My heart is pounding and I am scared of the darkness that surrounds me.
It’s around 10.30 pm to 11 pm. I get off the matatu and start walking very fast to get to our estate. Scared of the shadows. Not that there are that many. There is sort of adequate street lighting in my neighborhood. But at this time there are very few if any people walking on the road.
Our matatus end at 9. Ok the last one is technically at 9 but it will wait for the matatu to fill before leaving which can be at 10 pm. On weekends our matatus end at around 10 to 11 pm. They assume that in this neighborhood if you are out late you either have a car or you will take a taxi.
Or you are like me, thinking the gate to the estate is not that far from the road.
But as I walk fast those 300 metres or so I am scared. Scared as only a girl would be. Because you have heard the stories. Of meeting a stranger or gang of them in the night looking to have some “fun”. And that one stranger or those strangers can ruin your life forever.
Women don’t like to talk about rape. It is one of those subjects that’s like the monster in the closet. You think that if you talk about it you give it life. Yet from the time when we were young our mothers and relatives would drum the message into us that you are a girl. Sit properly so as not to show your underwear it could trigger unwanted attention. We would be beaten or pinched so as to learn to keep our legs together so as not to attract attention to our “flowers”
As we grew up we were told to be careful around men and boys. We were taught sublimely that men are a danger to us. And this was stressed to us when we started our menses. That we need to stay away from boys, that we should not in any way tempt a man.
So we grow. Knowing in the back of our minds that men can be monsters. That they can take away our innocence and spoil our future.
But sometimes we forget the lessons we are taught. We forget that we are fragile flowers. We begin to think that men are not so bad.
Until you are coming from a club and get raped by a stranger/stranger.
Until you wake up and find that the man you trusted who you went out with put drugs in your drink and had his way with you.
Or you are raped by many men, some of who you know, who when they are done, throw you into a pit latrine. And you are left broken trying to survive to be rescued. Thinking that there will be justice. That is what keeps you going, the only thing that keeps you alive. And when you get out you become disabled and have to stay in a wheelchair. You go to the law for justice but all that is done is to make the perpetrators’ to slash grass. For all that pain they have caused and trying to kill you in the process all they do is cut grass. And you wonder if that policeman has a daughter.
Until you get drunk and a man believes that just because he bought you beer he bought the rights to your body for that night. And he rapes you and sometimes his friends do too. And the next day they laugh it off and say you were asking for it. And they brag about how they are men and they all had so much fun. And you wonder how that boy or man would feel if somebody did that to his sister. It is rape if you didn’t consent to the sex but he doesn’t see it that way. And society shields them.
Or one political candidate is declared the winner. And war breaks out. You are a casualty of the way. They rape you to teach you that you are nothing. That your tribe is nothing. That they can hurt you if they want to. And in some of those instances they rape you in front of your children. Or they rape your children in front of you. And the government doesn’t care. That you got pregnant. That you got HIV. And it doesn’t matter that the government soldier did this to you. Or that the opposition did it to you. None of them cares. You are just a statistic. Women are usually casualties of war.
If you go to the police (and the person you see is probably a man) and complain.
They say you were asking for it.
They ask what were you doing out so late at night. Only prostitutes would be out that late.
And they ask why did you allow him to buy you alcohol if you didn’t intent to sleep with him.
They ask why did you go to that man’s house.
Why were you…….
Then they put the blame on you. Like it is your fault that some men do not have a conscious.
Then at the back of your mind you remember what your mother and your female relatives told you and you realize maybe they were right.
That men are beasts.
As you walk that deserted stretch to your gate you hope that you will not meet anybody. That you will pass through the valley of the shadow of death and that evil shall not touch you. That you will survive this night and other nights and days without experiencing the horror that is rape.
This is my story, her story and their stories.
“Most men fear getting laughed at or humiliated by a romantic prospect while most women fear rape and death.”
― Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence
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