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Victim, Survivor, Victor

Updated: Sep 1, 2020


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*Trigger warning - Abuse


Jackie sat silently on the hard, wooden bench; her thoughts trapped within her. She looked at the nurse who stood before them teaching them about nutrition and the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding. She heard but she did not listen, in disbelief that she was doing this again! When her name was called out to go into the consultation room, she moved like a sea weed being dragged on the ocean floor. When she got in, she came face to face with a young male doctor. 'Great! Just what I need.' She thought as she took a seat.

"Jackie, how may I help you today?"

"I would like to start my antenatal clinic."

"Great," He picked his pen to start writing,"how old are you?"

"41."

"Wow. I see you are still actively in the game!"

It took an insurmountable amount of energy not to reach out and smack his face. Instead she settled for a blank stare. If he could see behind her eyes, he would have recalled his words and swallowed them. For behind them lay a terrible memory - the day her modesty was outraged by a person known to her.


The year was 2007 and Kenya was burning! After the presidential results were announced the country collapsed into disarray. What ensued were sporadic episodes of police brutality, violence, looting and protests. Things escalated to a point that a nationwide curfew was instituted in order to curb the unrest. On the night of 16th January 2008, Jackie was home watching the late night news when she heard banging on her door. 


"Who is it?" She was startled by the noise.


"Brian*. There are police patrolling the area and arresting anyone found outside. I am looking for Steve* but he is not in. Can I wait for him here?" Steve was her neighbour and she knew Brian vaguely through him so she didn't hesitate and opened the door to let him in. She didn't know she would regret opening that door for years to come.


When he got in, he wasted no time. He immediately pushed her and began to grab her. She was caught somewhere in between terror and confusion. Was she being robbed? But the way he was handling her made her instinctively know it wasn't material things he was after. It was her. Something in her belly began to twist and a wave of panic engulfed her. She tried to fight him but he was too strong for her. He overpowered her easily and threw her violently to the ground while muffling her screams. When she realised she was no match for this man, her body released her mind to roam to a different place. She thought about her kids who were sound asleep at the back of the house and prayed none of them walked in on this atrocity as he invaded her innermost being. When he was done with her, she got up from the ground already a ghost of herself and ran to the back of the house, locking doors behind her leaving him there. After a while she heard the door open and close and knew he was gone. She had been robbed.


The next few days were spent in an erratic wheel of kinesis and paralysis. Alive but not living. There was no script to follow; no 'how to' book that she could read to set her free from this anguish. Her home was stifling; she felt trapped and isolated inside of herself. Whenever she had to walk into her living room she would avoid that corner of the house like it was the scene of a crime. On the third day, after hibernating she took a walk to the local health centre for treatment and found it closed. Because of the increased insecurity, they would only open in the mornings. Instead of heading back home she crossed over to the nearby cops station to report the incident. 

"I am here to report a crime."

"What crime?"

"Rape."

" When? By who? Madam are you seeing what is happening in our country? Are you aware how bad things are right now? Come back later; we will take your statement."

The cleft feeling in her chest opened deeper as if there was an axe hacked into her sternum. She left and never went back.


Jackie's grief remained acute. Her children - the oldest who was 18 - noticed there was something wrong with her. She wanted to tell her what happened; some manic part of her believed that if she told the story well enough she might reverse the events but she couldn't bring herself to articulate it. She had changed overnight from an easy, fun loving mom to a cranky human. Her voice sounded like a whip each time she spoke. They didn't know that within her was a battle to strangle and suppress that incident. She fought so hard to forget, afraid that if she as much as poked at that nightmare ever so gently with a finger, it would unleash a torrent so colossal she might be swept away. And so the hands of the clock moved, day in day out and a month later she discovered she was pregnant!


Her first thought was to have an abortion. And she tried and failed - thrice. The first time she walked wilfully to a back street clinic to have it done and when she got there, she found authorities carrying out a crack down on that clinic. She didn't get in and did not go back. She waited for some time to pass and decided to try again. Around the same time, one of her daughters was sent home for lack of school fees and she had to scrimp and save to pay the fee. She had nothing left for the procedure. By the time she gathered courage to try again she was so far gone. She went to yet another clinic and waited for the doctor - who was out for a medical camp - for hours. Eventually she left. She decided to carry the pregnancy and give the baby up for adoption once it was born. She visited the adoption agency, opened a file and explained her situation to them. She was given the option of 'mother offer' where after delivery one gives up her child at six weeks of age.


