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 other 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 initiatives in health, education, and community service.
I had always heard that “breaking the silence” is a crucial step in healing from the trauma of rape and sexual violence. Despite knowing this, I could not summon the courage to report the abusers throughout the period I was being molested. Fear indeed is a silent killer, and it can make anyone lose their sense of reasoning.
Here is my story.
My name is Amaka*, I am an orphan. I lost my parents within a 3-months interval. My mother became ill after having our last born Ugochukwu and she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. My dad, who was a carpenter used his entire savings to care for my mother in the hospital. When the hospital saw that the chances of her survival were slim, they suggested we took her home to care for her until her death.
The stress eventually took its toll on my dad. His physical and mental health were affected and deteriorated rapidly. One afternoon, while at school, I was summoned to the hospital where I was informed that my dad had been admitted for a migraine. I was 17 years old and in my final year at Secondary School. I had no clue as to what to do with two ailing parents. In addition to this, I had two younger siblings to care for. My dad remained ill throughout that term, so, I dropped out of school to take care of them. At this point, extended family members had gotten tired of shouldering the financial responsibilities. I began to do menial jobs like washing clothes and cleaning houses for people around to help feed and take care of my younger ones while my relatives paid their school fees.
One day, I left the hospital to go prepare a quick meal for my dad; when I returned, I was not allowed into his room. The doctor requested to see me, and I was given the terrible news that my dad died. I wept till I had no more tears to shed. My father was buried quickly as my ill mum still needed our attention. There was no time to waste grieving, I had to quickly shift my focus to taking care of my mother. However, barely three months after, my mother passed away too and this led to the most traumatizing moments of my life.
The entire incident had a psychological effect on me. I had constant nightmares and I was lost in thought most of the day. This went on for more than a year. My dad’s relatives took me to the village to use traditional medicine to treat my ‘condition’, but of course, I didn’t get any better. After all of this, one of my uncles, Emeka, who had gotten married 2 years earlier suggested to the family that he and his wife would adopt me as his daughter. They agreed and that was how I became a member of the household of Mr. & Mrs. Emeka.
I was 19 years old when I moved into their house. My other siblings were split among other relatives, my younger sister was living in the northern part of the country, while my brother lived in the middle belt region. Uncle Emeka assured my relatives that I would be enrolled back in school to complete my secondary school education and continue to a higher institution. But, because it was the middle of the second term, I had to wait until a new session began. Uncle Emeka asked if I was interested in any vocation, and I choose to learn fashion designing. He also registered me for extra moral classes in the evenings when I returned from my tailoring classes.
My uncle owned his business. A logistic and supply business where he had dispatch riders working for him while he operated from the head office on the island. Aunty – as I refer to my uncle’s wife – worked a shift job. She had to alternate weekly between day and night shifts. She was an easy-going woman and all she required was my active participation in assigned household chores. After about a year I transitioned back to school and began to heal mentally. Things began to look up.
One fateful afternoon, my uncle came back from work as usual. As he went to his room to take his bath, I went to dish his lunch and kept it where he would usually sit to eat. After a while, I heard him calling to me to come to the room. I wondered if everything was okay as I went to answer his call. On getting to the room, uncle Emeka asked me to sit on the bed. I sat at the edge of the bed, but he requested that I moved closer because he wanted to have a word with me. The next thing I knew, he pounced on me and tried to take off my clothes. I struggled and shouted, but he overpowered me, tore my clothes, and proceeded to rape me. The experience was so painful, I cried throughout as he held me down and violated me.
After he finished, he then began to plead for forgiveness. He said he did not know what came over him. He then threatened that if I told anyone, he would throw me out of his house. I got up, walked out of his room, went to my room, and continued sobbing. I did not know how long it took, but I eventually fell asleep. The next day, he woke up and went to work as if nothing happened. I did not understand his silence, but I began to avoid him too. Fortunately for me, the following week, my uncle’s wife was on day shifts, so I had a companion and I tried spending more time with her to ease my pain. sometimes, I felt I should confide in her, but I never was able to summon the courage to do it.
Three months after the first incident, on a week when my aunty was on night shift, uncle Emeka came back from work and called me to his room. I refused to answer. He got angry and came over to drag me to his room and forcefully had his way, raping me for the second time. The only difference this time was, that he did not let me go until he had gone three rounds and was exhausted. He threatened me with a knife and told me, that he would kill me if I ever dared to expose him. From that moment on, it became a usual practice, and I began to endure it. He had sex with me at least three times a week, whenever his wife was on the night shift. I began to have mood swings and my performance in school dropped. The school authorities called me when my teacher reported her observation to the principal, but I refused to speak up for fear of death.
My uncle had a friend named Ekene. He was childhood friends with my uncle and was a regular face at the house. From the moment I arrived at my uncle’s home, Ekene had been asking me for a relationship and I kept telling him I was not interested or ready for a relationship. However, he was friendly and paid attention to me. I wanted to speak up to him about how my uncle was molesting me, but the threats I received from my uncle always came back to mind so I kept quiet. However, after a while, I warmed up to the attention he was giving me as this was helping me cope with the emotional abuse from my uncle.
