She tumbled out of the car, dishevelled. She felt dirty, her every sinew feeling like there were a thousand icy knives plunged into them. Cold. Shocked. White. Numb.
And then it dawned on her, a torpedo of emotions, a whirlwind of fear and anger, of disgust and hatred. Heat. Hurt. Pain. Dirty.
She made her way home, mechanically following her feet, which knew where she was to go. She plodded, thudding, her mind thinking mechanically. Shame. Disgust. Unclean. Dirty.
Ese went out one day, she wanted to visit a friend. An ordinary day, an ordinary outing. But that was hardly what it was. She stood outside waiting for a taxi, when out of nowhere, a car pulled up with her Uncle at the driver’s seat.
Where are you off to, Ese?
I’m going out, to see my friend, Uncle Victor.
Oh which way?
By the school. A little after, actually.
Oh I’m headed that way! Hop on, let me drop you on the way!
Ese wasted no moment. She didn’t have to walk, it was a quick ride. Her uncle was the chatty kind, he always made her laugh. Light hearted banter ensued – about school, life, friends, the weather, stupid jokes and whatnot. She never remembered a time when she didn’t enjoy his company. Until then.
It didn’t occur to Ese that the car sped further in a direction different from the one she asked him. She was smart, so she pointed it out. But he was smarter, and he told her he just promised to pick something up from a friend, so he had to make the detour.
But all of a sudden, he stopped the car.
Come, Ese, it’s not safe for you to sit in the car alone, it is a new neighbourhood.
Ese followed him into his friend’s house. A shady man of sorts, he immediately dodged them, offering to get drinks. His house was dark, small and smelly. Something didn’t feel right.
As his friend walked out, her uncle fastened the door shut and locked it. Ese felt dread flood her. Alarm bells rang inside her head, her heart stopped beating. Something was not right, something was so, so wrong. There was nothing right about the situation.
Un..Uncle why are you locking the door?
Ah Ese, Ese, Ese. Come now. We both know you want me, that you like me – I have seen how you see me with romantic eyes. Come.
N...No! Never! My eyes are just how they are – and you! You are my uncle! I never thought a thing like that!
Ah Ese, don’t be ashamed to tell me. It is okay, it is really okay my love.
No! You are my uncle. Our culture forbids such a thing! Get away from me!
Ese stepped back as he made his way towards her. She dropped to her knees and begged him to spare her, to leave her.
Uncle please, no! If you do anything to me, bad things would happen to me. I have to confess that you would have damaged me – please, please uncle stop!
You stupid girl. It is a silly superstition. No one will know if you shut up.
I am a born-again Christian! Don’t you dare say such things to me!
You fool. Stop behaving like a child. I know you are not a virgin – look at the way you walk!
She struggled as he pushed her to the ground and ripped her clothes off. She cried and begged and pleaded. She knew she could never stop him, he was a big man, and she was small and skinny. God was the only one on her mind. She broke out in spiritual language just in the nick of time. Her uncle stumbled in shock. She was crying and speaking in spiritual language, babbling without a thought.
Get yourself together and get into the car. I’ll drop you home.
No. I’m going myself.
Ese walked out with the courage she had left in her. She cried all the way home, where her mother opened the door. Ese didn’t hold back, and told her everything that happened. Every single thing.
That’s it? Nothing happened so it’s ok. Just go clean your eyes and shut up.
Ese was scared. Nothing was okay. Nothing was right. How could an uncle do such a thing and get away with it? How could her mother be so careless and cavalier? How could her mother be so unfair and not care to listen to her? How dare her uncle treat her like that? How could he? Shame. Hatred. Anger.
She was sickened to the bone and disillusioned with life. She had to do something. Resolve. Grit. Determination.
She went to her uncle’s house and told his mother everything. But the man changed the story, and denied everything, and painted her as the bad one. She wanted me! I refused her, and now look at what she is doing? Lies. Tales. Aspersions.
The story was buried. Her pain was buried. She could never speak of it again. She could never tell a soul. She wonders if she should have kept quiet altogether. Regret. Fear. Trepidation.
Her only solace was how other girls kept away after they heard.
In partnership with the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), World Pulse is collecting personal stories outlining women’s experiences and recommendations on sustainable and equitable development for presentation at the Rio +20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.
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