I was 16 when I first came to Addis Ababa. My half-brother then a police officer, was the one who brought me to the city for better education. We used to live together in his rented house. After he brought me, my brother failed to keep his word and life as I knew it was to change for good. During the entire five years I lived with him, he raped me. He did not only rape me, he also forced me to terminate three pregnancies. My life was so miserable I used to question if it was even worth living.
Being the under aged rural girl I was, who barely knew anything about the city, the continuous sexual abuse I endured for years was beyond painful. It caused me severe psychological crisis that I could not trust anyone. I used to think everyone would harm me the same way my brother used to. Hence I could not turn to anyone for help. Attending school was a struggle because I thought seeing me, people would know my dark secret. Eventually, I stopped. The threats from my brother coupled with the psychological issues I then had prevented me from opening up about what was happening. I had to endure the abuse in silence for so long until the time we moved to another residence.
It was not long after we moved to the new house that our landlord took notice of my demeanor and questioned me why I avoided people and if I had blood relation with my brother. It was very difficult for me to answer. On one hand, I was desperate to get out of my situation hence I did not want to hide the truth. On the other, I was so scared to tell the whole story. However, after arguing with myself for a while, I decided to open up. Shocked by my story, our landlord immediately took me to the nearest police station where I reported. From there I was referred to a developmental association which provides shelter and legal services to victims of rape like myself.
After my case was brought before the law, my family accused me of being dishonest. They defended my brother alleging that I was making it all up. My elder sister threatened to harm me for according to her, falsely accusing and slandering our brother. With the exception of my mother, everyone in the family despised and treated me like I was less than a human.
On the other hand, the environment at the police station where I reported was not welcoming at all. There was no sensitivity to victims with cases like mine. I was mistreated and judged for not reporting earlier. It was discouraging. I am not well versed in the area of law hence I may not be able to say much. However, from what I have witnessed, the justice system is very disappointing when it comes to cases similar to mine. Despite my attempt to obtain justice against all odds, I did not succeed. My brother was not charged.
While he walked free, I continued to suffer both physically and psychologically. After I was
admitted to the shelter, I could not eat properly nor could I socialize. All I needed was to end my
life that I once attempted to commit suicide. It was the counseling service I received afterwards
that helped me overcome my situation.
Now, every time I see women who appear to be having broken spirit, walking with scarfs
wrapped around their heads, I feel like they have a story similar to mine. Hence, I go out of my
way to talk to them and listen to their stories. This is not only my story. This is the story of many women in our society and we can come together to find a way to help them. We should stop shifting the blame from the perpetrators to the victims. We need to be willing to listen to their stories without judgement so more women with stories like mine or even worse can come forward and find a way out.
Little Bit About The Center
The women’s shelter development society, previously known as the association against gender based violence works towards helping women who have suffered from rape. These women tend are mostly broken and tend to think nobody wants them. That leads to them thinking about committing suicide. To help them recover from that, the center has been providing classes on different type of skills as well as legal help to rape victims for the past 15 years.
Art by Lidya Dereje
Edited by Tsedey Tedla