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  • Terry Gobanga

#HeForShe


#HeForShe is a solidarity campaign for the advancement of gender equality initiated by UN. Its goal is to achieve equality by encouraging both genders to partake as agents of change and take action against negative stereotypes and behaviors.


After my gang rape ordeal, I was taken to a renowned therapist who was to counsel me amidst my devastation and loss of hope in humanity as many survivors would experience in early stages of rape aftermath. Going for the session was hard enough, sitting in a stranger’s office retelling my ordeal was draining as I had narrated the incident too many times to different people in authority that I had to despite my ordeal being such a public affair. I however had to do it since the therapist came in highly recommended and had been paid. I felt like I could not let down the people who organized for my sessions with this extremely busy therapist who had to make time for my serious case.


I began the session with a lot of skepticism and halfway through the session, I realized she was an amazing listener who sat through as I relieved the heinous act, tears flowed freely as she passed the box of tissue to me. When I was done, she asked me to stand up and look at a mirror on one wall in her office. I thought to myself that was odd. Being a counselor, I thought I would have done it differently maybe, say something before asking my client to look at herself on the mirror, something to build up to that moment maybe? She asked me as I stared myself uncomfortably if I see any scar on my face, “no”, I answered. “exactly, you are fine, you are still beautiful, your worth hasn’t changed, you are still Terry, unless you allow the rapists to change all that about you.” I felt lost with what she said. Yes, I had no scar on my face but oh I had so many scars in my heart and my thoughts that I had no idea what to do with them. I felt as if they were deeply engraved and will forever be apart of me actively engaging with them on a daily basis not forgetting about my knife stab scar though not on my face.


The therapist proceeded and led me to one corner of her magnificently set up office where she had a human size dummy of a man. She asked me to close my eyes and think about my rape ordeal and put myself in the scenario once again. Standing behind me, talking in variations of voice depending with the agenda she was pushing at the time, she began to tell me, she knows how angry I am with men, how men can be so mean, how wrong it was for the rapist and how angry I am and went on to ask me to release my anger. Tears streaming down my face, I remember feeling some type of way, yes, I was very angry but not with all men.


My late father was a darling of a dad to me and my brother as well. The two male figures in my life were nothing short of affectionate and caring men. I found her angle misleading or maybe I was in denial being in such a state, I thought to myself. She instructed me to release my anger on the dummy. I tried but I was not successful with even one blow… It was unnatural for me. At the time of the rape, I fought with all I had, but away from that situation I just could not, maybe I was too tired after my runs narrating my story, maybe I was too critical wit the therapist generalizing all men, maybe it just wasn’t a practice in my culture since she was coming from a completely different culture. In tears I told her I needed to leave, which she thought I was overwhelmed by emotions of thoughts of that day. Truth is, I felt overwhelmed with cocktail of emotions from walking back in time of that day’s happenings and the distance I had covered and little the little hope I had, going to a renowned therapist only for me to discover we cannot work together. I never went back for the remaining 4 therapy sessions.


Unfortunately, not all ladies have my kind of narrative with the men they have been exposed to in their earlier life and so in the case of sexual abuse and maybe that method of counselling would work, but, I still do not think a therapist should lead anyone in the direction of generalizing and maybe the lady has a terrible past and it’s playing out in her line of duty.


You see when counseling with anyone in whichever situation it is important for, we as therapists need to first understand the cultural background of the counselee to avoid imposing your own biases and generalizations. Also, just because it worked with another client it does not mean it will work with another. It is good we have studied about counselling but book knowledge only at times can get us in trouble. Book knowledge is good but should contextualized to suit each case as long as values are not being violated.


Stereotyping is not inclusion and can never help while pushing an agenda. If there is anything I hold on to dearly is working with men as I work amongst children and teens who have been abused or on matters prevention. I have encountered the worst of men in fact many of them who have turned into prey instead of protector to their very own children. Fathers who rape their children, brothers who rape their own sisters and fathers who refuse to turn in their sons in the name of protecting their family but instead end up raising a rapist in their little corner.


I have also met good men, case in point: a dad brought his daughter to us at the safe house after a rape ordeal. The daughter had been raped on her way to school and after being found dragged she was taken to a hospital and parents informed. After release from hospital the father came to us, but the father was in a worse off state. His home was miles away and he had come all the way just so that his daughter can get help and get it quickly. He was ready to do whatever it took for the sake of his daughter, #HeForShe.


We have also encountered liars. There is this girl who said she was raped, and the area chief confirmed it with a quack doctor just so that she could benefit from the scholarship that comes when the girls are under our program. All this was set up by the aunt, who was framing the husband who is an uncle to the girl. Thank God for children’s innocence we were able to establish it’s a lie and the man’s charges were dropped. These are just different cases portraying different extremes of how men and women can be conniving and amazing at the same time. #HeForShe in my own opinion works if we would all go back and turn our faces to what humanity looked like, genuine empathy and model it to the next generation. Humanity does not change with centuries, but ways to show it can change.


If something is wrong, let’s point it out as opposed to giving random accusations that are baseless like putting the blame on the lady because of her choice of dress that lured the rapist or on the flip side accusing a man of being a rapist just because of his looks or his physique. Rape is faceless. We cannot identify it before the act, neither can we wish it away, but we can work together. Together, he for she is a beautiful movement that reminds us to fight for each other, to look out for each other. This same spirit would caution us against taking videos when one is being assaulted but instead do something about it.


You may be asking, “What can I do to help? All of us can plug in and play a role from whichever sector, public sector (governments,) private sector (big businesses and companies) and academia, you can stop it, you can stop another from doing it, you can report it, you can talk against it, you can support those doing the work to prevent or help victims, you can disengage from derogatory language when speaking to or about ladies, yes you can. We are counting on each and every man and woman to rise up to this call and together let’s bring back the face of humanity and attack faceless rape together.


I’m not oblivious to the fact that we can’t cure the entire society with only half the society rising up, but then I’m positive that we can begin somewhere as this fight is within our reach, we can do something now for posterity’s sake and we don’t need complicated structures put in place. We just need a sober dosage of humanity rising in each person.


Reports indicate that one of the most high-profile areas of prevalent gender-based and sexual violence has been at university campuses. Perhaps that study is not comprehensive enough because from my experience working with survivors of sexual assault, I have observed that the highest percentages have been our homes with children under 12. Protectors have become prey. Too bad this age group can be cowed to silence, they are threatened by those who provide for them and so reporting in most cases is only done by few parents who have refused to wear the face of rape together with the rapist. Whenever you don’t stand up to a rapist, you rape the victim twice.



Comment and let’s here stories of he for she in your community or your life.

See you next week for another Warrior Wednesday!

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