It was one of my favorite lecturer. I was really excited. “I want us to talk about rape today,” he bellowed. As a therapist that wasn’t weird, that was going to be part of my job, dealing with rape cases. The lecturer went ahead to ask “Suppose I came to your house and you made me tea and I refuse to take it, will you force it down my throat? ” That was a simple question, why would he involve tea in such a class? We all gave him that look, the ‘definitely we won’t sir!’ look. He went ahead to ask “If I took tea at your place the first time I visited and end up turning down your food offer, will you force your food on me?” These were weird questions for us. They looked easy and obvious. We wondered, “Why is he talking too much about tea today?”
We did not have much of a choice anyway, listening was not an option because he had never disappointed us before. The third question came along “If I came to your house and I was in a mood to take tea but as you were making it, my craving vanished, will you force it on my throat?”
“No sir!” We all replied in unison. In my head I was like, “This is the last time you’re asking this tea questions old man, we cannot just discuss your tea and visitor issues for the next two and a half hours.” The 30 minute ‘tea and visitor’ questions were getting into my nerves already.
The lecturer went ahead to say “I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’m asking these but you will understand in a few. I received a call yesternight from one of my students. She was out on a date with her boyfriend. They went to a hotel in the CBD later on to a hotel room. The guy had his plan of spending the night with the lady but she was not ready for intimacy. They kissed but the guy wanted more which she wasn’t ready for. ‘It was a struggle,’ she narrated in tears and sobs. She thought that the guy understood she was waiting for the right time but she was mistaken. Finally the guy had his way as he overpowered her. She was afraid, she couldn’t tell me her identity, she needed the PREP to swallow it in case he was positive. I told her to rush to the school’s health center since she resides in the school but she refused. She insisted that I send someone to save her life. Her voice was shaky and she sounded so terrified. It was surprising to me that she preferred talking to her lecturer than to her friends or parents. I asked her if she would mind sharing it with any of them but she vehemently declined. I asked what the guy said about the whole situation and this her response was ‘Sir, when I tried stopping him he said it was obvious he wasn’t going to kiss me and leave it halfway. He claimed I cannot start a race that I know I won’t finish, he claimed that I didn’t love him that’s why I was denying him his conjugal rights as my boyfriend. He went ahead to say that he knew I wanted it. I know most people will not believe me but the truth is, I wasn’t going there to have sex.’ It is really painful to know what young ladies of my daughter’s age go through, I had to come to her rescue asap.”
We were all facing down. The silence in the room was so deafening.
The lecturer continued, “It is pretty obvious that some of you are survivors while others are perpetrators. It is sad to see this happen. I mean the young lady took tea (kisses) however she wasn’t ready for the food (intimacy) why would any normal human being who values and respects women do such a heinous act? Now back to my topic which is rape. Any sexual act where one party has not given their consent is rape. Everyday our young people, 90% of them being ladies reportedly get raped and suffer in silence. The survivors have been made to think that they are to blame for the perpetrators’ actions. They are faced with shame, guilt and their dignity is at stake each day. Now you all understand why I asked a couple questions about tea at your place. If we all keep stigmatizing the victims who will prosecute the rapists? Some of you young men have made it your right to have your way with these young ladies even when they don’t want to engage. When a young teenager is raped by a worker and their dignity is taken away, we claim she had the power to resist. We sweep these cases under the carpet because most of the times the perpetrators are closest to us, they are our friends, boyfriends, relatives and even family. Rape apparently has become a norm and the worst thing is when a society educates young men to higher institutions without really caring about the morals we instill in them.”
I couldn’t hold it anymore, I broke down because I knew exactly what my lecturer was talking about, it’s like he was telling my own story.
I painfully recalled how it all happened way back when I was a freshman in campus, it was my last semester as a freshman. I was all up in my room packing in a rush to attend my first school party. I lived outside school and a classmate in one of the many courses I did had invited me. Partying has never been my thing but I decided to go to this one mainly because Ken my classmate had this friend of his who had been hitting in me for quite sometime. I was ready to meet him since I was starting to like him. There wouldn’t be a better day than this, so I dressed up and Ken picked me to go meet Kelvin as we attend the bash.
We arrived at school at around 11:30pm and immediately Ken got a call that the party had been cancelled. I was bored and angry that the first party I would ever attend would eventually bounce. I didn’t know what next. Ken was closer to me than Kelvin therefore I would follow what he suggested. He suggested that we go at Kelvin’s place at the schools male hostels. I was excited, you could tell it from my face. I was also perplexed. Finally, I met Kelvin and we clicked right away. We related as if we had known each other for quite a long while.
After sometime, Kelvin exiled Ken. My naive self didn’t get a hint of what was happening. I thought we were just catching up. It was getting late and I was getting sleepy. I needed rest now that the party had failed. I had to travel back home early next morning. Kelvin didn’t hesitate to give me a change of clothes. He made me tea as I kept warm in his sweat pants and a shirt. I thought that he was an awesome soul. It was around 2:00am now and I was severely exhausted. I wasn’t sure we were going to share his bed because it wasn’t my idea at all. He made the bed and I was ready to lay down. He stole a kiss, I couldn’t resist. I mean there was no harm, so far he was charming, why not. As he was kissing me, I got so tense and I sensed he was crossing paths. I stopped because I knew that this was not what I had gone there for.
