right thing and letting their throats spit out the words in storage. She did not want to be another liar, another desperate girl trying to bring a man down, another woman crying for attention. She did not want to be pointed at and referred to as ‘that girl’, the stigma sticking to her skin, where the shield once covered. She did not want to be the source of shame for her family; their honour was more important than her broken pieces.

What are those broken pieces anyway? She hears news of another taking that lesson, and tells herself she won’t be the last. She doesn’t deserve the extra attention. She doesn’t deserve love and protection, what with those who were meant to protect her breaking down the walls of her innocence and changing her life forever. She knows to pick herself up and tape the pieces together, falling back on words for healing, yet never really feeling the balm soothe her scars.

She was thirty…

She held the broken vase in her hand, the other half carefully wedged in his throat, his call for help inaudible. She turned to look at the little girl crouched in a corner and when their eyes met, she was staring at herself. Fear gave way to anger, and the many words that had lodged in her throat came spilling out, even when the world did not want to listen.

She was only seven. She did not ask for it. It wasn’t her dress. She did not have to keep that promise. She was not begging for attention. She was not responsible for his safety or for her family’s honour. She never knew what name to call it. Is rape too harsh? Would molestation be milder? She still doesn’t know. She needs more books.

She was made of pain. She was broken. And from the pieces of that soul, she had learnt to love again. Enough to reach out for that one girl and save her from the life she now lived; and enough to rid the world of the one teacher and his lesson, both of whom were never wanted or needed.

 

 

Featured Image © Ruth Adong Olango

I Am Sorry

I’m sorry…. Was all you said

Three words… cut short to two coz you needed to save your breath

Exhausted from the pumping and thumping

Making a way where there was none

Turned explorer, Cadamosto

Between my legs you yearned for moisture

Of whites and reds and clear liquids

Tearing paths and leaving scars

Sword cutting through, defying laws of compatibility

Your eyes reflecting power, dominance… your carnal ability

My eyes shut, my mouth gagged, screams unheard

With every thrust, every breath, you whispered…. I’m sorry.

 

I’m sorry… you still said

Darkness looms, pressure mounts, your voice fills my head

Within, around, deep inside, your thrusts are met with questions

Sorry?

For luring me into your room, forcing me into silence

For telling me you’d be my new playmate, give me a new toy

For taking the plastic from my hands, filling them with your leather

For cursing the sweetness out of lollipops coz you’d give me better

For bolting the locks, drawing the blinds and stripping me naked

For letting your hands roam, press, promising you aren’t wicked

For tearing me apart… skin, mind and soul

Sorry?

I’ll tell you what that is

 

I’m sorry you were sorry, for you knew not what to be sorry about

I’m sorry we weren’t discovered, I wasn’t rescued, my cries not heard

I’m sorry I grew up blaming myself for what I knew not

I’m sorry I have to live with the trauma, hot flashes, memories that refuse to rot

I’m sorry for my doubt… my curiosity… my self-consciousness

I’m sorry for my future of unstained sheets, unbelievable explanations, unusual hostility

I’m sorry for stories of unbeaten drums passed on to my daughters

I’m sorry for my daughters, that they may suffer a similar fate

I’m sorry because the world refuses to see,hear and act

Sorry?

This is what sorry means.

 

So when you trudge through the sacred valleys of yet another innocent one

Your breath coming out in low whispers of ‘I’m sorry’

Remember this… Remember me… Remember that…

When your deed is done, your thirst quenched

Sorry is the cloak you’ll leave us wearing.

Sorry, are we?

Sorry, I am

I am sorry!

Eternal Scars: The Silent Crime

Warning: This post contains some disturbing stories, with descriptions that might not be easy to take in.  All the stories cited here are true!

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Source: timesonline.typepad.com

When I hear ‘genocide’, the first images that come to mind consist of people being killed, decapitated bodies, homeless and hungry children, already suffering women and girls getting raped etc. Yesterday, I came across a certain link on a friend’s Facebook page. I was drawn to it by the title : ”Can You Love a Child of Rape?” The commentary he posted with the link got me even more curious. Mainly on reflex, I clicked on it and God knows I was not the least prepared for what I saw.

Jonathan Torgovnik, a photographer, had done some work on children born out of rape during the Rwandan genocide. Through interviews and photographs, he was able to gather stories from mothers of these children for three years. He also published a book ‘Intended Consequences:Rwanda Children Born Of Rape‘, which was followed by a short film, ‘Intended Consequences‘, on the same issue.  Jonathan went ahead to set up Foundation Rwanda, which was created to support these children, especially with education. The link mentioned above led me to his photo essay on the Mother Jones site. He basically took photos of some of the children concerned and added narratives from their mothers. Gruesome details and very heartbreaking stories surfaced and I found myself clicking on the ‘Next’ arrow, tears streaming down my cheek. I thought I could not keep it to myself and needed to share it with as many people as possible. What better avenue than Linguere? Below, I post a few extracts from the stories. 

”I must be honest with you; I never loved this child. When I remember what his father did to me, I used to feel that the only revenge would be to kill his son. But I never did that. I forced myself to like him, but he is unlikable. The boy is too stubborn and bad. It’s not because he knows that I don’t love him; it is that blood in him.”

