Courage and hope: surviving violence and stigma

V Wanjiru

This account contains details of sexual assault that some may find upsetting

My name is Vida; I am 19 years old and am the fourth born in a family of 8. I am a Form 3 student at secondary school but currently not in school due to lack of fees.

I thank the almighty God for giving me both parents. My mum volunteers as a Prevention with Positives (PWP) facilitator in an organization called Hope World Wide Kenya and my father doesn’t work.

It all started in the year 2002. My dad is and was then a drunkard. When he comes home from his drinking spree he will beat our mother and even sometimes he will chase us way from home but we will go back when he is sober. It continued for a while until one fine morning when my mum woke up and she was swollen every part of her body. She prepared breakfast and told us that she was going to town but she will be back. After 3 days we learnt that she had left because our father had beaten her again and she needed peace of mind and a place where she will heal from her wounds and pain that she had.

My dad turned into a monster

During my mother’s absence my dad turned into a monster, the first week we were okay. He was a good dad and he pretended to care for me and my siblings. One morning I did not go to school because I was feeling unwell, and there was nobody to take care of me so I stayed home with my dad. This is the day I will never forget, he was sleeping in his bedroom while I watching some cartoon movies in the living room. He called me 3 times his voice was filled with anger. I went to the bedroom innocently, he looked at me directly in the eye and told me there is something he wanted us to do but I have to promise him that I will never tell a soul about it. Since I did not know what exactly he wanted I promised that I won’t tell anyone. He told me to undress I felt so scared, I refused but within no time I was naked on his bed and he was on top of me. He covered my face with a piece of cloth that was orange in colour. After him defiling me I was bleeding so badly, he cleaned me and left me on his bed and went away leaving me in great pain.

I was feeling a lot of pain, I cried until I felt asleep. I woke up when it was already night. My sister was waiting for me to wake up so that I can have dinner. I did not have strength to get out of the bed so she brought my dinner to bed. I couldn’t stop crying because of pain, my sister got worried and asked me why I was crying. I told her that I was crying because I miss mum but in the real sense I was crying because of pain.

My dad did not sleep at home that night, the following morning he came when he was very drunk. I got scared that he might do it again. A week passed then he started it again and this time it was like I was his wife because he would do it anytime he would feel like doing it. One day he wanted to do it during the day but my sister was in the house. He sent her to my grandmother’s place. My sister went; unfortunately my grandma was not there so she had to return. Upon her return she found it strangely because I was in the bedroom alone with my father. She peeped inside the bedroom and saw my dad on top of me, she got so upset. She told me that we had to tell my grandmother what had happened. We went and told her what happened but she refused and said that her son will never do such a thing. Some weeks passed and mum came home. I was very happy because I knew she would protect me from anything. I got scared of going to school because I felt that everybody knew that my dad had raped me. Days passed and I never told my mum what had actually happened. I was afraid she might defend my father. I loved my mum so much so I did not want to do something to make her leave so I kept my mouth shut.

A living hell

One day I was going to the shop my mother noticed that my walking style had changed. When she asked me I told her nothing was wrong but my sister was there! She told me to tell my mother the truth or she will say it herself. I couldn’t speak so my sister told my mother what had actually happened. My mother was so upset, when dad came home that evening my mother asked him if really what she had heard from my sister was true but he refused. My dad told my mum that I was not his real daughter but stepdaughter, so he saw nothing wrong doing it with me. That day my father caned me until I was unconscious.

We reported the incident to the police and my father was arrested and stayed in remand for twenty eight days and he was freed. After that our lives have been a living hell, my mother got depressed because my dad and my grandmother bribed the police officer in charge of the police station. We never got any justice or help whatsoever. I went to the nearby hospital where I was tested to be HIV positive.

When my mum told her family about my status everybody started discriminating us. We started living on our own. Being in school was not easy task to my mother because nobody paid my siblings and me our school fees. Mum struggled for us to be educated. When time came for me to do my final examination in primary school, my dad refused to pay my examination fee saying it won’t make any difference because I was a dead person.

I have moved on with my life

My mother went to school and talked to one of the teachers where I finally sat for my final examination. I was introduced to a support group. The group chair person natured me and let me grow. Through this group I was introduced to Family Health Options Kenya, the organization has really helped me and my mum. I have overcome the stigma through continuous counselling, acceptance by the youths at the centre despite of my status and treatment. This has enabled me live positively.

I have moved on with my life, I have forgiven my dad and forgotten what he did to me.

The advice that I would give to women who are in similar situation is that everything happens for a reason. They should also be strong for their children as my mother stood by me and that’s why I came to accept everything that happened to me. I have my mother as my role model having the heart to forgive her husband despite what she and I have gone through.

Women should be educated about gender based violence. Most women are scared of speaking once they are violated because of the stigma associated with it.