I will tell you a story. A young girl aged five had just lost her mother to breast cancer and she was sad, alone and lost. Her father was lost in mourning the love of his life, at the same time trying to keep the large family together- the girl, her elder sister and younger brother, and about seven of their orphaned cousins who he took care of. One time she was playing outside the main house when her 20year old cousin showed up, smiling warmly with lollipop in hand, and asked her to follow him to the servants’ quarters where he had lots of lollipops just for her.
Nothing had excited the girl as much in a while. All she had seen since momma’s death was women taking away things that belonged to her mother from their house, sad faces that looked at her with pity and arms that wanted to carry her around even when all she wanted to do was to watch TV and play with her doll. So the prospect of sweet lollipops excited her, and she followed quickly. The cousin, let us call him Gee, locked the door as they got in, took off his clothes, got into bed and asked the girl to come to him, which she did with all her naivety and desire to have her sweets.
As soon as she got to the bed, Gee took hold of her, took off her dress, pinned her down, covered her mouth with his palm and pounced on the sweets he had planned to eat all along. The girl lay helpless below the 70+ kgs that were deflowering her, tears flowing down her cheeks and appalling pain soaring through her body. The man fed on, letting out low moans and groans. Eventually, after what seemed like a lifetime he rolled off her and told her off with “Usiambie mtu” (Don’t tell anyone) and “Hii ni siri yetu.” (This is our secret). The girl walked back to their house and to her room, blood flowing down her legs and onto her dress. She sobbed for a long time. She missed her mummy. She always kept her safe.
It’s funny though, how despite the fact that she shared a room with four of her female cousins, none of them bothered to know why she was bleeding that much. They went on chatting like she was not in the room. Funny how one of them actually gave her her day’s bath later on and didn’t care to ask or to mention to her father that she was bleeding.
That evening, her red dress and underwear mysteriously disappeared, never to be seen again.
That girl is me.
Rape is real, and it is happening around us every day, probably to a person you personally know. It is described as the act of having sexual activity with a non-consensual person. It is an act of aggression and power combined with some form of sex. A person is usually forced into sexual contact through verbal coercion, threats, physical restraint, and/or physical violence and consent is not given. And consent cannot legally be given if the person is impaired, intoxicated, drugged, underage, mentally challenged, unconscious or asleep.
The notion that rape is a crime of passion that is usually committed due to uncontrollable urges that demand sexual release makes me want to gag and throw up. In essence, rape is a hate crime that has nothing to do with genuine sexual lusts, but everything to do with power and dominance, gender and control. No, these are not my own rantings. They are findings from extensive research done by psychologists and criminologists. It really is not about sexual appeal of women. It is not about the perpetrators of this crime being tempted by their victims dressing, words or actions. If it was, why then are there three-week old babies and 80 year old grandmothers being raped every day in our country? How tempting can diapers possibly be? How appealing is a poor old granny that is holding onto her last pair of teeth and walks with a stick? Nonsense.
There are many kinds of rape;
This is committed by an unknown attacker. This accounts only for 25% of sexual assaults. Believe it or not, most rape crimes are committed by people who know their victims.
We hear about a father that raped his daughter, a man who raped his sister-in-law, an uncle that pinned down his niece and had his way with her, a headmaster that has been sexually abusing his students…people you expect to shine the light in the path of these women are the wolves that tear them apart. Acquaintance rape accounts for 75% of sexual assault cases. Because of the personal association to the perpetrator, the survivor may not really term what has happened as rape, but it is.
Rape in marriages and relationships
This is the hardest form of rape to determine because sex in this institution is considered a necessity. It is a conjugal right. Women being raped in marriages find it difficult to talk about it out in the open. In fact, most do not even know that they are being raped. As long as consent is not given and sexual contact takes place, then that is rape, even in marriage.
Coercion is mostly used here, where emotional manipulation is used to persuade the wife or girlfriend to have sex even if they do not want to. Statements such as “If you love me you will have sex with me”, “If you don’t have sex with me I will find someone who will.”, and “I’m not sure I can be with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me” are used to coerce the victims into having sex. Being coerced into having sex or performing sexual acts is not consenting to having sex and is considered to be sexual assault.
So what is the way forward to eradicate rape in Kenya?
Let us start by quashing the teachings we give our young boys and men that they are superior and that women are the weaker sex. Boys grow up believe that they can dominate and that they have all the power to do as they please, and a woman’s work is only to follow and do as he wishes. Preach and teach equality instead. Teach about care and love and that women are not dolls or puppets to be played with.
Secondly, laws on sexual offences should be tightened. It saddens me when I hear that a sexual offender was let out on bond, or that he was left to go due to lack of evidence when the survivor still cannot walk well because of the ordeal. It pains even more when the perpetrator is not arrested at all because he can pay his way out of the hands of the cops, or when the members of society hide his sins for him. Stop! Speak out and help to convict these ambassadors of the devil. I see that cousin of mine every time I go home and tears well up in my eyes. More than fifteen years later, the wound is still as fresh as if it happened yesterday. And the worst part is that he is not even a tad apologetic for it. I have been trying to make peace with it, letting karma get the best of him.
Third, and this is for my fellow women, stay alert and avoid compromising and dangerous situations. If you are just the office intern and your boss keeps asking you to work late with him when everyone else has gone home then tread very carefully. Be wary. He could genuinely be in need of your help, or he could terribly be in need of your females. Have weapons of your own, pepper spray for instance. Be good with your feet and arms. You could throw a good kick or punch and save yourself from being assaulted.
Let us stand up against rape and make our society a better place.