Sometimes life just happens without you realizing how deep you have sunk. When you are busy celebrating and jubilating, that’s when things just turn out for the worst.
For Memory (not her real name), this moment happened without her noticing or expecting that life would throw such tantrums at her. She was in Form 4, and as the school holidays approached, she was jubilant about visiting her sister, who lived in Harare. She was born and bred in Chihota, and news of her visiting her sister in the city brought great joy. Little did she know that things would take a sudden turn when the news of her sister’s passing reached her before she arrived in Harare.
The day came, and she boarded the bus with great joy. She arrived at her sister’s place late in the afternoon, and the change of scenery was an experience she was eager to share with her friends back home.
Days passed with no indication that anything would go wrong, until one fateful day when her sister held an all-night prayer service at her church. She was awakened shortly after midnight by a figure who was now sleeping beside her; she panicked and tried to jump out of bed, but the figure was too powerful for her. She tried to scream, but the figure’s hand moved too fast and covered her mouth.
“Be calm, Mainini, and be quiet.” That’s when she realized it was her sister’s husband. Everything else happened in the blink of an eye. What had happened dawned on her as tears flowed from her eyes. Her sister’s husband had just raped her.
“Don’t ever tell anyone about this; if you do, I promise you’ll see the ugly side of me.” That was his last word as he walked out of her room.
The following day, she couldn’t face her sister, and she couldn’t even muster the tenacity to tell her what had transpired. But every time, she could lock herself in her room and cry, recounting what had occurred. She couldn’t stand being in this place.
The holiday came to an end, and she was back in her rural village in Chihota. She tried to act normal, but she couldn’t—the horror of that day was traumatizing her. Her mother started noticing behavioral changes in her, and she tried talking to her but couldn’t find the courage to tell her. Her school grades began to fall alarmingly. She used to be a social and joyful girl, but now she was low and always alone. The teachers at her school tried talking to her, but she was too afraid.
Worried, her mother called one of the village health workers who was implementing an SRHR program from the AIDS Counselling Trust (ACT). It was through the village health worker that she managed to open up and tell her, with tears, what had happened during her holiday.
The village health worker rushed the girl to the hospital and dialed 393—a toll-free number that can help in situations like this. The case was reported, processed, and the perpetrator was sentenced with the help of 393 social workers.
You might be in the same situation; it’s okay to open up, speak up, and get help. Let’s say no to rape.