Welcome to the WARIF Survivor Stories Series, a monthly feature, where stories of survivors of rape and sexual violence are shared to motivate and encourage survivors to speak their truth without the fear of judgment or stigmatization and to educate the public on the sheer magnitude of this problem in our society. The Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) is a non-profit organization set up in response to the extremely high incidence of rape, sexual violence, and human trafficking of young girls and women in our society. WARIF is tackling this issue through a holistic approach that covers health, education, and community service initiatives.
WARIF aids survivors of rape and sexual violence through the WARIF Centre – a haven where trained professionals are present full time, 6 days a week including public holidays to offer immediate medical care, forensic medical examinations, psycho-social counseling, and welfare services which include shelter, legal aid, and vocational skills training. These services are provided FREE of charge to any survivor who walks into the Centre.
Here is Angela’s story:
My name is Angela*, I am 27 years old and the only child of my parents. I have stepbrothers and sisters because my dad remarried after separating from my mother. I was only 2 years old when my parent’s marriage collapsed, and they agreed to move on with their lives separately. My dad took custody of me against my mother’s will but sent me to live with his elder sister. You can imagine the agony of growing up without both parents. After my dad remarried, it took another 7 years before he brought me to start living with his new family in Ibadan.
The move to my dad’s place put was the beginning of my woes. It felt like all hell broke loose when I joined my dad’s family. For reasons best known to my stepmother, she did not like me, and she never kept it hidden. My dad is a military man, so he is hardly around because he is away on assignments most of the time. Still, my stepmom succeeded in putting my dad against me through her scheming and laying all sorts of false accusations against me. My stepmom would rain verbal abuse on me and physically and emotionally abuse me too. To justify her actions, she would say that the hardship she was subjecting me through was meant to build me up for my future.
Despite this cycle of hatred and difficulties at home, I was an excellent student. I always came tops and represented my school in all major academic competitions. I was a member of the Literary and Debating club, and the Jets club. I won a lot of competitions for my school and had lots of laurels to show for it. This made my stepmom jealous because her children were not doing so well academically. This made her intensify her ill-treatment of me. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such animosity from my stepmother because I was always obedient and conducted myself in a submissive manner.
When I became 14 years old, my stepmother’s brother moved in to live with us. He had just returned from overseas and his sister advised him to move in with us. He immediately started to make sexual advances at me, to which I told him that I was highly disappointed in him, reminding him that we are related, yet this did not deter him. A few months later, while I was asleep at night, my stepmom’s brother came into my room and attempted to rape me. I struggled with him as I tried to fight him off, but he was stronger, still, I put all my might into the struggle. What saved me that night was an urgent phone he received from his sister requesting his attention immediately, this made him leave my room immediately and that was how I escaped. As soon as my dad came back home, I reported the incident to him, and he promised to look into it. I don’t know if he did because I never heard about the matter again until he left for his duty station.
I wasn’t so lucky several weeks later when my stepmom’s brother attacked me the second time. He held me down on my bed and injected a substance into my upper arm. I became weak but was still conscious. I watched helplessly as he raped me until he was satisfied. When I regained consciousness the next day, I was in pain and felt exhausted, angry, and ashamed. I contemplated committing suicide and cried all day. When my dad came home, I reported the incident to him. To my amazement, he walked me out of his room saying that was the second time I have tried to pull his marriage apart by lying against my stepmom’s brother. I could not believe it. Why would my father think that I was lying about such a thing? Harmed with the knowledge that I had reported to my father, and he did not believe me, my stepmom’s brother continued to rape me at regular intervals. He would also force some pills down my throat when he was done.
When I got my final year in secondary school, my dad enrolled me in the GCE examinations. School and studying were the only succor I had that took my mind off all my troubles, so I studied hard and prepared for the exams. Thankfully, my hard work paid off. I had parallel distinctions in all registered subjects in my GCE and WAEC results. On seeing my results, my father was shocked. It was a surprise to him that I was that brilliant because my stepmom had fed him a lot of lies, and since his job kept him out of town he did not know much about my academics, as he only listened to what my stepmom said. My dad was so proud of my feat that he rewarded me with a smartphone.
My stepmom became very upset with my dad for the gift he bought for me. But, since she couldn’t take it up with him, she made sure that life was unbearable for me. I became emotionally and psychologically down because I had no escape. I was done with secondary school and waiting for admission, so I had to endure the physical and verbal abuse from my stepmom during the day and the sexual abuse from her brother at night. I started gravitating toward running away but did not know where to run to.
Before now, I had not thought about my mother that much because of the despicable things my dad had said about her. But at that point, I became so frantic that I preferred to go anywhere else rather than remain in this hell called home. I searched for my mother’s name on Facebook and found a name that matched hers and so I messaged the person. Fortunately, she responded to my message a few days later and we began chatting. I narrated my ordeal in the hands of my stepmom, and she explained her side of the story between her and my dad. I could not tell her about the sexual abuse perpetrated by my stepmom’s brother, I did not think that it was okay to tell her this way so I decided to wait till when I would meet with her. She told me about how all efforts to get in touch with me since I was 2 years old were blocked by my dad. I was elated that she was alive, doing well, and willing to have me stay with her.
This experience was cut short by my stepmother, who unknown to me was monitoring me. She searched my phone behind me, saw the conversations with my mother, and beat me thoroughly before informing my dad who seized my phone after reprimanding me as well. I was back to square one, with nowhere to go, so I had to continue to endure my predicament. How I survived those dark moments, is still a miracle to me.
Fortunately, I gained admission into the University of Ibadan. Though the situation at home did not change, I had somewhere to go to during some part of the day before I came to hell at night. At one time, I fell seriously ill and had to be admitted to the hospital. Was this how my life would end? Would I ever know real happiness? It was at that point that I made up my mind to go and search for my mother at all costs. After several months of my return from the hospital, I traced and got my mother’s phone number from a relative. At the next opportunity I got, I used my school transport fare to make a call to my mother from a business center. I narrated my entire experience, holding nothing back and she immediately sent money through a POS agent to me and gave me a description of her friend’s house in Ibadan. I went straight to the place from the business center and my mother’s friend took me to Lagos to meet my mother.
The reunion with my mother was not a happy event. She was outraged as I narrated my ordeal at the hands of my stepmom and her brother. She promptly reported the case to the police which led to the arrest of Uncle John as well as my stepmother who was charged as an accomplice.
We were then referred to the WARIF CENTRE for medical assessment and psycho-social counseling. Personally, this is the best thing that ever happened to me. At the WARIF Centre, I met the counselor, and during our sessions and she constantly reminded me that what happened was not my fault. I am still on my recovery journey, but the counselor continues to give me the courage and support to move on. I am now in a very good place mentally and emotionally, thanks to the WARIF team!
Dear survivor, please know that you are not alone, and it is not your fault. Help is available.
If you have been raped or know someone who has, please visit us at:
The WARIF Centre – 6, Turton Street, off Thorburn Avenue, Sabo, Yaba.
Or call our 24-hour toll-free confidential helpline on 0800-9210-0009.
For questions or more information please contact: email@example.com
*Real name of survivor changed for confidentiality