#SheForShe #IStandWithHer #NoMore #ConsentIsMandatory #ToTheGirls #BelieveSurvivors #ClothesAreNotConsent #Awareness #StandUpAndBeCounted #TogetherWeCan Someone once said that a woman’s greatest enemy is another woman. While that may be debatable, it is interesting to see how many women fight women on matters sexual abuse. Many women have gone through sexual assault and abuse in one way or another but find it hard to stand with one going through it or have gone through it and years later decided to come forth and speak about it. Once I was in a national choir and it was common knowledge that our leader had to sleep with women in order to qualify for trips abroad. What shocked me was how women hated on each other whenever it was their turn to be summoned to the office and finally to the choir master’s home. Most of us if not all of us knew what was happening, but no one dared speak lest you lose you opportunity to travel. Many considered travelling was better than to lose a part of themselves, after all, this cannot be considered as rape since no one forced, at least not how the word is defined. There was one lady who had stood her ground and had not traveled despite being in the team for many years and she was an amazing singer. I was a newbie, fresh from high school. All eyes were on the newbies from the choirmaster to the guys in the team, fresh meat tastes so good they said. The lady did not speak it out loudly, but she confided in me. When my day came to be called to the office, it unfolded exactly as she had told me it would. She had said when my day comes, I would be summoned and told I need more practice and then I will be asked to visit our leader’s home where it will all go down. At least she took time to say something to me. So, when my home invitation came, I gave excuse after excuse. You see, that is not speaking out, yes, you have helped yourself what about the others coming after you? Days that followed, insults were thrown in my direction about anything and everything, I was no longer the young beautiful girl with a golden voice.
One day when we were singing in the auditorium, our choirmaster insulted me of how I sang as he stood right in front of me with his short frame and swiftly as my father taught me to put value on myself, I picked my tall frame up, and raised my voice just to the level of bringing order and I said, “sir just because I refused your home invitation, it does not warrant for you to call me names” Everyone knew what this meant. The man was not only shocked that some young random girl had the nerve to speak to him in front of the entire group, but he was baffled, and tongue tied. Two things happened on that day; I quit the choir and secondly, I empowered another woman who would become a victim to get her voice and say no! Around the same year, I was called for basketball to play for a certain club. I was excited just how many doors were opening for me and I felt like a super star. Every evening we used to go to the club’s grounds for practice. We had such a good time, training with my teammates. Our coach was amazing except for one thing, he would shout and not just shout but he was very vulgar while at it. This was such a turn off for me, but I sucked it in knowing just how much I needed to play for this team. With each passing day, abnormal begins to sound and look normal if not dealt with on the onset. But still there was something about his choice of words that were just a bit too strong for me. I have never appreciated one being called names or being criticized in a condescending manner or body shaming of whatever kind. I was picked on a lot growing up because of my height and basically being an early bloomer. He called people names while criticizing how they are running picking on different parts of their bodies and saying how they should reduce that and the other while screaming on top of his lungs. One day as usual while others are doing push-ups, I would do anything else as I have a weak arm due to a fracture that I sustained as a kid. On this day I was to do laps round the field and as usual the coach shouted my name, “Terry!” but what followed did not sit well with me… “move you’re a** and your weak bones, no meat on your hips…. If you ate better, you could have more meat to support your frame… your b***s should confuse people on the field so that they look at them as you go to score”. As usual all the other ladies burst out in laughter as they went on with their work out. I was so hurt and as I tried to continue running my legs were giving way because my heart was carrying the weight of the body shaming. Coach shouted again “f*** you tall one, run like the giraffe you are”. “Oh no sir!” I have just but heard it. All this whispering within me. I waited for someone who has been there longer to speak on my behalf, but no one did. Tears started streaming down my face, but no one came to console me. I was young and afraid, I stopped running went to the benches where I had placed my bag, picked it up and started going. My vision was blurry, the coach shouted at me and said, “If you walk out of here, know you can never come back.” I got my chance and told him, “I wasn’t desperate to be in the team”, and I kept on walking away. I got to my locker, changed without taking a shower and never went back. Did I give another woman her voice back? At the time I did not know I did, all I knew was no one was allowed to call me names or anyone else for that matter, nor body shame. No one should be too desperate to be reduced to a state of feeling unworthy.