What on earth had I gotten myself into? I was trembling. My muscles were so tense and stiff, I wasn’t thinking straight. So many things were crisscrossing my mind. Where was Ken? Why did I not leave with Ken in the first place? It was a struggle, a real one that I didn’t know how to put into words. I told him that I wasn’t ready and I hadn’t come there for sex. It took me almost an hour to resist his acts. I started regretting why I was so naive to be left alone with him.
I wanted to scream but I was scared, what if all those men in the hostel come out and started blaming me for letting myself into the butcher’s den? I had heard of stories where ladies had been gang raped by an angry lot of students. I couldn’t just walk out, how? With his clothes? How would I even get to town down Mamlaka lane at that time of the night? What if something worse happens to me out there? I was troubled with scary thoughts, thoughts that incapacitated me into a den of fear.
Kelvin allowed me to sleep for a while and I thought that it has finally sank in his head that I was serious with my no. I was catching some sleep with my weak hands tired from struggling with him. I was only 19. A young naive girl not much exposed to the world. In about 30 minutes he started demanding sex again backing himself with words to manipulate me, ‘I know you think I am not right for you that’s why you won’t allow me to have sex with you. I have always gotten everything I ever wanted and you won’t be an exceptional. I have given you everything and I find no reason not to.’ I only had his shirt and sweat pants. I was wondering what this everything he was talking about was.
He overpowered me. I had no strength to keep fighting. I was helpless in his nest. He finally had his way. I helplessly lay on the bed watching as he took away my innocence. Why are human beings so selfish? Why are they so self-centered to want the world to revolve around them and make everything be about them? I lay there wishing it was a nightmare and that the light of the morning would sweep it away but it wasn’t. I couldn’t handle the pain, I was crying and he could no longer continue. I asked myself why he hadn’t stopped from the very beginning.
Regret and guilt took the best of me. I couldn’t describe the shame that stood side by side with me. Who was going to believe that that monster raped me? I never slept. I kept thinking over and over again. It was not anywhere close to what I expected of any man who claimed to have feelings for me. That became the darkest moment of my life. My self worth had been ripped, my pride had all been taken away. I didn’t know where to turn to or how to narrate my story to anyone. I couldn’t just stay silent, I had a feeling that it was written all over my face. I went to Ken’s house drowned in tears. Tears of despondency cascaded down my cheeks. Ken immediately knew something was wrong as it was unlike of me to cry out of nothing. I had to narrate the awful story to him. He wept. I thought he was a genuine friend but what he said next shocked me. “Why didn’t you follow me or ask to leave?” He asked “It was your fault, what did you expect was going to happen? Thank God you haven’t gone through worse, leave it to me. I will deal with Kelvin. Just make sure you don’t tell anyone lest you will be the laughing stalk among your friends.”
As a student I followed what Ken told me but not for long. I told my best friend, I couldn’t hold what was eating me up. For days I didn’t sleep or eat well and my 20th birthday was the worst. I couldn’t stop having nightmares, I hated Kelvin, I hated men, in fact I had sworn never talk to any of them. I felt worthless, useless and broken.
It was true what my Lecturer said, that the people you think will help you will make you feel worse. My best friend blamed me for going to the guy’s house, she said it was obvious something was going to happen, she said that I cannot just kiss a man and expect him to leave it at that. All her statements ended up concluding that I was at fault and I deserved it. She told me that I ought to make it a lesson and be careful hence forth. I blamed myself for sharing it with her in the first place. Three weeks later I was nursing an STI, I dared not tell anyone apart from the doctor who treated me.
I’ve always wanted to assume it ever happened until fate brought it up in my class. It has taken me a lot of courage to accept and build my self esteem back. It hasn’t been an easy journey. I had to go through the trauma and to this date I haven’t sought professional counseling. I didn’t know how to tell a stranger my story if at all my friends wouldn’t believe me. I totally conquer with the survivor in my lecturer’s story that not a soul will believe her. How did it all become my fault? If you cannot force food down my throat why would you force me to have sex?
I will never forget when my friend said that it was just a bad sex ordeal and not rape. I will not in my entire life forget this class. I don’t want anyone else to go through the same pain I’ve gone through. With those that have robbed us our dignity and pride. You have made us feel that we deserved it and it is even our mistake that we said no. I want someone out there to know they are not alone in this, I want them to know they still have their dignity intact and that one act did not take it away, I want them to know someone out here knows how hard it is to walk in their shoes, I want them to know that someone believes in them. It is true you were raped and it wasn’t your fault, you didn’t deserve it either. You can always get help, there’s a counselor out here who has unconditional positive regard towards you.
One who has walked in your shoes and knows how exactly it feels to be there.