Today was a grueling day at work. I struggled to maintain my composure as I attended to victims of violence, and even more so when I listened to a perpetrator as he gave his version of the story, trying to justify touching the 6 year old, claiming she liked “fooling around” with him, claiming she liked doing pleasurable sexual things to him, lying about how her mother was aware of these things and had never complained, how her mother had tried to stop her a few times. He stood there, lying about how he also tried to stop her from pleasing him as she apparently liked to do.
I struggled to listen to her narrate the graphic nature of the sexual abuse she underwent. I struggled even more, watching her sad mother look on. The mother was completely broken, hopelessness and helplessness in her eyes, depression and the reality of what had been done to her daughter written all over her face. She is a single mother, desperately trying to make ends meet and to protect her child, trying her best to do her best by her daughter unaware that she had left her child with the devil himself. A devil masked in sheep’s skin, a devil covered in the persona of a caring responsible parent.
I struggled to listen to a teenage girl, a heavily pregnant teenage girl, whose only support system was an officer handling her case, and doing an excellent job I must add. A beautiful girl, whose future now seemed bleak. A soon-to-be mother, whose mother didn’t have time for her, contributing to this girl’s ordeal in more ways than one. This strong girl spoke with me, little or no signs of sadness visible on her face, a complete contrast to the words exiting her mouth.
I struggled to absorb her story, a story that seemed like a clip from a sad movie. She had been having trouble at home with her mother, a single mother, and sought solace from one who she believed would protect her or change her life for the better, a religious leader from a church. She had thought she was doing the right thing, only to be held captive, raped repeatedly, beaten, impregnated, and insulted. Where is she going from here? What is she to do now? How will she give birth and nurture her baby without any support? Why doesn’t her mother care? But I let her know, all is not lost and there are people who can help her, that all things can work out for good, that she shouldn’t lose hope.
I struggled more today, paying attention to one of many women who was gang raped , strangled and beaten, scared to death that she would lose her life and leave her children alone. Tears flowing down her face, days later she is still bleeding and in pain from the violence inflicted on her by numerous drunk men, wondering how life could go on after this, nauseous from the effects of the ARVs she now has to swallow. She wept, and wept, and wept. She is fighting to stay alive inside for the sake of her children, trying her best to find the strength to go back home and put a smile on her face, shielding them from the truth, from her tears that reflect the pain and anguish she is enduring.
Today, I struggled, watching the young father narrate his 3 year old’s story, sharing how she said she was in pain from her “susu” (genitals) after Baba Nani poked her with ‘something’. He shared how she was in pain for days but neither he nor his wife thought anything of it until she started having nightmares, screaming at night from a fear very real to her, and suffered urinary incontinence, requiring diapers once again. It was clear to me that he didn’t know how to identify signs of abuse, and differentiate a ‘story’ from the real life experience given by his daughter.
Today, I came to the conclusion that breaking the silence on these issues needs a much louder voice, on a larger scale, to protect our children, women, men, and persons with disabilities from violence and abuse. One person cannot do this alone. It takes all of us to join our efforts to end this trend!
I urge all of you to help me share all the information available in tune with abuse and its prevention widely in an effort to save ourselves from harm. Our children need you. We must break the silence!
Today, I struggled….
“One life saved is better than none”