My first meeting with this young woman was in my office. She walked in with her head a little bent, shuffling into my office. Her strides seemed like she was unsure of herself, she looked confused and acted as though she was trying to hide something. After taking her seat in the office, I looked at her with a smile and asked her calmly how I could help her. I wasn’t expecting the torrential tears that poured forth from her. It was as though a dam had suddenly broken. She cried like it was her last effort at crying while I sat watching her cry. After the tears had subsided I calmly stretched out some tissue paper to her and asked if she were ready to talk. She nodded her head and opened her mouth. I was chilled by the story that poured forth out of the mouth of this young woman sitting in front of me. According to her mother had passed away when she was a little girl. Her father left her with her maternal grandmother until she also passed away when she was 9years old. Her horrendous ordeal started after wards. Her father had remarried all the while so she had to move in with him and his new family after her grand-mother had passed away. On arrival she discovered her new mother had two teenage sons she had borne before she met and married her father. Initially all went well until she turned 12 then her real nightmares began. Her words, “I never knew life could turn out so cruel for me. Words fail me when I have to tell the story of what I went through in that house”. According to her she went through terrible sexual abuse at the hands of these two brothers. “Every day was hell for me. They raped me in turns. I would cry but none would be there to help me”. We lived in a whole compound and did not have any neighbors. So no matter how hard I cried no one could ever have heard me. These two young men practiced every kind of sexual act they imagined with me. I was their guinea pig. I became a withdrawn child. I was very fidgety and jumped unnecessarily. While all these went on my step mom because she couldn’t understand my new found timidity beat me regularly because I kept breaking plates and failing in little house hold chores. I got beaten for every little mistake I made. My father was oblivious to all the happenings. He was very busy chasing after money besides he believed my step mom was raising me to become a resourceful woman in future. When I couldn’t bear the horrors at home anymore I ran away from home. I moved to the streets far from where my father lived with his family. By this time I had become addicted to sex. Even though I did not like what was being done to me I found out my body craved for the evil that was done to me. I began to sleep with men to meet basic needs. Life on the streets was harder. I eventually had to move into a brothel to work as a full time sex worker. That way I felt I could satiate my enormous appetite for sex and be paid for it. I lived this way until one of my relatives saw me at the brothel and went to report to my father. My father came for me afterwards, unfortunately I had become hardened I clearly told him I would never return back to live with him and his new family. While living the new life I chose for myself, I met a man who fell in love with me. He took me out of the brothel into his own home as a wife. I never shared the story of my childhood with him. All went well for us until when I had to go through antenatal for my daughter. It was then I found out I have HIV. My whole world crashed! My husband was devastated and in that state he sent me out of our home. I am here pregnant, without a roof over my head neither a means of livelihood. I handled this case, I work with sexually violated young women and children. I facilitate the entire process with law enforcement, medicals and the judiciary steering the entire process of counseling and psycho-social support for victims and their families. This case was a tough one for me mentally, emotionally and psychologically. She was connected to a support group of women living with HIV. Through that alliance she was put immediately on antiretroviral drugs and had her beautiful daughter who turned out negative because she was cared for through the period of pregnancy. She was empowered with skills and began a business of her own after her training. Her husband reconnected with her and her family life is restored. She is yet to find peace with her step mom while she has patched up the broken relationship she had with her dad. She feels bad about what her step brothers did to her. She is working on her mind to forget that pain. Presently together with her husband they have a support group for persons living with HIV and are impacting lives in the community they live in. She is one of my success stories and I am ever so proud of how much her life as turned out to be. She is a positive influence in her community and is adding meaning to the lives of girls who are victims of rape and sexual exploitation by telling her story and encouraging them to speak up.

Ese Ajuyah Change Initiatives