Sometime after my rape ordeal, I boarded a bus and the person collecting bus fare was not treating a certain lady well who was carrying a child. Finally, when the lady was meant to disembark the man did not stop the vehicle instead went past the lady’s designated stop. He did this just to intentionally inconvenience the lady. I felt a surge of anger rise up within me because I remember hearing the lady ask the bus conductor if he would stop the vehicle at a certain stop because she was a nursing mother and he gladly agreed, but now he not only decided to go back on his word, but also charged this lady a higher fare than the stipulated amount on that route. OH MY!, the loud gongs in my head were reverberating so hard, my mouth was shaking, I was battling with my tongue. I was torn on whether I should say something or just mind my own business. Unfortunately, my tongue slid out of its parking spot and I said, “You know that is wrong, you have over charged this lady, you have also made her miss her stop and she has a child!”. The man gave me a look I will never forget and the words that followed were “You are the kind of women who want to be raped”. Huh, excuse me… I thank God for salvation because you can only go so far. I retorted and told the man, “You are joking, and you do not know who you are talking to!”, I was just me, Terry, but I knew whose I was, I commanded him to go to the police station otherwise he will face the consequences of his actions and words. He continued arguing and I insisted that we need to go to the police station because it is wrong to be disrespectful to passengers. One thing about my height is that some people assume that I’m a cop, so I commanded a whole mini-bus to go to the police station. We got there and thankfully I met a policewoman who had my back. She called me into a separate room after hearing the accusations I gave against the man and she told me, that I don’t have a case because it’s my word against his, but I did well to make the man sweat a little. She came to the waiting area and scolded the man took his details down and told him he is now in their record. She advised the other lady and I not to get back in that mini-bus and 3 other women alighted and boarded another. All of us who decided to use alternative means were reimbursed our cash in full. I had just empowered another woman and the policewoman had added volume to my voice by backing me up and giving that man a stern warning.
One day I was coming from a shut in (kesha) around 4 am. I was tired and God presence was mighty in that church that had invited me. I got in the car and all I wanted to do was to sleep as my P.A drives me home. As we got in the car, she took over her usual way to ensure I am comfortable and began praying, thanking God for a wonderful time in His presence and for a refreshing upon my life after releasing so much virtue. About 8 minutes into our drive, we saw a lady getting out of a car in front of us and the driver quickly following her. We had not reached the highway, so we were in the estate with bumpy roads and the car was not moving too fast. I asked my PA Medina to stop the car and we started praying for her safety since where she alighted. I counted 11 men sitting under a makeshift shed with their motorbikes as they were waiting to get clients to be transported home. I opened my window trying to listen to their conversation, the lady was screaming saying this man wants to rape her because he insists on taking a different route as opposed to her preferred destination. The man kept saying the lady has not paid her while roughing her up. I sat there motionless and again I felt like I was staring at death in the face and it took me back to my ordeal. These were even more men, how was I going to resolve this and yet I was one woman in the middle of so many, but yet I wouldn’t forgive myself if I went on my way and something happens to this lady. So many thoughts raced through my mind. Immediately we finished praying, I asked Medina, “What are we supposed to do in this situation?” Remember time is running out, it so cold and pitch black. By this time all the men had stood up, pushing the lady left and right pulling her jumper telling her to pay or they will show her how it is done. We just couldn’t drive away, I told Medina, “I am going out, lock the car and in case something happens, drive to the nearest police station and get some help.” I stepped out and oh Jesus my height came to the rescue there was instant silence, all eyes on me. My legs were getting weak, but I kept encouraging myself as I walked to the shed where the lady was sandwiched. Thank God for my voice too, because it also has a lower tone. “What is going on here?” I spoke like the Kenyan police stereo type, looking at the men direct in their eyes and I could see fear creeping in. I inched towards the lady and I held her firmly and told her stand next to me. The lady was crying, shouting hysterically, “Thank you! Thank you! They want to beat me and rape me! Thank you!” To look like I know what I am doing, I instructed her to keep quiet and continued to interrogate the men. Thank God no one remembered to ask me for my identification. The man began to explain himself and while others would try to interject and say something, I would move very close to them and ask if they knew the lady, the man or about the case and their answer would be no. So, I commanded them to move further away since I only want to talk to the two parties involved. I realized we were not going to make any meaningful progress because all of them had contradicting accounts of the same story. I told them that we will proceed to the police station and sort out the matter there.
The man who moments earlier was playing tough guy, was now pleading for us not to go but I insisted and told the girl to get into my car and sit at the back and told the man to go before us to the police station. All this while I was wondering what I will tell the police, but I knew the girl would be safe and I had vowed not to leave her until all is sorted. We never got to the police station as the taxi man took us where he had picked the lady and another taxi man pleaded on his behalf and begged for his forgiveness. I forgave him and let him off with a warning and ensured the lady called a taxi friend of hers who took her home. I remember back in the car going home, still dark, both Medina and I were very quiet because I played the role of a police officer so well a few minutes ago. We had a good laugh about my character. The lady later got in touch to thank me for the intervention and to let me know that she reached home safely. No one is voiceless, we simply take their voices away from them. Today I encourage you to give another woman her voice back, speak on her behalf, speak to her and encourage her she can do it.
See you next week for another Warrior Wednesday…