One day, Ekene came to visit us when my uncle was not back from work. While having a chat, he started to caress my body and carried me to the sofa where he had sex with me. After that day, he would occasionally come to the house when my uncle and his wife were not around and coerce me to have sex with him. That was how it turned out to be my uncle and his friend sexually abusing me in my uncle’s house. I became their sex object, and I did not have the courage to tell anyone. I was sad, worried, anxious, depressed, and kept having nightmares. My uncle’s wife was too busy with her work to notice any change. I was always taking pills to avoid getting pregnant and at times I overdosed on pills and fell ill.
Fortunately for me, I wrote my WAEC examinations and passed all my subjects. I was 2 years behind my peers, but I was excited about this because I could see a positive aspect, knowing I would be free from the entanglement I was caught in. I gained admission to study Science Laboratory Technology at the University and my uncle called me to renew his threat that if I ever told anyone at the university, he would carry out his threat. He held me by the throat, slightly strangling me while he whispered into my ears that if I dared to tell anyone my life would be over. He left me and told me that he needed to show me a bit of what he can do to me. I was shaken and frightened as I left his presence.
A few weeks to my resumption at the university, Ekene came to abuse me as usual, but my uncle returned earlier than scheduled and caught his friend having sex with me in the sitting room. He became very furious, and his friend immediately went on his knees, begging for forgiveness. I was not bothered because I detested both of them. Uncle Emeka shouted on me and asked me to go and pack all my belongings out of his house and move in the person sleeping with me. He told Ekene that he had to marry me and that was his final verdict. He was so furious that he went to his room and returned with a belt he used to wipe his friend several times. After pleading with my uncle to no avail, Ekene got up angrily and asked me to pack my things that I should move with him to his house. I packed a few of my belongings as my uncle continued ranting and threatening to send his friend to jail for molesting me. I left with Ekene to the car, and he drove me to his house. As he drove, the reality of what was happening began to dawn on me. Had I suddenly become a wife to my abuser? I struggled and fumbled with my hands as tears dripped down my cheeks.
We arrived at Ekene’s 2-bedroom apartment, and I put my things in the second room which though arranged, was dusty. The next morning, Ekene came to knock on the door, but I refused to open it for him. After a while, of not getting any response from me, he told me he was off to work. I became very hungry and had to come out of the room to find the kitchen to make something for myself to eat. However, Ekene returned early and caught me unawares, he begged to have a word with me, and I obliged. He began by apologizing for taking advantage of me. He begged for my forgiveness and promised that he would not touch me again, and I was free to make a choice between marrying him or remaining at his place until I moved to the university. He also promised to sponsor my education. All he wanted, he said, was peace and forgiveness. I told him I have heard what he said and needed some time to think about it.
About 3 days later, I agreed to forgive him and move on with my life. I told him, I was not interested in marrying him and he agreed. That night we discussed like friends and at about 8 pm when we were about to retire for the night, we heard a knock at the door. It was my uncle. He asked to be let in, and explained that since I was the one that usually made all his withdrawals, he couldn’t remember the password to his ATM. I gave him the password, but he insisted that I followed him because he had used that one, and the machine displayed the wrong password code. Ekene asked me to follow him, so I reluctantly agreed to go with my uncle.
He drove to an ATM far away from Ekene’s house. On trying the same pin I gave my uncle earlier, the card worked without an issue. At that point, I began to suspect that my uncle was up to something. I gave him the money and he asked that he drop me back at Ekene’s house. I entered the car, but he drove in another direction and shortly thereafter entered a police station. He dragged me out of the car into the station and he requested that they arrest me, because I had turned his house into a brothel, bringing men there to sleep with them. I was detained behind the counter. Then he asked the police officers to follow him to one of the perpetrator’s houses, the one who is also my agent. He claimed that I usually stole his money and gave it to my agent. Lo and behold, Ekene had been arrested and was brought to the same station.
At this point, I could not hold it in any longer. I was fed up with my uncle’s lies and hypocrisy, so, I requested to speak with the DPO. I went ahead to reveal how my uncle had been sexually abusing me for the past 3 years even as a minor and of all the threats. I told them everything without sparing any detail. He was summoned to the station where he was questioned, and he admitted to having sex with me to confirm if I was still a virgin. The police officers immediately took him into custody and took up the matter.
I was then referred to WARIF Centre for medical assessment, treatment, and psycho-social counseling. At the Centre, I was attended to by a highly professional team of medical practitioners. The environment was calm and serene and made me feel at peace. The counseling sessions were extremely helpful. It helped me to release all the negative energy and baggage from the past years. I experienced healing emotionally and I no longer have the nightmares and flashbacks that bedeviled me night and day. Finally, I learned that speaking out is the best way to break the power of an abuser. I feel much better, stronger, and encouraged to move on with my life.
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 confidential helpline on 0800 9210 0009.
For questions or more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Real name of survivor changed for confidentiality