In this land of red, green and black, crime isn’t new. It isn’t rare either. A phone here, a purse there, a wallet here is not something to exactly tremor about. It happens, we say. However for most Kenyan females, one specific crime scares us straight and tearless. Rape! I know that many of us ladies would rather die or be completely penniless after a robbery than have a stranger steal the most sacred and secret part of you. I know I’d trade everything to give home untouched, as pure as I left. But sadly, we are not all so lucky. According to statistics, one in four Kenyan women are raped every year. Even with this large number of rape victims only a handful ever visit the hospital or the police station after the ordeal. Rape and defilement remain widespread but somehow muted issues in our community. Even with the publicizing of some monumental cases of rape and defilement through the media and all the subsequent debate, some ladies are still bared down by their shame and other heavy emotions that come from such an ordeal they find themselves unable to come forward to seek both help and eventually justice. I understand these women to some extent.We would always rather not recall such gruesome events at all. However, in the interest of his next victim and the one after that, surely we must say something, do something in order to change how things are.(Or at least ensure that one rapist is off our streets) To do that first, we inform ourselves!
What is Rape? What is defilement? And when can you assert with certainty that such a crime has been committed against you?
Rape is, simply, sexual intercourse with an adult without valid consent. Defilement constitutes sexual intercourse with a minor below the age of 18. The key word here is valid. So Uhmm No, sir that drunken slurry unrecognizable mumble does not count as valid consent. Intoxication and unconsciousness invalidate sexual consent as the party may not be fully aware of their actions or their consequences. If you don’t recall giving clear and valid consent, then you are a victim of rape. Don’t panic, keep reading!
What do you do when you have established you are a victim of rape?
First things first. Find a safe place to stay, preferably far away from the offender. Call some one you trust such a family member or a friend. Alternatively, call a rape hot-line you know of. if you don’t know any, well what are you waiting for! Follow this link to a number of helplines in different towns in Kenya which are useful for not only rape but other human rights violations.
Next, you must preserve all physical evidence of the assault. This means; Do NOT take a shower, bathe, eat, drink , wash your hands or brush your teeth until you have been examined by a medical practitioner. Save all the clothing you were wearing during the incident as is in a paper (not polythene or plastic) bag. You also should seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY. Many of the worst health side effects of rape can be mitigated or treated if the victim is able to get medical attention fast enough. Also, professionals are able to take appropriate steps towards the prevention of STI transmission from the offender to the victim and also subsequent pregnancy. So even though you may not want to report the matter to the police, it is still very important you see a doctor as quickly after the incident as you can. Where you suspect that you were drugged (date rape), ask your doctor to take a drug test to confirm or deny the same.
Then, write as much of the incident as you remember.Try to ensure you leave out no details. After this, it is important for you to make a few decisions such as whether to report to the police, tell your friends and family, what effect the news will have on your family, et cetera. To make these decisions, I recommend you call the help line again. These foundations have professionals who deal especially in such cases and will understand as well as shed some much needed light on your situation and the way forward.
Finally, even though you may not be open to publicizing your ordeal, the help and listening ear of a professional such as a counselor. What you went through was in no way your fault. Not your dressing, not the way you walk or speak, not your hair, just not you. People say ‘Bad things happen to good people’ which is true but it is also true that ‘BAD PEOPLE DO BAD THINGS’. It is not your job to tone yourself down just in case a predator somewhere can not control himself. Women may be smarter but men have brains too and in a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to pay for his lack of self control.However, this world is far from perfect and sometimes bad things happen to undeserving people like you and me. So the best we can do is get up dust ourselves off and move forward. And maybe one day, when enough women have spoken out the penalty for this offense will be some punishment worthy of our collective innocence and pain, and of those that suffered before us and those before them.
How I avoid potential rape?
First, always remember that rape never was, never is and never will be your fault. So if you were to be raped, it is 100% the rapist’s fault. You can avoid the danger,
but in the end, there is nothing you could possibly do that would cause or justify this act. The next is to stay safe in social situations. This involves being aware of your surroundings at all times especially late at night and early in the morning. Avoid using electronics while alone; they distract you and make you an easy target. It also involves not leaving your food and drink unattended in public places. It is also advisable to travel with a group of friends and stick together. Ladies, there is strength in numbers.
You must also be assertive while in public. Do not let cat-callers and the like turn you around, confuse and intimidate you. Ensure that you keep sensitive personal information off social media sites and in private. Be careful even with verbal sharing such information, as a significant fraction of rape victims already knew their rapists before the ordeal. Always ensure you travel with at least one fully charged phone so that you are able to call for help in times of emergency. Trust your instincts; Women have excellent gut instincts and you know ‘if it quacks like a duck…’ When you feel trapped, you are advised not to settle or give up. Make an effort to shout and scream as loud as you can for as long as you can. Draw as much attention as you can to yourself.
Changing your dressing or cutting your hair short is not a credible way to deter rapists. It has nothing to do with that. If you own a self defense weapon, carry it only if you know how to use it. Last but not least, look out for a sister today, tomorrow a sister will look out for you. Do not ignore potential rape situations involving another female. Try to intervene calmly if the situation has not yet escalated to violent or call for help immediately if it has.
What can you do to help?
Well, the first is to be informed; which now you are. The next would be to inform others. Share this helpful information with your friends. You never know who you’ll help.
Basically, Be enlightened, Be empowered, Be emmboldened.