Welcome to the WARIF Survivor Stories Series, a monthly feature, where stories of survivors of rape and sexual violence will be shared to motivate and encourage survivors to speak their truth without the fear of judgement or stigmatization and to educate the public on the sheer magnitude of this problem in our society. The Women at Risk International Foundation (WARIF) is a non-profit organization set up in response to the extremely high incidence of rape, sexual violence and human trafficking of young girls and women in our society. WARIF is tackling this issue through a holistic approach which covers initiatives in health, education and community service.
WARIF offers assistance to survivors of rape and sexual violence through the WARIF Centre a safe haven where trained professionals are present full time, 6 days a week including public holidays to offer immediate medical care, forensic medical examinations, psycho-social counselling and welfare services which include shelter, legal aid and vocational skills training. These services are provided FREE of charge to any survivor who walks into the Centre.
This is Salamatu’s Story:
The day never showed any sign of what that night held. I was only 14 years old and full of life. I had dreams and exciting plans of all the things I wanted to be and all the things I wanted achieve. That night brought a dark covering over me and I am still trying to recover.
My name is Salamatu, I am 24years old and the only girl out of four children. I grew up in a home filled with love and peace. My dad and mum are the closest people to me in the whole world and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. They have been so supportive of me and their support gave me a reason to stay alive. I know dad and mum were really broken as a result of my ordeal because they were eyewitnesses but somehow, they are able to hold it together just so I can stay strong. I know however that they weep bitterly some nights; I’ve seen them, and I know it’s from the hurt and pain from what happened to me.
We lived in Kaduna, on X street and our house was the last one on the street. Behind us was a huge farmland which was connected to a village. A lot of people used our street as a shortcut to the village, that was the norm before the area was developed. To protect ourselves from the
people passing by, we got guard dogs. This worked because once the people passing heard the dogs bark, they were quick to cross.
The morning of the assault, my mum and I went on a shopping spree because my birthday was coming up. I bought a lot of things out of excitement and I planned to go all out to celebrate it. It’s funny how my birthday has now become a scary time for me. I get panic attacks and anxiety once the month starts and I haven’t been able to celebrate it for years since the incident.
When we got home, we cooked, ate dinner and prepared for bed. I was deep in sleep as we had a long day but then I heard the sound of gunshots and became startled. Our dogs were barking relentlessly, and I thought it was a dream until I realized that our gate was the target of the bullets. I jumped up and ran to my parents. I was so scared when I saw my father’s face full of fear as he fiddled with his phone trying to reach the police. My mother was frightened as well but tried to calm herself by pacing around the room.
Within a few minutes, we heard our gate open and voices coming into the compound, our dogs charged at the armed robbers, but two gunshots fired at them silenced my precious dogs forever. The robbers proceeded to the front door and threatened to blast the door and kill us if we didn’t open the door. My dad asked I and my mother to hide while he opened the door. As my dad opened the door, the robbers came in and immediately hit him on the face with one of their guns, the blow affected his ear. They told him to lie face down. Three ransacked the house and one stayed with him, he slapped him continuously and demanded to know where he kept the money entrusted in his care by his office co-operative society.
One of the robbers found me and my mum where we hid and pulled us out by the ear to the sitting room where my dad was. Right in front of my Dad, the robbers pointed a gun at me and my mum and threatened to shoot if my Dad didn’t tell them. At this point I and mum began to plead with him to tell. My Dad hurriedly told them where it was. One of them went straight to get it and came to the sitting room to confirm if it was real and complete.
They cursed and insulted my Dad for delaying them and they said they were going to punish him. The boss grabbed me and tore open my pajamas; he unbuttoned his trousers as he told my dad that his punishment was to watch while he raped me. My mum screamed and volunteered herself, my dad pleaded with tears in his eyes, he promised them heaven and earth but all to no avail. I begged and pleaded that they should forgive but he said with a smirk on his face “only Jesus forgives, do I look like Jesus”. He immediately tossed me to the ground and settled his smelly, dirty, disgusting body on me. I closed my eyes and prayed for it to be over. I could hear my mother wailing distantly in the background, my father pleading and the other armed robbers laughing. I wondered why people were so wicked and why this had to happen to me. I wondered why the money was not enough. I wondered what point they had to prove.
The next few days and weeks were a blur; I couldn’t eat or sleep. I got all the medical help I needed, and my parents did all they could to help me out of my depression; my dad blamed himself and I blamed him a little even though I knew it wasn’t his fault.
I am taking each day as it comes and I try to let go of that memory, my counsellor at WARIF says in time I will move on and take back my power; she says I will begin to live my life again but it’s not that easy. I am on my way to recovery and I hope I get there sooner than later.
Dear survivor, please know that you are not alone, and it is not your fault. Help is available.
If you have been raped or you know someone who has, please visit us at The WARIF Centre – 6, Turton Street, off Thorburn Avenue, Sabo, Yaba or call our 24-hour confidential helpline on 08092100009. For questions or more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Real name of survivor changed for confidentiality