THE THIN LINE BETWEEN GENDER BASED VIOLENCE AND MENTAL HEALTH.
On October 31st 2019, Vivian, a 30 year old woman was set free from a maximum prison having pleaded served 9 years for arson, malicious damage and intent to cause harm to her employer and the office premise. During the trial, she maintained that she doesn't know what happened but simply that she blacked out and came back to her senses to find herself running from the scene with a polythene bag holding matches, an old rug and a bottle of petrol. She also sustained burns to her fore arms and part of her face.
It took numerous visits from her Lawyer / counselor to the prison facility to get her to admit that she had been a victim of rape and consistent verbal abuse by the team leader of her department at work. It started as an innocent request for her to take on extra work after office hours and on weekends - which she viewed as an opportunity garner experience and extra money which she believed would enable her return to school to complete her CPA. Then the advances from her boss begun and at first she ignored them thinking he would inevitably back off but instead he started to berate her infront of her colleagues during office hours and to blame her for any departmental mistake during staff meetings. She braved it until the day he abruptly returned after everyone had left and she was working overtime and raped her before hastily leaving her on the office floor bruised and broken and driving off. All she remembers is being too shocked to scream and he threw a hankie at her telling her to "clean her mess".
Vivian went to a nearby clinic for first aid, she remembers telling the nurse that she would go to the police and convinced her that she would be okay on her own. She never went to the police station but instead went home that evening and appeared at office the following day pretending to be okay. What she found was a termination letter citing her incompetence. she went and set the office premise on fire out of anger and another emotion that she can't explain. During her trial she received a lot of abusive texts from her colleagues who lost jobs to the fire after the company was closed. How I wish she had spoken out?! She lost 9 years of her career to this, her two year old son lived with her mother for the 9 years she was incarcerated after her fiance abandoned him but most of all she carried this burden all by herself for a long time.
Today with the help of her lawyer and her mother, Vivian is determined to help women in similar situations to speak out - she is determined to take one day at a time to rebuild her bond with her son as she sets up her NGO.
I hope this story will encourage someone to speak out before it is too late. Violence leads to emotional and mental breakdown.