I read a story on bella naija today, that inspired this post. The story was about a girl who was raped by her boyfriend, and how she felt she could tell no one because, they would blame her. “What was she looking for in his house”, they would say. In Africa, we do not believe that a girl has the right to visit a man, how much more, sleep over. This has changed in recent times, with folk expecting you to not only visit, but do what ever it takes to nail the guy. I remember paying a visit to my husband, before we got married. When I was leaving at 5pm, his neighbour, a lady, asked why I was leaving. Despite the fact that I assured her that my home was just an hour away, she insisted that I should spend the night. I was surprised at her insistence, knowing that my mother would skin me alive, if I disobeyed her.
My patient, who I will call Udoamaka, for the purpose of this story, was about 17 years old. She came in, looking so excited to meet a lady. I chuckled, thinking she was just being shy. She waited for my male colleague to excuse himself, before telling me her story.
“I am worried that I may be pregnant”, she began.
“When last did you see your period?”, I asked.
She was nervously biting her fingers. It took her some time to answer.”I’m still expecting it”
I was still trying to phrase my next question, bearing in mind her age, when my colleague came in.
“Can I finish up, while you attend to an emergency in the ward”, he asked.
I looked at her, and saw how her eyes widened in fear, she was shaking her head behind him.
“Let her wait a while, I don’t think she minds”, I replied. He shrugged and left.
I stepped out to do as he asked, and returned to find her waiting. Sitting in my chair, I invited her back in from the waiting lounge. She continued her story
“I had sex with a man 2 weeks ago”, she informed me.
“Okay, was it your first time?”, I asked.
“Sort of, I have a boyfriend but, we’ve never gone all the way”
“What really happened?”, I asked.
“I just want to confirm whether it was sex we had, because I don’t know what it’s supposed to feel like” I described the sexual act in graphic terms.
She nodded tersely. “I think that’s close to what happened”
“Who is this man?”, I asked.
“He’s my uncle”, she whispered.
“Uncle? Is he actually your relative?” I could not believe my ears.
“I think he’s a distant relative. He gives us money, helps my mom and I out. She usually asks me to go to his house to visit him, and help with some chores”
“Is he married?”
“His wife and children live abroad”
I took a deep breath. Some times, my job puts me under serious strain. I was praying under my breath. “Did he force you? “, I asked
“No. Each time I go there, he tries to touch me. I told my mom I don’t want to go there again, but she got angry”
“Did you tell her why?”
“I did not, because, I know she wont believe me. He is well known in the society, and very religious. People don’t know who he really is”
My heart sank inside. To have a mother who does not listen to you, has got to be the worst thing a child could go through.
“Let’s run tests for you, to rule out pregnancy, STDs, and so on”, I rang the bell for the nurse.
Few days later, she returned for the results.Fortunately, she was not pregnant, and appeared free of diseases. I advised her to confide in her mother, whether or not she would understand. Then, refuse subsequently, to pay him any visits.
“I can’t tell my mom”, she insisted.
“If you can’t tell her, tell an aunt, or someone else. People have to know what he is doing, so he won’t take advantage of some other young girl out there. Don’t accept gifts from him, stop calling him, don’t answer his calls. Live your life in such a way that if these tests are repeated, they will remain negative”
I shared this story, to raise our awareness of the role we have to play as fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, sisters, and friends. The bible counsels us to take an interest in one another’s affairs. Constantly tell young adults, that you are there for them, that their secrets are safe with you, that you will defend them even if they went wrong. Teenagers need strong role models; people who keep their word, who respect their bodies, who serve God in truth. That is the only way for change to come. Be a standard, then go ahead to show your commitment.
I used to tell my younger sisters, ‘Wait till your wedding night, but if anything happens, you can still confide in me. Even if you get pregnant, I will help you make the right decision, down to taking in that child, whatever it takes’. The truth is that no one knows the thoughts of your heart, you have to voice them.