I vividly remember being pushed against the wall with rough dirty hands. His shaky foul-smelling breath filled my nostrils and made me nauseous. I frantically prayed to God to rescue me from the hands of the immoral man. I desperately looked out for my saviour, and he was nowhere in sight. There was no light at all. The tunnel was too dark; not even a flickering light of hope emerged. Predators! They have a way of timing their evil acts! I couldn’t scream, and neither could I fight him off. Although I was no virgin, the man robbed me of my innocence.
The violent tearing off my clothes signalled that the time had come, and I would become one of the many victims of rape. He took my innocence and left me there, in pain. A small part of me was relieved there was not a single witness to this ‘shameful’ experience. The spirit of condemnation took over. I had permitted myself to become a victim. I chose to go out at that time. Was I drunk? But wait, it wasn’t my fault. I did no wrong. I was so confused that I tried to find a reason for my tragedy. If I spoke up, who would believe me? Amid the confusion, doubt crept in, and there, my mouth became sealed.
The aftermath of this whole ordeal left me in a dark tunnel where no glimmer of light was evident. My voice had gone on a silent spree; I could not bring myself to speak up. My innocence was snatched from me, and my mind was in turmoil. I had been plunged into a hellhole that I could never imagine myself escaping. An imaginary clock chimed to declare the zero hours of my life, the hours that would result in unimaginable suffering.
My story is one of the many common occurrences around the world. Many victims of rape find themselves in a state of self-blame, yet it was never their fault. The memory of their innocence being taken never fades, it’s always fresh in mind, and every teeny tiny bit of information is continuously replayed. In a bid to maintain an image in society, victims build walls to block out anyone who tries to form a relationship with them. This is done to protect themselves as they are in constant fear of another attack. Facades are typical amongst rape victims.
The fear of being judged suddenly envelopes them, and they choose to suffer in silence as I did. I would sometimes find myself muffling the sound of my cries on my pillow. I felt like no one would understand that it was not my fault; I had lured no man! Society tends to pin the blame on the victims. You hear accusations like, “Your dressing made him do that!” or “Your body is well built; men cannot help it!” Society is too judgmental! It majors in the minor—dressing. What does that have to do with a man who could not keep it in his pants?!
People do not thoroughly comprehend the need to lend their ears to those who find themselves in such situations. To maintain dignity, silence becomes the most viable option. Such a shame! We must stand up and be the change we need to see, a world where sexual predators do not remain in the dark just because they can get away with it. Families must not cultivate a habit of maintaining peace and saving face in the community by keeping skeletons in their closets. If uncle Joe did it, then uncle Joe has to pay for his actions! We should be the Voice for the Voiceless!
I chose to remain silent and donned on a mask that I prayed nobody would uncover. My experience had ripple effects; I had become a stranger to my husband and kids. The constant battles in my mind took a toll on every area of my life. My dreams were shattered, and hope became a distance cousin. I lived each day as it came, and then, suicidal thoughts took over. I wanted to throw in the towel. Perhaps, I would find rest six feet under.
One day, I found myself in an ‘empty room’ where my wounds would be opened up. My journey of healing had begun. Trust, fear and shame resided in me. I was so sceptical about sharing my story with a stranger/s. Victims might want to reach out, but these stumbling blocks make it harder for them to come out of the dark pits. To them, it’s like opening a new can of worms. In that case, there is a need for a support system that showers them with love and patience. My family was and is still my most significant support. The day I opened up, I poured out my heart and the burden was reduced. I realised I was not alone, I had my troop, and together we would win the battle.
The adage, “A problem shared is a problem solved,” can only manifest if we allow victims of rape to share their feelings and thoughts with us. If we shun them, they will forever remain silent, and we will continue to pass the same tradition to the next generations. Let’s save lives! To all the victims reading this, I applaud you for speaking up. You are strong, and I celebrate you.
Happy International Women’s Day.