I was raped when I was 12

I used to live in Tegeta (area in Dar es Salaam), where I was working as a house-maid. I was living at the house for almost a year but I had to leave because my boss raped me.

I would stay with their daughter, Jakie, when both parents went to work. One day though, the dad came home early and sent the gardener to the store to buy some watermelon. I didn’t really understand what was going on. Something felt off because it wasn’t usual for him to come home early when his wife was still at work. The first time he did that, he walked in the house and didn’t speak a word to me.

The next day was a Saturday and everyone was home. The dad then told me that I had to take Jakie to Mabibo (area in Dar es Salaam) for her friend’s birthday. We got ready to leave and then he said he would drive us because the party was far away. So we left, the dad, Jakie and myself. When we got to Jakie’s friend’s party, he told me we needed to go back home then we would come back later to get Jakie. I agreed.

When we were driving back, he started saying, “Oh you know I love you.”

I was so confused and scared. I told him, “What is this? You know I’m still very young and you’re telling me such things.”

He said, “Don’t worry, I’ll give you dollars.”

I don’t even remember what I exactly said after that. I just know I was very scared and I wanted to get to the house and get out of that car! At the time, I didn’t even know what dollars mean, I was only a child, just 12 years old.

I stopped going to school when I was very young and my parents sent me to Dar es Salaam to work as a house maid.

Anyway, I told him, the Dad, that I couldn’t do anything like that and he threatened to fire me. I told him that’s okay because I can’t… to be honest, I wasn’t even sure what he exactly wanted from me. I just felt uncomfortable. When we got to the house, he told me to get off and he left. When he came back with Jakie later, he didn’t say anything to me and I was thankful.

Since that incident, he changed. He was always angry and he simply refused to talk to me. When I greeted him in the morning, he wouldn’t reply. Even his wife noticed. She asked me once what was going on and why I was sad all the time. I just told her I was fine. She could sense something was wrong because we were close. I even had my first period in that house and she was the one who taught me what to do. She bought me some pads, showed me how to use them and then how to put one in a black plastic bag after, before throwing it in the trash. So she knew me well, I grew up in her house.

But after that incident in the car, I called the woman who brought me to this job, because she is from my village. I told her everything that happened and what the Dad had told me. She told me she would come to deal with it but she never came. I think she called the Dad and he probably paid her off.

One day, it was a Monday, his wife was at work and the dad came back home around noon. When I heard the car hooting at the gate, I was inside cleaning. He had already sent the gardener to buy the watermelon by the time he came into the house, so there was no else around. He walked straight to me and held me forcefully. I started screaming. I kept shouting, “I can’t, I can’t.”

He threw some money on the table and said, “There’s your money.”

I kept screaming, “I can’t! Please stop!”

*crying*

That’s when he did… in my life… he did this to me. That’s when he raped me.

*crying*

I can honestly say that I can never love a man. I swear…

*pause*

I couldn’t hold it in. When his wife came back home, I told her everything. I was crying so hard, I had to repeat what I was saying over and over. It was hard. When she finally made out what I was saying, she got extremely angry and started hitting me. I was begging her to stop. When she finally stopped, she started crying. I told her to ask Saidi, the gardener, what time Dad came back home that day and how he sent him to the market. I even told her that I had mentioned the car incident to the lady who brought me to their home. I told her how I thought the lady would have come to tell her because she was an adult and they would deal with it.

I kept blurting everything to her but she wasn’t responding so I went to get the clothes I was wearing earlier that afternoon. I showed her the blood on it. I showed her what her husband did.

She stared at the clothes for a long time. When she finally spoke, she simply said, “Let’s go to the police.”

When we got to the police station, they told me I had to get my urine tested. They didn’t find anything but they took to me the hospital anyway. The police went to the Dad’s office to arrest him. He confessed to everything and they opened a case against him. That case didn’t go anywhere and I couldn’t follow up because I was so young. And when I got to the house after the hospital, the lady told me to pack my bags and leave. Even after what had happened, I begged her not to kick me out because I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t even walk, I was still in pain. My parents in the village have no money and my salary was feeding them. But she told me to go back to the village.

I had no choice, I left and got on the bus at dawn to go back to Rombo (region in the north of Tanzania). When I got back, I showed my mother the bloody clothes. My mother wept all night. I tried to console her and tell her not to cry. Somehow, I wasn’t crying. I couldn’t find the tears. I think it hurt to think about it so I just didn’t think. I still couldn’t fully understand what had happened to me.

