Dear Reader,

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.

My name is Dorothy* and here is my story!

Sometimes I wish I was not born and at other times, I console myself with one popular quote which states, “Once there’s life, there’s hope”.  I am hopeful and know that I did not survive all those years of abuse for nothing. The creator must have had a plan for me and I’m willing to share my story as a survivor of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) against girls and women.

I grew up in an abusive and toxic environment.  My father impregnated my mother during her teenage years whilst she was still in senior secondary school. Without any marital rites, her parents being strict disciplinarians threw her out of the house. My mother sought help from family and friends, but none came to her rescue. What would a teenager do? She had no choice but to move to the house of the perpetrator who happens to be my dad. You might think that this was entirely my mom’s fault, she should have faced her studies and perhaps this wouldn’t have happened to her… however, there is more to this.

My dad was a trained electrician with a primary school leaving certificate who came on referral to my house to repair a damaged cable. Their regular electrician was out of town so they had to make do with a temporary replacement as the situation could not wait for him to return. The arrangement, however, became a permanent one because he did a good job.

On one of the occasions when the new electrician came to fix a fault in the house, he came across my mum and couldn’t keep his eyes off her – she was tall for her age and had smooth chocolate skin. Whenever this electrician came to fix anything, he was closely monitored by her father who followed him around the house to monitor what he was doing. On this day, while he was fixing a faulty wire, my grandfather had to leave the house quickly and told my mum to go stay with the electrician while he worked, and ensure he left the house immediately after he was done.

It was a sad day for my mother who was then 16 years. My grandfather’s departure provided the opportunity the electrician needed to carry out a beastly act. He forced himself on her and raped her. She tried to shout but he covered her mouth so no one could hear her voice until he was done with the dastardly act. After he was sone, he threatened to kill her if she ever told anyone. My mum was left shaken, and frightened – she could not tell anyone that she was raped by the electrician. She got pregnant from that encounter, which as I mentioned in the beginning, was what led her to move into the rapist’s house where she gave birth to a girl and that happened to be me.

Growing up as a child was uneventful for me. I was never shown love, kindness, or attention. Looking back, I think they both saw me as a great mistake and their only source of the problem. I lacked virtually everything that could make a child thrive and become successful in life. It was one sad story after another in my household. It was an atmosphere of dysphoria and rancor. I started school and my elementary years went by fast with nothing interesting to talk about. I had no friends because I did not want to become a laughing stock especially when they discover I am an unwanted child. I wrote my primary leaving school certificate and scaled through to a Government Secondary School. ‘Maybe things will be different for me now, I thought. Follow me on my journey and be the judge.

My first year in secondary school was a bit challenging for me academically. I struggled with the scope of work and with adjusting to being taught by several teachers because I was introverted. In my second year, I began to gain the attention of the school gatemen – Mr. Kunle* and Mr. Audu*. I got the attention that I had longed for all my life from them.  They took notice of me and complimented me. I gradually began to stop over in the mornings and after school to chat with them before leaving for my house. It was not a problem because my parents were never around – my mother was a petty trader, and my dad continued his electrical works except this time he always came home drunk. My parents frequently engaged in all-night quarrels and at other times, they were both physically abusive towards each other. I didn’t mind them any longer because I was accustomed to their lifestyle.

In the second term of my second year, one of the gatemen asked me to tell them about myself. I quickly shared my story, thinking I had a confidant, not knowing I would be taken advantage of. Mr. Kunle would ask me to wait a little longer after school; since there was never a need to rush home I would oblige.  He would buy me food and ask me to eat and relax in the security room.

The unexpected happened at age 12. I was relaxing in the security room as usual and did not know when I fell asleep. I woke up when I felt a hand caressing my body, I turned and it was Mr. Kunle. I asked him to stop but he didn’t, instead, he overpowered me, lifted my pinafore pulled my panties, and raped me. He covered my mouth with his hands as I tried to shout, I struggled with him, but he was too strong for me. A short while later Mr. Audu, the second guard, come in and took his turn to rape me. When they finished, they both pleaded with me that it was the “devil” that took over their conscience. They helped to clean me up and got a bike to take me home.

I wept bitterly for days, fell ill, and could not go to school for a few weeks. My mother went to a pharmacy, bought malaria drugs, and ordered me to take them. She left as usual without bothering to find out what was wrong with me. On the second week after the incident, I summoned the courage to talk to her, but she told me she was too busy that she needed to attend to a client who had ordered some products from her. She never bothered to find out what I wanted to discuss with her when she returned. I felt sad, worried, ashamed, afraid, alone, and worthless.  You may wonder where my dad was, he was drunk and an absentee dad so he was unavailable. My mother was the one paying my school fees, paying the rent and other bills. She was the breadwinner of my family. To me, my dad was dead!

When I returned to school, my teachers and classmates were worried about how I looked. I had emaciated due to worry and sickness. I kept telling them that I was okay and that I would get better. Sometimes, I wonder if it was my upbringing that made me unable to stand up for myself and report Mr. Kunle and Mr. Audu to the teachers or school authorities. Nevertheless, they kept begging me every day; especially because as I passed by the school gate every day, I kept ignoring them. I had made up my mind never to grant them an audience ever again.

One afternoon during my final year, after I had written our WAEC examinations, Mr. Kunle stopped me as I was passing by the gate. He pleaded with me to listen to him, and he told me they had planned a dinner to formally tender their unreserved apology to me. So, they wanted me to wait after school the next day so I could join them. Initially rejected the request but he kept pleading and assured me that they have changed, and this was to formally end the negative chapter with pleasant memories. After much pleading, I consented.

