“I don’t feel right today”, a single mother named Senayit whispered to herself. The feeling was a sense of disturbance, as if to know something bad has happened. Not being able to put a finger on the source of this unease, Senayit managed to pass her day. As she was heading home, she ran into one of her neighbors. He looked troubled. After exchanging the usual greeting, he told her that her son gets sick repeatedly and has difficulty sitting and may have stomach problems and recommends she takes him to the hospital. Concerned, she rushed home to her son.
When she got home, Senayit found her four year old son lying on the bed, sick and tired. Her mother, his grandmother, was sitting beside him, not knowing what to do besides worrying. She held him up and took him to a government health center. What she heard there, however, was beyond her understanding. The hospital told her it was not stomach ache, nor diarrhea that was causing his pain, but something else, someone.
What her son told her was beyond comprehension. In his own words, her son told her that a young man hurt his behind (she understood that he had been raped). With this, she and her mother went to the police. Knowing their case deserves justice and believing they will get it. What they have got, however was what she didn’t expect. The police did nothing for her son. And worse, they accused her of lying and deceit. “We would have understood if the victim was a girl. But a BOY? There are no boys who are victims of rape in our country.” they said. Look at him, he is walking fine they said.
Being frustrated but not without losing hope, she went to the justice department. She thought they might understand the situation. The department succeeded in apprehending the perpetrator. They questioned him. He admitted that he took Senayit’s son to the hills but he didn’t have sex with him nor has he raped him. It was his word against hers, and her case was dismissed.
While all this was going on, the story was already the talk of the town. Her son couldn’t attend school. The perpetrator identified his victim’s school and started stalking him. The school community told Senayit that his presence at the school was risking the safety of the children attending the school and told Senayit to stop her son from attending school. The burden she was going through was relentless. She tried taking him to hospitals but they refused to treat him as they demanded a permission for the police station for his ‘disease’. On top of this, the families of the perpetrator started tarnishing Senayit’s name in the neighborhood. They claimed she have destroyed the name of the preprtuator and his family. After staying with her son in their home for several days after he quit school, she couldn’t cope with the scoff. Senayit felt helpless and heartbroken. She couldn’t take it anymore so she decided to leave her son with her mom and went to Bishoftu (located about 29 miles away from Addis Ababa) until things died down.
TWO YEARS LATER
Just like other days, a boy in Senayit’s neighborhood went out to play with his friends. As he was waiting for his friends, he saw something he hasn’t seen before. Six children, more or less of the same age like him, only with their shirts and underwear. They seemed terrified, and in shock but most importantly, hopeless. They were all crammed in a small space. As he tried to approach them he noticed a movement so he fall back and hid. He saw a man zipping his trouser and there was a kid beside him.
The kid who was witnessing this couldn’t believe his eyes. He didn’t try to face the young man as he knew his safety was at risk. Instead he turned back and ran towards his home, shouting and screaming. His mother couldn’t believe what she was hearing, she didn’t know how to respond. She just knew that she had to react. She went on the village and started screaming. All the neighbors heard her and came out to see what was happening. They started running towards where the boy told them the incident was happening. Hearing all these outrage and scream, the perpetrator tried to flee the scene, but failed. As they arrived at the scene, they saw seven children that were almost without clothes, distraught, horrified and broken. The parents cried, each carrying and hugging their children in their arms. One of the kids was Senayit’s.
The history was repeated after two years. the perpetrator this time was a close friend of the first perpetrator. Imagine the pain the grandmother and the mother must have felt that their grandson and son is suffering the same pain two years in the running. At the beginning it was the grandmother who heard the incident. She found it difficult to tell her daughter because the pain would be beyond excruciating. Lack of justice brought them here. This time, however, they all went to the police and cried their hearts out. Senait was furious at the police, telling them that she told them about it two years ago. The police however said that during her case there was no proof of the rape. Now, on the contrary, the perpetrator was caught red handed.
The perpetrator who raped seven kids in that same neighborhood was charged on two counts. The court said that the physical and psychological trauma that Senayit’s son suffered is unimaginable and charged the perpetrator to 16 years of prison. He was charged to another 25 years of prison for raping the other 6 kids. Which got him a 41-year prison sentence in total.
After an extensive medical help, Senayit’s son is now physically healthy. But the amount of psychological trauma that he has repeatedly faced still remains. The justice system and police department in Ethiopia had failed him the first time because of their ignorance and inability to comprehend that boys get raped.
Original Story is by #EBS
Translated by Yemariam Sissay
Edited by Michael Behailu
Art by Betremariam Tebebe