This is Joy’s Story…
My name is Joy and my parents were very excited to give me that name but I should really be called sorrow. I had read and heard about many sexual assault cases but I never paid too much attention to them. I was one of those girls who would brag that I was too smart to be raped. I felt that the girls who got abused were too vulnerable or not sharp enough. Little did I know that becoming a survivor had nothing to do with how smart, educated, big, small, young or old a person was.
I finished secondary school at 15 and got admitted into a federal university the following year. My family was very excited because the admission process was very competitive. I resumed school, made new friends and started moving with people I believed shared the same values as me. I attended lectures, ate at restaurants, attended fellowship, and made sure I didn’t miss out on any school social event that was publicised. I just really wanted to enjoy the best of my time in school.
By the end of my first year, I had grown really fond of two girls (Rita and Glory) and two boys (Timilehin and Paul). We spent a lot of time together and became so close that I could almost call them my siblings. The girls and I even got accommodation together on campus while the boys went on to rent an apartment just outside school. We visited them so often, the neighbours felt we were an actual family.
A week to our exams, Rita and I were on our way to the library to study. I got a call from Paul just as we were about to go in and he sounded so awful. I asked what was wrong and he said he had woken up feeling sick and extremely weak. Without giving much thought to it, I told Rita we had to go and see him. We had only taken a few steps when the straps on Rita’s sandals broke; she rushed to the cobbler and said she would meet me at Paul’s apartment. I got to the apartment and saw Paul half asleep under the duvet, the room was dark, the air conditioner was on blast and he looked really horrible. I tried to convince him to go to the hospital but he requested that I just sit beside him and hold his unusually cold hands. He said he just needed to rest for a bit and we could go to the hospital in an hour. As I waited, my eyes became heavy and I tried to keep them open. Since Paul seemed to be sleeping I laid back to rest and dozed off. Suddenly, I felt a weight on me and I tried to open my eyes but they were so heavy; where was I and what was going on? I looked up saw Paul naked on top of me, I tried to push him off me but I was too weak. When he was done raping me, he muttered the words ‘I’m sorry’ then he got up, turned off the air conditioner, opened the windows and went back to sleep. I tried to stay awake to even process what had just happed but I couldn’t.
“Joy! Joy! Joy! Get up!”, Rita shouted angrily. “What is wrong with you, you came to help someone who is sick and you also slept off”. I tried to sit up but all I could do was to cry. Rita suspected something was wrong so she turned to Paul and asked what he did to me. He began to plead with her not to tell anyone. Apparently, Paul had put some strange substance in the air conditioner and that was what made me drowsy.
Rita helped me to the hostel and kept apologising for letting me go to the apartment alone. I laid down and tried to sleep off the effect but I kept having nightmares, and I have these nightmares till today. Most times I can’t sleep without the use of sleeping pills because I’m sacred of the terrible dreams I often have.
I pulled away from my friends and became a loner. It was difficult to trust any other boy because I felt if Paul could rape me, Paul who was literally like a brother to me, then anyone could rape me. Whenever I stepped into an enclosed room with the air conditioner on, I would experience panic attacks and whenever I saw Paul in school, a flood of negative emotions would overwhelm me, I wanted to kill him. I barely passed my exams because I couldn’t concentrate. I felt used, dirty, cheated and I wanted vengeance. I was sooo angry!
For a long time, I blamed myself for picking the call that day and going to Paul’s apartment. I wished I had waited for Rita or insisted we left for the hospital immediately. I felt ashamed of myself and found it difficult to tell anyone because I believed the first question they would ask me was “Why did you go to a boy’s house alone?”. I had blamed myself so much and receiving more blame and judgement was the last thing I wanted. So I kept the pain and sorrow to myself.
I would sit and cry for hours but the pain wouldn’t go away. It seemed like there was nothing I could do to stop the way I was feeling and I really wanted it to stop. One day, Rita suggested I speak to a counsellor, she said she had heard about a place with free services for survivors and she was going to accompany me there. She took me to WARIF and the counsellor helped me understand that all I was feeling was totally normal. She suggested ways that I could cope with the negative emotions I feeling and told me it would get better. The counsellor helped me understand that sexual assault could happen to anybody and it is never the fault of the survivor. She told me not to feel ashamed or broken and even though the dreams haven’t stopped totally and I still have a few flashbacks, I believe have recovered greatly since I have been speaking with WARIF sexual assault counsellor.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Real name of survivor changed for confidentiality