Sophia (Rape victim) please cover the face

Rape survivor speaks, narrates three-month sex slavery ordeal

Gibson Mhaka
WHEN other young ladies would be yearning to get into marriage still virgins and boasting about the kind of men they want to have their first experience with, 19-year-old Nothando Sibanda (not her real name) will be sad and bemoaning the evil fate that befell her in 2011 when she was 15 years old.

Nothando, from Pumula East in Bulawayo, who had also vowed to go into marriage a virgin, was brutally raped by her uncle resulting in her bearing a child. Narrating her three-month rape ordeal she endured daily at the hands of her uncle, she concealed nothing saying although her 34-year-old uncle was now serving a 20-year jail term for raping her, he, however, permanently violated her right and shattered her pride of womanhood.

So touchy and emotional is her story such that she once threatened to commit suicide when she realised that she was carrying her uncle’s baby. She said her father died when she was very young and does not know any of his relatives while her mother died in 2008, leaving her in the care of the rapist uncle.

To make matters worse, her maternal relatives later disowned her for reporting the sexual abuse to the police.

Nothando’s experiences despite being heart-rending, are a graphic illustration of how rape victims can pull through if they receive support from society and that they do not have to commit suicide apparently as a way to fight post-traumatic stress disorder due to the sexual abuse.

Throughout the interview, though she appeared to be physically out of the agony, a deeper look at her revealed a distraught and psychologically shattered heart. She opened a floodgate of emotions saying she was robbed of her virginity when she was only 15 years old resulting in her bearing a child, a product of rape, who is now four years old.

She said the day she was “deflowered” was one sad day she obviously didn’t want to remember for many reasons, adding that when she tried to terminate the pregnancy the doctor told her it was impossible as it was now past 12 weeks.

“It all started in 2008 when my mother died. Upon her death my uncle took me in and I felt a ray of hope illuminating my darkened heart. Little did I know that I had it all wrong that my uncle would look after me. Instead of him being a protector he turned me into a sex slave.

“He was always physically, verbally and sexually abusing me and would not allow me to leave the house except when going to school. The only time I took a rest from his sexual abuse was when I was at school.

“All this started when his wife deserted him over his abusive behaviour and apparently I was the one who filled that bedroom gap. The sexual abuse really took away the freedom I had as a girl child. My womanhood, self esteem and pride as a girl was also taken away.

“I was always praying every night reminding my uncle of the consequences of his act, but my pleas fell on deaf ears.

A part of me also wanted to die, in fact whenever I heard that someone was dead I envied them, yet the thought of my child kept me back from committing suicide,” she said with tears coming down in a torrent.

She said since then, he had been raping her and threatening to kill her if she ever told anyone of the sexual abuse.  He was also threatening her with death for “not giving him enough sexual satisfaction”.

“He did not do it once but almost daily. Just imagine at the age of 15 I was now his sex slave. Three months down the line from the initial occasion of the sexual abuse in September I started feeling sick and vomiting and when my uncle-cum-rapist realised that I was now pregnant he prepared two litres of water mixed with vinegar and washing powder for me to drink and terminate the pregnancy. But it did not work.

“He was also threatening me saying I should not report the rape ordeal to anyone. One morning I gathered courage and approached one of our neighbours and narrated my ordeal to her. The neighbour advised me to report the matter to the police. When my uncle discovered that I had reported the matter to the police he ran away and was arrested after 12 months,” she said.

She revealed that by the time her uncle was arrested, her pregnancy was over 12 weeks old making it impossible to terminate it.

Nothando who sat for her Ordinary Level examinations in November last year said Contact Family Counselling Centre assisted her with counselling sessions. The organisation was also paying her school fees and looking after her child.

“Contact Family Counselling Centre helped me with both the emotional and financial support. I was later enrolled at Precious Life Foundation where I met girls of my age who also went through similar situations. For a year I was trained and received a diploma in Agriculture.

“As I am still waiting for the results my wish is to proceed with my education and start my own foundation to help victims of sexual abuse. I am also appealing for financial assistance to send my child to school since I am no longer receiving any from the organisations which were assisting since I am now over 18. My wish is also to be an ambassador for organisations that work with victims of sexual abuse.”

She urged the society to devote its time and financial resources in campaigning against rape and other social vices in the country.

“The issue of rape is not a joke, rape is a heinous crime, and to be raped is almost an eternal nightmare especially when one is raped by a person she looks up to as a guardian,” she said.