I grew up in a happy family of six. I was seven when my father died. I was the baby of the house so I did not realize that things would never be the same. Gradually, I began to feel the changes. The chicken drumsticks we usually had were replaced with maggi cube sized portions of fish. Jam disappeared from our dining table and so did butter. Things got so bad that even my melancholic senior sister Sandra knew she had to do something. Sandra changed completely.Sandra that usually ate in her room began to go out with friends. She was in her third year at university so Mum let her be.
Six months later, she came with a young man in a Lexus. She said that he had asked her to marry him. Uncle Felix was warm, friendly and rich. Mum adored him and with Uncle Felix, our lives changed. Our condition improved but I think Mum was still thinking about the death of our father. She died of a stroke induced by hypertension. For the first time in my life, I was alone. My brothers were at school, my sister was married and I was a fifteen year old in need of a father figure. Sandra asked me to move in with her and her husband. I was overjoyed because Uncle Felix usually spoilt me with gifts when he was around. Sandra and Uncle Felix took good care of me. Then, after my sixteenth birthday things started to go on a wrong turn. On many occasions, I caught Uncle Felix looking at me the way a hungry person stares at well prepared food. He continued to lavish gifts on me. One day, Sandra had to travel to Lagos for a distant relative’s wedding. She asked me to take care of the house as she would be back the next day. That night, Uncle Felix asked me to bring him dinner. He said he wanted to tell me something. He didn’t even eat, he went on and on about how he liked me .I was about to leave when I noticed he had bolted the door. I went on my knees begging him to open the door but he would not listen. Uncle Felix put on the music player in his room to maximum. I screamed, bit him and he proceeded to slap me .Uncle Felix raped me that night and I was never the same smiling, playful girl again. Sandra came back and I told her what happened. Uncle Felix denied it all and claimed I was a witch trying to ruin their happy home. Sandra sent me to live with a distant cousin, Ehka. Ekha not only believed me, but explained that although my sister was trying to save her home, she took the wrong course of action.
Years later, the trauma was still evident in my life. I was living with guilt, shame, fear, and anger at the same time until I met Sam, a doctor who was determined to push his way into my life. When I told him my story, he said I was suffering from Rape Trauma Syndrome. Rape trauma Syndrome is the psychological trauma experienced by a rape victim that includes disruptions to normal physical, emotional and interpersonal behaviour. The feelings may subside over time for some people but some victims will continue to experience some form of psychological distress. Symptoms of Rape Trauma Syndrome are obsession to wash or clean body, numbness, vomiting, crying, nausea, talking constantly about the assault, refusal to talk about the assault, flight to another area, poor health, anxiety, mood swings, nightmares, flash backs and use of coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drugs. Rape negatively affects the lives of it’s victims. They are reluctant to enter new relationships and when they do, such relationships are disturbed. Some rape victims become promiscuous or in some cases, frigid in their sexual relations. Although rape victims are treated in the hospital for sexually transmitted diseases and are well taken care of, there is no specific treatment except for therapy and counseling. I overcame mine with the right environment and love from my friends.
Today, Sam and I are married with children and together, we run an NGO designed to help victims of rape and sexual abuse. I still counsel these rape victims and I see the old me whenever I talk to them. I tell them that the only way to make life better is to channel your pain to produce something positive. It’s best to seek counseling and change environment after such an incident, that helped me get through. I also think that society should be less complacent towards rape. Rape is a criminal offense and it should not be treated with levity.
Written by: Gimbiya Galadima