The year was 1974 when I was raped by the husband of a distant cousin. I had been sent by my aunt whom I lived with to take food to her niece in the city. When I arrived she had left and gone to her farm on the outskirts of the city as it is the custom for families in the city to have another compound on their farms.
Her husband drugged me with beer, sexually assaulted and threatened that if I dare told anyone I will die. I remember vomiting and feeling very afraid and sick to my stomach but when I saw my much older sister at the market on my way back I broke down and started sobbing and told her that "Medoza" made magic and produced a scarf out of paper and told me not to tell anyone or I will die. My older sister must have found it strange that giving a 12 year old a scarf should be cause for a death threat; and so shared the story with my birth mother who lived in a different city.
My mother traveled all evening to get to my aunt's house in our village. When she arrived, my aunt was surprised to see her and when she disclosed what her reason for the visit was, my aunt scoffed and told my birth mother that the man was known for making scarves out of paper all the time and giving them away; to which my mother responded that she had lost too many children and was not about to lose another one to a magician. My birth mother told my aunt that we were to leave the house immediately which we did and spent the night at my mother's cousin. My aunt had a nightmare about the magician and from then on believed that he was out to harm me and never spoke to him again. I was taken to different traditional healers who cleansed me with all sorts of traditional herbs to rehabilitate me from the evil spirits cast on me by "Medoza".
I was cleansed physically but the sexual, emotional and psychological damage had been done and it will take its tool and manifested itself in my early 20s where I started to self doubt, feeling very useless and hopeless about my life after a failed arranged marriage, fraught with domestic violence, which I ended and left with a child. I did overcome those dark days by refocusing on getting an education and doing very well in school and becoming rebellious to all traditional family norms; where I started dating a European which was still a taboo in my culture and eventually, went on to graduate college.
The monster or self-doubt showed its head again in 1998 when I was living alone in the U.S. and had just had a child with a man who told me I was not good enough. This time, I told the story in a narrative form in a letter which I sent to my immediate older sister and lamented the sufferings I had gone through having missed the opportunity of growing up with my birth mother who raised all of them and how I lost every sense of self, the day I was raped. It was hard but very freeing and I have continued to own and share the narrative in my own words. I used to fantasize owning a handgun and marching into the rapist's home and killing him but I don't feel that way anymore...I guess like they say, time help heal the wounds!!!
My initial fears were those of death which is why I never quite disclosed the rape but choose to tell the story of the scarf instead. Being vulnerable and sharing the shaming part of my life history, straightened my connection and bond to my immediate older sister who I am still very close with to this day. I learned to own the story and tell it in my own words not let the narrative own my life and this turned out, to elevate the sense of guilt, shame and hopelessness that often stays with rape victims and survivors. It made me a stronger woman, sister, mother and a fierce protector of my own children and other females in my family; a strong social justice advocate on women rights and a good clinician who work with victims of trauma and domestic violence.Courageous Conversations