By Thandekile Moyo
I WAS a very sensitive child. Everything used to touch me deeply. I remember sobbing so hard that I couldn’t breathe, the first time I watched the movie “Jesus of Nazareth”.
My poor little mind could neither understand nor stand the injustice of it all. The images of “Jesus” tumbling down the streets with a huge cross on his back and a crown of thorns on his head are firmly etched in my memory.
Loyalty has always been important to me, so naturally, I was both shocked and devastated by Peter’s denial of his messiah and Judas Iscariot’s ultimate betrayal. That was my first realisation of what a cruel, unfair and unjust world we live in.
For some reason, I have always been drawn to sad movies. Heartbreaking movies that wrench my heart and make me cry till my head aches. I remember watching the movie “A Time to Kill” back in 1997. It was about a 10-year-old black girl who was brutally raped by two young white men on her way to the grocery store. When her father held her in his arms, she cried and said to him: “I’m sorry daddy, I dropped the groceries…” At some point, she told her father: “I called for you daddy when they were hurting me, but you never came.” The father armed himself and gunned down the two men who had so violently desecrated his little girl’s body and innocence. I wept bitterly throughout that movie as it exposed injustice after injustice of the society we live in.
The NewsDay of Zimbabwe carried a story about a lady called *Rudo on July 2, 2015. She was raped by five different men between the ages of six and 18. These were all men she knew, men who were supposed to love and protect her. One was a pastor who took her in, another was a neighbour and the others were relatives.
While anyone can be a victim of rape, it is sad that most victims of rape, for some reason, are vulnerable to repeat sex attacks. Studies have shown that rape victims are most likely to be assaulted again so it is not strange or surprising to hear one person talking about being raped multiple times by different men. In our African societies where rape and rape talk is still considered taboo, many perpetrators remain free and are most likely to rape again. Mothers cover up the rape of their daughters by their boyfriends or husbands, grandmothers protect their sons who rape helpless nieces and society views victims of rape with suspicion and at times impatience.
Our masochistic African culture teaches us to respect men and this sometimes throws women straight into the hands of assailants.
At a hotel here in Harare, I once bumped into a man from back home who I held in high esteem. He insisted that it would be rude of me not to sit down for a drink with him and, as a naive small town girl that I am, I agreed. I asked for a Coke and he laughed and insisted that I was old enough to have an adult drink with him and I shouldn’t be shy. I then ordered a glass of wine and I soon realised I had walked straight into the lair of a predator.
I managed to quickly get myself out of the situation but I have always wondered what would have happened had he managed to get me drunk and raped me. How would I have explained my being with him at a hotel? How many people would have bought the ‘naive small town girl story’? Had he raped me, if ever I had mastered the courage to report him, I would probably have been accused of tarnishing the reputation of a respectable family man. The thought of the inevitable drama and trauma would have probably led me to keep the rape to myself and find ways to cope or forget about it.
This scenario above makes me wonder how many women have been raped and felt it was easier not to tell anyone.
Most women have gone for sleepovers with their boyfriends with no intention of ‘sleeping with’ them. I shudder to think how many innocent girls who thought they were just going for a romantic night of cuddling, talking and maybe a kiss or two came face to face with lust-filled monsters who pounced on them and savagely forced themselves on them. How does a college girl explain to her conservative parents that she was raped by her boyfriend at a sleepover? The fact that she even has a boyfriend is enough to turn her from victim to “slut”.
This shaming of women makes it impossible for a young lady to imagine being understood if she told anyone she went to a nightclub and woke up naked in a stranger’s bed after her drink was spiked with the ‘rape drug’. The idea of having her morals questioned for being in a nightclub in the first place, probably skimpily dressed, is enough for a young lady not to report rape.
Women are attacked daily by their bosses at work, by lecturers, landlords, boyfriends and friends but society still chooses not to believe victims of rape. Our precious little babies are torn apart, physically and emotionally, by paedophile fathers but a mother will be accused of bitterness towards the perpetrator and treated like a monstrous villain for reporting child sexual abuse.
In Zimbabwe, we have a branch of the police mistakenly called the ‘Victim Friendly Unit’. It is actually a ‘Perpetrator Friendly Unit’ as they are extremely hostile and insensitive to victims. Any victim will tell you that reporting rape to the police is the worst part of their ordeal.
It beats me how, as women, we are the first to attack anyone who screams ‘rape’. My fellow sisters seem to be unaware of the fact that, one way or another, in a woman’s life, a man will force himself upon her, or at the very least try. Whether we say it out or not, we have all been, or we shall all be, victims of sexual crimes.