Help is 393 Away

Decent Moyo

ACT, in partnership with Youth Advocates) andWild4Life, funded by The Egmont Trust , is implementing a program titled “Addressing HIV and Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) through Gender Norms Transformation and Transformative Masculinity”. During a recent monitoring visit, we heard a sad story from a sexual abuse survivor. She gave a detailed account of the sad events that took place. Here is the English version of her story. It was a dark and terrifying night. She would hear the sounds of crickets from a far distance. As always, she had made sure that she had locked the doors before going to sleep, but she didn’t know why she wasn’t feeling settled and on edge. Earlier that day, she had spoken to Village Health Workers from AIDS Counselling Trust (ACT), and they had told her about 393—a toll-free number to call for counseling or to report if she experienced gender-based violence or abuse of any form. When she was told about this number, she never thought she would use it, but life had other plans for her.
Mbuya Murefu (not her real name), 59, was having difficulties sleeping, as it comes with age. Eventually, she managed to sleep at around midnight. Her sleep was short-lived, as about an hour later she was woken by a continuous screech on the window. Her first instinct was that it was an animal, but her sixth sense told her there was no animal that scratched like that.
After about 2 minutes or so, the window was completely open. In that terrifying darkness, she managed to see a male figure holding something that looked like a knife or a machete. At that moment, she started to feel the imminent danger that had befallen her.
“Who is that?” She asked with a voice clouded with fear.
“Shut up! Don’t say any more words or else you will face danger. ” The man at the window boomed with a deep voice that was trying to conceal his real identity.
Being a widow living alone, as all her children live in the city, calling for help was pointless as her nearest neighbor lived a significant distance from her house.
As the window had no bugler bars or any security measures, the man entered the room through it and walked abruptly towards Mbuya Murefu.
“Give me every cent that you have.” The man commanded.
Without any sign of resistance, she obliged and took the little money that she had been saving and all that her child, who lives in Harare, had sent her the previous day and surrendered it all to the man.
She thought that she was over with the man but certainly the man had other plans. After collecting the money, he then came closer to mbuya Murefu, laid his hands on her clothes, and tore them apart, just like that he raped her, and then left her crying on her bed.
For Mbuya Murefu, her world has fallen apart, all her saving were gone and she was given another scar that she would live with for the rest of her life.
Then she remembered what the Village Health Workers from AIDS Counselling Trust were saying about the toll-free number that one should call if in need. As she had not paid much attention to the number as she thought she will never use she couldn’t recall the number.
She then decided to visit the Village Health Worker (VHW) and tell her what had happened. The VHW did not waste any time, she called the toll-free number, 393, and narrated what had happened.
Through this helpline, Mbuya Murefu received counseling and was referred for immediate health assistance where she receive Post Exposure Prophylaxis, STI screening, and other services. She also filed a police report and as we speak, the accused person is in the hands of the police awaiting trial.
Maybe you are like Mbuya Murefu, or you knew someone who is in that same situation or worse, maybe you want to open up to someone but you don’t know how to do it. Help is here, just dial 393 a toll-free number and you will be assisted accordingly.
Do not be silent!

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