”After they raped me, they called to another two boys; one of them said, “This woman is sweet, you also need to enjoy her.” After that, they said, “This Tutsi woman is not getting satisfied. Let’s get a corn stem and sharpen it to the shape of a penis; that will satisfy her.” So they went to cut that piece and they put my legs apart and then they started pounding that stem of corn into my private parts. After that night, I couldn’t walk.”

”I love my first daughter more because I gave birth to her as a result of love. The second girl is a result of unwanted circumstance. I never loved her father. My love is divided, but slowly, I am beginning to appreciate that the younger daughter is innocent. Before, when she was a baby, I left her crying. I fed the older one more than the younger one, until people in the neighborhood reminded me that was not the proper thing to do. I love her only now that I am beginning to appreciate that she is my daughter, too. We have not revealed everything to the girl—she thinks she is like her sister.”

”Each time I was “saved” by someone, he would rape me and then lead me to another bush where I would be raped again. I was raped by many men. The final man who raped me kept me captive in his house for several days. He would go out to kill during the day and come back at night to do whatever he wanted to do to me. Fortunately, one day when he went out to kill, he never came back. ”

You can click on http://motherjones.com/photoessays/2009/05/rwanda/01 for the rest of the stories. For those interested in seeing the short film, you can watch it on http://mediastorm.com/publication/intended-consequences .

We look at these stories and realise that the only thing that might set them out from other rape cases is that they happened during conflict. This made it easier for the rapists as no one could do anything about it, despite the widespread knowledge that it was happening . Taking a look at relatively peaceful regions, rape has always been swept under the carpet. In Africa and other parts of the world, culture and tradition do not encourage discussions on sex-related matters, even between parents and their offspring. As a result, most victims of rape prefer to keep their stories to themselves, refusing to confide in anyone. They choose to live with the daily trauma and insecurity as reporting their rapists might only draw spiteful remarks towards them. Some of the victims end up getting blamed for what happened to them. Excuses ranging from the revealing clothes women wear to cases of mental issues on the part of the rapists are easily cooked up. The few cases that get to the courts of law end up spewing more disgrace on the victims. I quote one of my teachers in high school who said, ‘By the time lawyers are done with their cross-examination, the victim ends up feeling like she’s being stripped naked and  raped all over again. This time, with everybody watching’.

It is important to note that females are not the only victims of rape. There are a lot of boys and men that have been sexually abused but never muster the courage to report their molesters. In a society where even females fear the stigma attached to rape victims, one can easily understand the reluctance on the part of the males. This culture of silence only works in favour of the perpetrators of this heinous crime. With the knowledge that their victims might never disclose their identities, they take advantage of the vulnerable. Some go to the extent of issuing threats, which instill fear in their victims, who are mainly minors,  with little or no understanding of what’s happening.

The most prevalent of these cases is rape in the family setting. Fathers raping their own daughters or step-daughters. Brothers molesting their sisters. Cousins and distant relatives having forced carnal knowledge of the young ones they live with. These are all stories we hear about but they are quickly solved within the family, to preserve its honor. This attitude has also contributed to the reluctance of victims to confide even in the closest family member, usually the mother. Some get accused as liars, because the idea of a family member raping another is unfathomable. Others fear that revelation might lead to a disintegration of the family, which might earn them the contempt of the elderly and even the young ones. They then have to keep living in the same compound as their rapist, using the same facilities and even eating from the same bowl. The insecurity that comes with looking at them and conversing in a ‘normal’ way is only understood by these victims. Some garner suicidal feelings, which emanate from the hatred and disgust they feel. Others lose their self-confidence, treating themselves like dirt and thinking nothing good shall ever come from them. In the long run, this ends up affecting the society in general.

The lack of counselling and support facilities for victims of rape makes things a little more difficult. In The Gambia, I’m yet  to know of any such facility. Recently I joined a group of young people who decided to form an organisation to support victims of rape and raise awareness on the issue. Gambians Against Rape and Molestation (GARM) is yet to be registered, but a social media campaign is going on, especially on Facebook and Twitter. Various questions and scenarios are raised and people are given the opportunity to share their ideas and devise a way forward.  This organisation shall go a long way in changing the current state of affairs in the country. With plans to recruit the services of professionals, GARM seeks to offer victims of rape  a platform to express their feelings and report their cases. Counselling shall also help regain their confidence and allow them to be assertive enough to work towards giving a face and putting a stop to this crime.  As usual, we would need support from all angles to realise our goals.

Source: GARM Movement

You can check out the GARM Facebook page on https://www.facebook.com/GarmMovement. For those on Twitter, please follow @GarmMovement  for a range of quotes, statistics and case studies on Rape all over the world. You are also encouraged to partake in the discussions on the Facebook Page and on Balafong.

The axe forgets but the tree does not”.  There is NO excuse for rape.  The act is wrong, barbaric and leaves eternal scars!  Help give a voice to victims of rape and sexual molestation. Together, we can make a difference in their lives. Start now!!!