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  • Terry Gobanga

PUNCTURED INNOCENCE



#SheForShe

This week we continue celebrating our Olmuranis (Warriors).

Melinda (not her real name) was brought to us devasted after a rape ordeal that saw her mother walk away from her at the tender age of 5 years.

Let’s pick it from where it all began. One morning, Melinda left for school as usual, what was to be a normal day, turned out to be unusual because her teacher, Ms Mary noticed that she was struggling to walk and her school uniform was wet at the back. Melinda hadn’t told anyone what had happened and when the teacher tried to prod and find out if she was okay, her response was, “I’m fine”

Something had changed in her contagious laughter and bright smile but the little girl maintained that everything was okay. Miss Mary shared her concerns with the Principal and they immediately sprung in action. They took her to a nearby clinic where she was checked and found to have been sexually abused. Her genitalia had been torn and no wonder her walking style. Blood and a clear liquid like water was oozing from her.

Something had been done to an innocent soul and she was afraid of telling her mother lest she falls into trouble. After the children’s therapist was brought in and spent some time with her, she came out of the room almost shedding tears and reported how the session went. In her report she detailed the events that unfolded in that terrible night. One thing that stood out for us was the perpetrator.

Melinda’s dad did it, she raped her own daughter. Where was the mother you would ask? She had gone to comfort a nearby friend who was grieving having lost her daughter. We received a call from the hospital and whenever we receive a call from them, our hearts begin to break even before we get to the details because it’s always a rape ordeal case and they call us either for counseling or to see if we have room in our safe house. Thank God we had an unoccupied bed and we could take her in, instead of her being taken to just any other children safe house that does not specifically deal with rape cases since we have seen many rape survivors getting lost in such environment. A problem not solved does not disappear. The child might look well for some time, but after a while what was not dealt with will appear in different way even in their adult life and only until the counselor or the counselee is able to pin point the genesis of where it all began, it will be very hard to have a productive life.

When Melinda was brought to us, she was sad and shy. She held on tightly to the social worker who brought her. We were briefed on the legal bit, how far they had gone as they were handing her over to us. She already had her OB number for the police reporting, meaning a file had been opened for her. The area chief had been notified and he is the one who led the police to Melinda’s house but he had disappeared. They found the mother was, who seemed to be very shocked with the news and wanted to find out more by talking to her daughter. She was given time to talk to her and all we were told that she left the hospital crying that she cannot go back home with Melinda.

Once settled in, I called the mother trying to find out how she is holding up because once Melinda had completed our program and was ready to be taken back home. I know from a lot of years of experience, it is easier for a survivor to heal and cope well with support that comes from a familiar environment. Therefore, whenever possible we try as much as we can to involve a trusted relative in the journey of healing. When I talked her, she seemed broken and inconsolable and she told me that she had not spoken to the husband as she does not know his whereabouts. The next day, Melinda woke up in pain but we had her medication and know how we take care of our little warriors especially in their settling in stage which is always their hardest as it would be expected. Their little minds wonder where they are and what happened to them and why did it happen. However, this was a unique case of twisted assault she wondered, “why did my protector turn into a predator?”

Once she took her bath, she kept asking for her mom and when we called the mother, we let her know she is on speaker because our main aim is to ensure we are protecting the child. She was seemed happy to talk to her, she asked her again as I came to learn later what happened and Melinda started crying immediately saying “daddy is the one who slept on me and hurt me” she kept saying “it was painful, and he told me, if I tell you or anyone, he will kill you and I will be left without a mother”. Her father used intimidating fear to silence her daughter not to tell her mother anything in the morning.

On the fateful morning, the mother was so tired after spending the night consoling her friend and the “dear” husband asked her to sleep so that he could prepare the baby for school. According to Melinda, the dead threatened her even more with dire consequences if she dared open her mouth. I was kind of preempted the mother’s reaction and I was ready for it. She began shouting hysterically, “You are a liar! your father can never do that!”, I immediately took the phone and walked to a different room. I asked her why she would put such burden on her daughter. She yelled at me and asked me, why I’m I breaking her home because her husband can never do that. I maintained my composure and focused on the facts by telling her, to go with the husband to the police and record their statements and let the husband submit his DNA so that the police can compare it with what was found in their daughter. She hung up on me and I wasn’t able to communicate with her as her phone was permanently on voicemail.

Three months after that incident, I got a phone call, it was Melinda’s mum. Amid tears she told me that she and her husband had gone to Mombasa, the coastal part of the country and that she regrets her actions. She had come back to her senses and she is fully convinced that it is the husband who raped their daughter and now she wants to come back to Nairobi city and report him. I was so happy to hear from her and I encouraged her to do the right thing.

The police had police had been hunting them from the time both of them disappeared. It was a relief to know that a child predator was going to pay for his crime and hopefully get rehabilitated as he takes stock of his life. I sent her finances she required to help her with transportation and she was to come the next day. Three days later, we had not heard from her and the number she had used was disconnected. Maybe she had a change of heart, or so we thought, but little did we know that the worst had happened. She was murdered!

Neighbors claim that the husband murdered her and then fled to Uganda, a neighboring country to hide there. Such a horrible twist in this stinking ordeal. Thank God we had not told Melinda that we had established communication with the mother and she had stopped asking about her. Her body was later on brought to Nairobi by her relatives and she was buried at Langata cemetery. I celebrate our little warrior because 1 years 3 months later, she is going on strong and her smile is back brighter than ever. We did go for her mum’s funeral because it is necessary closure but was major setback in her healing journey. All the same it had to be done. Glad we did it.

Today we can only say, were it not for our team’s prayers, partners support and Melinda’s will to keep fighting, we do not know how this situation would have turned. God has continued to watch over her and she is doing well. She is an ‘orphan’ but her beautiful smile radiates to all that meet her. We celebrate every rape survivor who continues to fight daily for the survival to just see another day through the motions. We love you and we are cheering you on.

See you next week for another Warrior Wednesday!

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