After a few days, my father found those clothes. He was furious. He started blaming my mother for not raising me right. He accused me of whoring myself to my boss and now I lost their source of income. He beat up my mother until the neighbors rushed in to stop him. My mother is limping to this day because of me. He just kept hitting and kicking…

*crying*

My father kicked me out that same day. I had nowhere to go so I went to the bus station. I slept on the road side until morning. I kept asking myself why this was happening to me. Why would God give me such challenges?

*crying*

The next morning, a bus conductor felt sorry for me and told me I could ride to Dar es Salaam for free. When we got to Dar, he told me I could stay with him. I had nowhere to go so I agreed. He didn’t do anything or ask anything of me when we got to his house. I stayed there for a few months doing all the house chores. I cleaned and cooked. He had a room in Mbagala (area in Dar es Salaam). I slept on the floor every night but at least I had a place to stay and food in my belly.

One day, his friends came over. One of the guys kept looking at me and teasing me. He kept pulling my cheeks and saying things like, “You’re blossoming nicely.” It made me very uncomfortable. I felt the same as I did with that Dad. This friend kept coming more frequently. Once, he came when brother wasn’t home. He tried to do the same thing but the neighbor, an older woman was right outside hanging clothes to dry. She ran in to help me. She chased him away and kept shaming him. Some other women came out and were screaming after him.

When they all went back to their rooms, I stole some money from brother’s stash, grabbed some clothes and ran.

I have been on the streets since then.

I now work at a bar. I’m saving some money so I can start my own business on the side. A friend told me that diras (cheap African dresses) are selling well in Zanzibar (an island in Tanzania) so I want to buy a few and send them to her to sell.

Until then, I’m just fighting to survive.

 Age: 22

Occupation: Bartender

Region: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

5 thoughts on “I was raped when I was 12

  1. This was compelling, thank you for sharing. It was heart-breaking to read the effects of sexual violence on her- firstly through the physical violation inflicted on her by the rapist and secondly, by the reaction of her father after he finds out. It was also interesting to note that her primary focus is now on her economic survival which could possibly overshadow and leave no room for her to deal with her emotional and mental wellbeing. Economic needs often seem to be addressed with an immediacy that is not afforded to mental or emotional needs. The latter always seem to take a backseat, with responses implying that they are not as important as other needs such as being able to eat or drink clean water.

    I’d be interested to hear thoughts from a psychological perspective on how (and whether) it would be possible to cater to emotional and mental needs, particularly in a context like Tanzania, which like many other African societies prioritizes economic sustainability over other forms of wellbeing?

    Thanks again for sharing and invoking this important conversation.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts! You brought up some very interesting points. I think the reaction of her father played a much bigger role to the mental state of that 12 year old girl than the rapist himself. It really struck me that the narrator kept referring to the rapist as “Dad” the whole time. He was the only person that had a constant reference throughout. In a way, this is pointing to the deep betrayal she experienced from her own father.

      I agree that emotional and mental needs always take the backseat to economic needs in Africa. Obvious reasons being it’s the third world and basic survival is a real challenge. However, I do believe that both ends can be met through initiatives that do not separate emotional well-being from financial security. For instance, there are many programs to empower women or help women start small businesses but they lack counseling or motivational aspects. I guess we have to see it as a dynamic process. If a woman can be financially secure, her self-esteem will improve and that is important for overcoming trauma. At the same time, women with higher self-esteem and self-belief are more likely to take proactive actions like starting their own business.

      That was lengthy, but I’m confident that’s how we should be approaching these issues in Africa. What do you think?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The psychological impact of her experiences is heart-wrenching. For a 22 year old to have already given up on intimacy, a closeness that usually comes into the aid in the most challenging of times, is truly sad. What’s even more sad is the fact that there are countless more stories like this with no apparent end to the phenomenon that is gender violence. I urge fellow readers and contributors to the to take some time and talk of potential solutions that can be adopted successfully in different parts of the world.

    I’ll begin by sharing a news article on steps being taken in East Africa to curb female genital mutilation: http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/News/Kenya–Tanzania-police-team-up-against-FGM/1840340-3474198-pv76jz/index.html

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    1. Hi Ex, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I read the article you posted and it’s consoling to see that the police are actively engaged in combating FGM. I think the biggest challenge with gender violence in the African context is society itself. Culture is placed on pedestal, before reason and justice. It makes it very difficult for many initiatives to combat abuse reach success.

      I think it’s important to first start the dialogue so that we can burst the cultural bubble of silence surrounding gender violence and you have made that important step today! Let’s keep fighting!

      Like

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