Because I don’t believe sending someone to prison is going to help me heal.
I tried to report it, oh believe me I did. I was sexually abused by my uncle for four years. I was only a little girl. I recall that he told me that I had been a very energetic, bubbly and joyful little girl. Well I don’t recall ever being that way, because the abuse changed me, it took away my childhood and innocence and left me depressed throughout my teenage years. When I finally had the courage to confront him, I had already experienced what most abused children go through: my mom either did not believe me, or just did not know how to react to such news. I don’t blame her. I was incredibly insecure and shy in both primary and high school, and eventually I ended up in a toxic abusive relationship. The first time my boyfriend raped me, I did not know it was rape. Nor the second, third or umpteenth time. How could I? How could I know any better than believing my body was a blow-up doll designed to be used for a man’s pleasure. I didn’t even know it could be possible to rape me, who had been ‘sexually awakened’ at such age that for the rest of my life I felt like I was a whore. Even though, in retrospect I’m still one of the biggest prudes I know because I can’t stand the touch of a man against my body.
Because I don’t believe that my ex-boyfriend will ever realise that the horrific things he’s done to me are wrong, I decided to guide all my pain and anger to what I believe is the source of many of the problems I’ve faced: my father’s brother. I confronted him, yes I did that. I actually did that. I felt so powerful, even just for a few minutes. But he manipulated me – telling me that he’d been sodomised as a child, manipulating me into having sympathy for him. And that, ladies and gentlemen is where I am stuck now. Between the hatred, I have sympathy for this man, and cannot imagine sending him to prison. I just do not see him being rehabilitated there even if I believe that he should be kept away from children as far as possible. It kills me everyday to feel that he could be a threat to other children out there, but I can’t do it. In the same way my ex could still be, probably unknowingly, a threat to other women out there, but I just can’t do that to him either. Do I think that either of their lives are more important than my own or any other women or children out there? No, I definitely do not. But prison? And why oh why my dear friends do I have to make this enormous decision on my own? Where is the support, where is the solidarity from fellow women and allies?
If you are rape survivor and need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to call the ‘Stop Gender Violence‘ helpline at 0800 150 150.
Note: Rape myths abound after the Vavi rape accusation was brought to light. These myths hurt all rape survivors – and if you ever experience sexual violence, these myths will hurt you too. The most common myth I’ve seen is the fallacy that if you don’t report to the police, it didn’t happen. (See here.) I put out a call on Twitter for survivors who didn’t report to send me their story. To follow the series, see here.
If you would like to include your story in this conversation, please email me: michelle at journoactivist dot com. I will assume anonymity for all submissions unless specified otherwise.