To life!

Tale of Two Rapes, a true story

Posted on: August 22, 2012

Two rapes. A true story.

The graduation party was in full swing. Music thumped from a hi fi. The guests were dancing, arms raised high, bodies swinging from side to side. Mary had agreed to attend the party for two reasons: the graduate was her friend, and the party was hosted by a diplomat from the Gambian High Commission, a man she called Uncle John; a soft-spoken man whose niece was her best friend but had traveled. I went to the party because I loved to dance, and any chance to do that was all right by me.

Uncle John proved to be a generous host, making sure there was plenty of joloff rice, fried meats, and chicken. He sat to the side with a quiet smile, a glass of wine in his hand. The guests, mostly university students sipped beer and wine but no one was drunk. Mary didn’t drink alcohol, yet as the evening thrummed on, she felt tired. It was way past midnight and we had spent the day at the beach chasing waves.

She told me she wanted to sleep so I said, why not ask Uncle John for a place to lie down?

She did.

Uncle John gave his quiet smile from the round, almost baby face, and led the way to a bedroom. 

When Uncle John came out I asked him if Mary was okay and he said yes, she was resting. Then he went back to sitting with that quiet smile on his angelic face. After a while, I asked if I could join Mary and he pointed the way.

I found her rigid, cold and silent. I called out her name, shook and shook until her words fell like blocks of ice: Let’s. Get. Out. Of. Here.

We hailed a taxi and she huddled over, flinching when I touched her. Finally, hiding under a blanket, her tongue loosened for a second time.

His six-year-old daughter lay curled up on a smaller bed next to a larger one, fast asleep. Uncle John’s wife had taken the baby to Gambia to visit an ailing mother. Mary was grateful for a bed. He made sure she was comfortable and then left. At the door, he turned off the light, opened and shut the door. Mary closed her eyes, but suddenly, he was panting. He hadn’t left like she thought. In a flash he was on top of her. She was so shocked she lay completely rigid. The whole time, she was thinking it wasn’t happening, that the man she thought of as her uncle was not hurting her. She wanted to cry out but her tongue stayed glued to her mouth. It was over in seconds. He got up without a word, neatened himself, opened the door to shaft of light and shut it behind him.

I cried .

She got pregnant. She had an abortion. She hated herself for the abortion. She hated the man who got her pregnant. I deplored the evil act that turned a mother’s natural affection murderous.

 

In 2007, while living in Ghana, Akos was a hairdresser who came to my house every two weeks or so to do whatever I needed done to my hair. She was funny and pretty, with skin and white teeth. What I loved about her was her punctuality. In a country where time is largely ignored, it was refreshing to find a girl who showed up at two p.m. when she was supposed to be there at two p.m. One day, I sat in my parlor waiting. I noted that Akos was twenty minutes late.

I called her and got a muffled “I’m on my way.”

I waited.

Another twenty minutes and she gave me another “I’m on my way,” this time sounding very busy and flustered. An hour later she was still on her way. Two hours later when I had given up and was about to head for the tennis court, the gate bell sounded. I opened the gate and my hand went to my mouth. There stood Akos, blood oozing from a gash in her cheek, that beautiful cheek with the curve of the letter S. She was snuffling like a child, panting, unable to speak.

I took her inside, cleaned her face and tried to stop the bleeding. Sobbing, she told me a male friend tried to be more than a friend. When she said no, he slashed her with a knife, forced himself on her. And no, she wouldn’t go to the police. In Ghana, many women would rather die than face an interrogation regarding rape. All I could do was love her through it, tell her about God’s love.

She didn’t get pregnant; she was on the pill. A nasty keloid across her cheek and breast are what remain outwardly of that day. 

I have lost touch with her and don’t know how she is coping but this is what I know: To violate a body is to do anything to that body without permission, to do anything to that harms the body. Violence is just a noun, and violent just an adjective.

Of the two women, which rape was violent? The one that didn’t cry out, that froze, was she less violated?

All I can feel is a wretched sorrow for both women.

And devastation for the life terminated.

I’d love to hear from you.

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