Those who have experienced rape will forever and a day live through it. They will never forget how it transpired. Sometimes it was by a stranger, or friend, relative or spouse. The horror of non-consensual penetration lives to gnaw their minds always. And nobody knows about this but them. There is no amount of therapy that can cure the antipathy that they will feel towards their assailants, because rape ruins one’s life. Counselling will not be sufficient to wish the ordeal away like it never happened. You cannot forget being strangled, having your clothes ripped off, and have somebody crucify you to the ground, hit you, and rape you while you taste your own blood. It will take an eternity to put that behind you- to even have sex later on. To wake up every morning and realizing that it wasn’t a dream, that it actually happened. Nothing can obliterate that from memory.
Crystal is one such girl. She was my deskmate in primary school. The much I remember about Crystal is her shyness, especially when it came to boys. Even I, her desk mate, was treated with a measure of restraint. All she cared about was school work. She is the kind that broke down when she got a 90% in Mathematics, when I barely managed half of that. Little wonder she found her way into Engineering school.
Nine years have passed swiftly since I last saw her, and our paths crossed recently, when I was to pen her story. I wish we had reunited under different circumstances. Perhaps then, I would be writing about something merrier than her three incidences of rape, her unsuccessful attempt to abort a child, and rejection from her family and friends.
Her first sexual experience was rape at a funeral. It was one starry cloudless night in December 2008 when someone grabbed her from behind, gagged her mouth with one hand and dragged her behind a thicket with the other. He broke her hymen that night. It wasn’t rosy, the sun wasn’t shining and it wasn’t heavenly as she had planned her first time to be. He tore her clothes hurriedly, and made his way into her. Ignoring her whimpers and calls for mercy, he pinned her down the tree of knowledge and forced the forbidden fruit down her throat. It didn’t last long. A village drunk singing his inebriated lungs out came their way, and scared him away just as soon as he was starting to enjoy himself. Even though he didn’t last long, he lasted long enough to scar her for life. She had gone up country to lay her uncle to rest in peace.
Her embarrassment kept her mum. She didn’t mention her misfortune to anyone. It became a secret that she battled with in her conscience. Being the reserved person she was, nobody could tell that she was slowly drifting away into depression. However, she grew scared of the dark like a child. Nights reminded her of the thief in the dark who stole her innocence. She couldn’t bring herself to walk at night, but once she joined campus, she was forced to. And that is how she met a familiar fate in September 2011.
She was walking home from school that evening, having alighted from a matatu. There was a gentleman who alighted with her, and he was a few paces behind. He seemed to be trailing her, so she broke into a run, but the man caught up with her. One thing she remembers about him was his height. He was tall, rough, and had a simple way of making Crystal give in to his demands. A knife. He placed it on her throat and led her to a soccer field where there was no human traffic. She had to comply in fear for her life. The knife made a pretty convincing argument to keep calm. If she made as much as a sniff, he would slit her throat. She could barely breath so much as she could move- the sharp edge of the knife suffocated her voice, and for the next twenty minutes or so, history repeated itself.
Luckily for her, she had just completed her menses. She couldn’t get pregnant, and a test at Kenyatta National Hospital did not reveal any form of infections. Again, she kept it to herself.
When you have been raped twice, you start to view things from a different perspective. You wonder whether God exists, and if He does, whether there is any point in believing in Him. Where was He when she whispered His name as she got ravaged, praying that He would give a damn or perhaps just listen? Did He ignore her, or merely approved of the act? You look at men with contempt and view romance with skeptical cynicism. She became clumsy; tripped over the idea of sex, landed on the notion trust and crushed it to smithereens.
She changed her dress code- wore loose uninviting jeans to dissuade boys from paying attention to her. She didn’t wear make-up. She wanted herself raw, and unattractive. But it never worked. One night (November 2011, just two months later) when she was leaving the campus study hall, two boys pounced on her. It was midnight, and the only reason she was there so late was because a lecturer had announced an impromptu CAT to be written the following morning. She had to study, but then lost track of time.
The boys helped each other to undress her. This time, she didn’t struggle. It seemed like destiny had made up its mind that her first three sexual encounters would be non-consensual. It was a situation she had become all too familiar with by now. She knew the drill. So she let them carry her to the back of the hall and let one of the boys do what he thought he did well, the little way he did it. When he was done, he rose, and while buckling his belt, nudged her with a slight kick and said;
“Crystal, this is no time for little girls like you to be walking around.” He called her by name, he knew her.
When they left, she sat on a bench sobbing away the pain in her crotch that was still smudged with his sperm. Crouching on her seat with bruises smirching her wrists; her abdomen sore inside; and her lower back and buttocks afire with what felt like rug burn, she cried. She sat there till morning, and went to class, only to be told that the lecturer had called off the CAT.
This time, she couldn’t keep to herself even if she wanted to. One month later her periods went missing, and the doctor at Kenyatta National Hospital said she would be sick for nine months. She was heavy with child. She could only hide her predicament for so long until her belly began to grow. Then it became obvious that she was pregnant. That is when all began to go south.
Her sister with whom she was living with, and a mother of two, claimed that her constant retching made her queasy. Her own mother shunned her. She didn’t believe the rape story and treated her pregnancy as a manifestation of loose lifestyle in campus. The stigma drove out her senses, and she tried to abort the baby. It backfired- she bled for a week, but the baby lived. For nine months they made her feel like she was cut off from the dirtiest piece of shit they could find. The jury was in; she was a black sheep- a social leper. So she deferred schooling and moved out to fend for herself and her baby.
When we met the other day, I met the little one too- her name is Audrey. She is exactly a year and a month old now. Just the same period of time since Crystal last broke bread with her family. She got a soft loan from a friend and ventured into shoe and car business, don’t ask. So far so good. She (Crystal) doesn’t intend on going back to engineering school after all that has happened. Rape claimed most of her dreams. She has cursed her assailants, all three of them. She hopes that their pillows file a restraining order against their dreams, and that their shadows realize that they are not creatures worth following.
At the same time, she hopes to one day forgive her mother. Little Audrey has rubbed off the swastika that she once tattooed across her heart, and reminded her of what the world feels like. She thinks of the father of her daughter and hopes that rape is not an inheritable trait. She hopes that men will one day look at her and see past the good looks and wet hole. And by God she hopes that Audrey’s future will not be a replay of her existence.
If her story is true, then she is the unluckiest person I know. Any time I think that I need a break from life, I remember Crystal’s story and realize that it could have been worse. When I asked her how she copes with the memories, she pointed at little Audrey and said;
“I look at the brighter side of it all.”