It is the norm for people to walk into the consultation room at the sexology clinic and immediately pour out their hearts.
They talk about their sexual problems, the herbalists they have seen, the food supplements they have used and sometimes the other medical professionals who have attended to their problems.
Sexual clinics offer a safe space where people can discuss intimate issues without the fear of being judged.
The story of Joy is however one that did not obey this norm. She walked into the consultation room, sat down and remained quiet.
She held her chin with the left hand and her eyes were glued to the floor for more than five minutes.
She did not answer to my greetings nor did she answer my questions about why she was visiting the clinic. “I am sorry, I hope you understand,” she started. I encouraged her open up.
She was 34 years old, a teacher in a secondary school and was married to Richard, a 35-year-old businessman. They had two children.
“I already bought poison and I was going to take it this morning,” she said. “It was a difficult decision but the best under the circumstances.”
Joy had been raped the previous night. She was leaving school at about 7pm when a male colleague, the Deputy Principal, called her back to his office, purportedly to discuss an urgent issue. He offered her a cup of coffee which she took.
She then woke up in the morning in a hotel room, the Deputy Principal on his side making jokes that her systems were too weak to withstand a mere beverage.
She realised she was naked. She was drowsy and felt the wetness in her private parts. “You were raped!” I exclaimed unable to hide my disdain for what I was hearing, to which Joy broke down again into a fit of emotions.
Her husband was away on a business trip and was scheduled to arrive back home the next day.
She had many missed calls from him from the previous night. She also had missed calls from her neighbour and her children.
“So there are two reasons why suicide is my best option,” she said. “My husband will never believe that I was drugged and raped by someone I know so well; secondly, I cannot forgive that beast yet I cannot expose myself to the shame of a court process.”
I for once realised the difficulty women go through when rape happens. The default position is that they will be blamed for it.
They will be stigmatised, rebuked and even divorced. The shame can be overwhelming.
The rapist, on the other hand, is innocent until proven guilty. The onus of initiating the judicial process rests with the woman who at the same time bears the psychological and physical trauma of the rape.
The court process in itself is adversarial. The process degenerates into arguments most of which aim to portray the woman as a devil incarnate, a harlot who accepted sex and for some reason later feared social repercussions and resorted to punishing an innocent decent man as a scapegoat.
In some communities the matter is not even taken to court; the woman is forced to marry the rapist.
If pregnancy happens they force the woman to deliver and take care of the baby forever. There may also be the acquisition of dangerous diseases such as Hepatitis B and HIV.
There are communities where cows, goats or camels will be shared between families as ransom without much thought of the suffering of the survivor.
“I called my friend before I came here and told her what had happened,” Joy interrupted my thoughts. “She told me to calm down and move on with my life; that she also had been raped and that many women are raped each day and just decide to forget and move on with life.”
And yes, this is the fate that many women resign to; they hurt; they feel suicidal, and their self-esteem wanes but they decide to move on.
Many cases of sexual dysfunction, marital problems, and psychiatric diseases can be traced back to rape.
I spent a good part of the day resolving Joy’s predicament. With her permission, I involved the family in the matter, put her on medical treatment of rape and connected her to legal services.
The offender was arrested the same day. We both agreed that the best way to heal from rape is not to accept to be a victim and commit suicide or accept long term consequences, but to stand up against it until justice is realised.