As soon as I got there the second day, they both went on their knees asked for my forgiveness. This display by both perpetrators, made me feel they were truly repentant. So, I felt relaxed and told them that I had forgiven them, but I would need time to forget We all chatted about various topics from politics to education and they offered me something to drink. The juice was poured into disposable cups and we all drank. Not long after, I took the drink, began to feel drowsy, and realized I had been drugged. Again, Mr. Audu and Mr. Kunle took turns raping me through the vagina and anus. I did not know how long it took or how many rounds they did because I passed out in the process.

I later woke up with excruciating pains all over my body, vagina, and anus. I could not find anyone of the perpetrators, and it was getting rather dark, so I struggled to stand up, managed to look for what to clean up with properly, and staggered out of the gate. I was lucky to find a bike that took me straight home. A little while later, my parents were not home yet, so I took a shower and went straight to bed. My mother came in some moments later and without uttering a word turned off the lights and went into her room. I turned over in pain, and kept pondering in my mind why I was born and if she was truly my mother or was I adopted?

I became emotionally down and began to have nightmares frequent flashbacks. I was traumatized.  As shameful as this may sound, my absentee parents were in the dark and wouldn’t be bothered. As painful as this event was, I told myself never to trust anyone again, so I kept my ordeal to myself and suffered in silence. I never went back to school again.

My moment of respite and compensation came when I passed all my WAEC papers in flying colors. I also sat for my JAMB examinations and made the cut-off. I got admitted into one of the prestigious Federal universities to study Accountancy. To my surprise, my mother was ecstatic and exceptionally proud of my achievements. That was when she narrated to me the story behind her marriage to my dad. She asked me to forgive her for the way she had treated me in the past and she told me that she behaved in that manner so I would not end up the way she did, being an only child. My mother was happy that she had redeemed her image by birthing a child who was able to secure admission into the university. A dream she was unable to achieve. We hugged, cried, and forgave one another. I wished she knew about the several things that had gone wrong due to her high-handedness. However, I had resolved not to tell anyone, the events were passed, and I had resolved not to tell her or anyone. This, I later realized, was a wrong decision that encourages further abuse.

I resumed university still battling emotional and psychological trauma. I quickly made friends both male and female. All seemed to be going on well until my third year in the university when I met Henry, a final year student in Architecture who came to deliver a message to my coursemate Ada who always sat next to me in class. He came to our class a few more times after which Ada told me he had been disturbing her for my number. I told her to tell him to ask me personally for it, this was to push him off, but to my surprise, he approached me himself and asked me out on a date. On the date, I found out he was a fun-loving person from a rich home, and we had something in common. . . he was an only child too.

We became fond of each other and to my amazement, he never asked me for sex even when I slept over in his room. I thought Henry was too good to be true and I treaded cautiously based on my past experiences. The more I looked the more perfect he was to me. After a year of courting, I agreed to visit his home to meet his parents. Unfortunately for me, his parents had an emergency and were out of the country the day we arrived. I had earlier spoken to Henry’s mother and she looked forward to meeting me in person. I was so disappointed but Henry assured me that I would still have a wonderful time. On the first day, we went to the cinema and a beach. It was a beautiful experience for me. The second day, Henry invited his bosom friend that I had heard a lot about. Akin was a jovial and loud person. He always wanted people to notice him easily. I wondered what the attraction was since Henry was a calm, cool, and calculated person. We went to a club the night Akin arrived, and we all drank alcohol until we were intoxicated.  I told Henry I was tired then he called his driver to take us back home.

I was so high when we reached home, that I headed straight to Henry’s room, threw myself on his bed, and dozed off. Suddenly, I saw Henry turn me backward pulled off my clothes and pants, and started having anal sex with me. I tried to tell him this is rape and I don’t do anal sex. He covered my mouth with his hand and excitedly roamed in and out of my anus. When he finished, Akin too came on me, I tried to resist but I was too intoxicated and he also raped me by having anal sex with me.

My eyes were wide open but I was too weak to speak or move. I watched both of them perform anal sex on one another. I could not do anything as I was too weak to act or speak. I then understood their bosom friendship. When they finished, they hugged, kissed, and slumped on the bed. I was disgusted by their actions and was waiting for the effects of the alcohol to lessen so I could leave, but I slept off instead.

By the time, I woke up; Akin had left for his place. Henry apologized that he couldn’t tell me earlier that he was not straight. He told me to relax that we will get married and he will do anything for me. He pleaded with me not to tell anyone. What have I gotten myself into? I muttered. This act triggered all the unpleasant memories, the pain, flashbacks, feelings of shame, and worthlessness I was trying to forget. I felt like committing suicide. To say the least, I was severely traumatized, I felt terrible as I packed my bags to leave. I called my mother and headed back home. I broke down into my mother’s waiting arms when I got home. I explained everything to her in detail and even the past abuses. My mother threw herself on the ground and wept bitterly. We cried until we could not anymore.

My mother called her lawyer and we reported the case to the police. The perpetrators were arrested and we were referred to WARIF CENTRE. At the center, we were given the professional help that I should have gotten if I had spoken up earlier. I was given the required medical assessment, treatment, and psychosocial services. The counselor at the center helped me a lot and gave me coping mechanisms to deal with the trauma. I then realized the importance of speaking up and seeing a therapist. I regret my ignorance. If I had opened up earlier I would not have walked the lonely road alone.  I feel better and encouraged now, I am taking life one step at a time and am glad have started on my healing journey.

All these services were free of charge at WARIF Centre and all the staff was professional in discharging their duties. Thank you WARIF for your help and support; you made this healing process easy for me and all other sexually abused survivors.

Dear survivor, please know that you are not alone and it is not your fault. Help is available.

If you have been raped or you 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 08092100009. For questions or more information please contact:

*Real name of survivor changed for confidentiality