This is how she ended up in the antenatal clinic. A most reluctant mother to be. She did not know things could get worse until when she was counselled and tested for HIV and her results came back positive! She didn't cry but instead shook and shook. The weight of this news descended on her sharply. Not only was she carrying a weight in her belly, now she would carry this weight on her back. Her face shifted; drained to a sickly grey. She became deathly silent. Even when the nurse asked her where her husband was she didn't speak. Not because she wouldn't. She couldn't. How could she tell this lady before her that she was widowed - years ago and the father of her unborn baby and donor of this disease was a treacherous monster. What words would she use? What tone would she employ? She began to relive that night, her body frantic, her breath a whip of panic. This new information traumatised her. She was started on anti retrovirals and sent for a battery of tests.


Jackie hid her pregnancy for as long as she could. She was anxious about what her children, her siblings and worse her in laws would say. When her belly became visible she told her children she had a tumour and was scheduled for surgery. She was not going to keep this baby anyway. Towards the end of the pregnancy however, she couldn't pretend any longer and told them the truth. All of it. It was a burden she didn't want to share but had to and it was just as well because she had a c - section and then developed severe wound sepsis that kept her admitted in hospital for over a month. In this period she had a lot of time to herself to reflect. She was a single mother of five children riddled with physical and emotional pain. Was she going to live or die? Because of the severity of her wound she had to keep going to theatre for cleaning and repair and each time she was due for the procedure she would become so anxious that she might not make it. The last time, while being wheeled to the OR, she made God a promise. 'If you preserve my life, I will use my voice to help others.' She survived and was discharged. 


Six weeks elapsed and Jackie had a half hearted attempt to contact the agency to pick the baby up but when she couldn't reach the social worker, she didn't try again. She kept the baby. A girl. But it was not easy. It took time for everyone around her to adjust to the new normal. Initially she was afraid that her other children might reject their baby sister. But it's as if God knew. She was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. It was impossible to hate her. Eventually she began to talk about her pain. She found that secrecy only feeds stigma. People would wonder what a 41 year old widow was doing giving birth and she would openly tell them her story. She spoke her pain until it gave birth to Grace Agenda - a community based organisation for women who have conceived children out of rape. Her voice may not have helped her on that dreadful night but she decided that these other unfortunate womens voices would be heard. And she started with the victims that were violated during the post election violence.


The powers that be were not happy with her. She was opening up a chapter the Government considered closed. She can't count the number of times she was told, "We have moved on." Yet she knew how paralysed she felt, with no idea of how to get care or help and imagined how much worse it was for the destitute women in the informal sector. She remembered her promise and knew she would be their advocate. "Haven't they been compensated?" some politicians would ask.

But no one knows that rape leaves an internal scar. It's not like the loss of land or livestock which can be compensated. Sexual violence cannot be compensated and victims face immense hardship in reporting the incident, receiving treatment and getting counselling. Nobody wants to deal with them so few bother and cases go unreported and ignored.


Out of her experience she decided she could no longer live her life held by the chains of this man. Her steps were small but she was determined to walk free from that incident. It took her 3 years. She loves her daughter fiercely and would staple her to herself or sew her to her skin to just keep her close. She is so much like her. Beauty from ashes. Since the incident, she has met Brian three times randomly on the streets. The first time, something treacherous and unkind lurched in her and her heart flapped against her chest like a caged bird. He still had the power. The second time, her palms were wet but her heart remained still. By the third time the terror did not gather or grow. She was healing. The power was now hers.


As narrated to me by Jackline Mutere



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Sexual assault is an act in which a person intentionally, sexually touches another person without their consent or forces another person to engage in a sexual act gainst their will.

Victims are more likely to be assaulted by an acquaintance i.e. friend, co- worker, boyfriend, spouse other than by a complete stranger.


The effects can be emotional, physical and economic.


Emotional include: denial, anxiety, self blame, shame, depression, guilt, mood swings etc

Physical include: While sexual assault can result in physical trauma, most times visible physical injury is not always seen. This is sometimes a deterrent to seeking help or health care as most people expect victims to be bloody and battered.

The economic impact is due to the cost of treatment, days lost at work or at school.

The Management of assault victims includes:

.Screening and treatment for STI's 

.HIV testing and prevention

.Pregnancy prevention

.Comprehensive counselling

.Detailed forensic report

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4 comentarios


patricia.oketch
patricia.oketch
27 ago 2020

It has taken me more than 24hrs to gather courage to say thank you for writing the story Doc and thanks for sharing Jackie. Any other comments will not do!!!

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dela crucifix
dela crucifix
26 ago 2020

A moment of silence....

I'll comment later after this silence.

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These reads are so enlightening. Keep up the good work. I hope Justice will be restored up these victims of 2007 as the scare are still here with us

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Wambui Kyama
Wambui Kyama
25 ago 2020

Thanks you Jackline for sharing your story. I’m at a loss for words. A brief moment in time completely change the direction of your life. The title is very fitting Doc.

May many find healing through this blog and the work Jackline is doing.

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