These rape stories are not mine to tell. On #BreakTheSilence and Ghana’s hostility towards victims

Carolee Thea, Sabine Woman, 1991. Chicken wire, electrical wire, sockets, bulbs, sound, dimensions variable. ©1991/2018 Carolee Thea.

2:37 AM

Someone somewhere somehow, can very well accuse me of rape or sexual harassment.

When I say “rape” above, I do not mean “the violent and aggravated assault” you picture in your mind, but the “coaxing and plead-beg-threaten” approach to sex that we have come to accept as okay.

As I recollect all my sexual encounters, I realized some of them could have ended up as non-sexual encounters, had I not been a “little too persistent” or a “little too pushy”. I have italicized the two because even as I write this at 2:38 AM, I know that the other party probably did not feel that it was a “little”. They might have felt overwhelmed and finally “gave in” — I know this, but my brain — with years of social conditioning — is trying to make me understand that “the most masculine thing to do in those situations was Plead, Beg, Threaten”.

So yeah, I could very well be accused of rape — and I could very well be guilty. This accusation can come from my ex-partners (or current) and there would be very little (or no) excuse or justification for it.

#BreakTheSilence

I woke up to the hashtag, #BreakTheSilence trending on my Twitter account. I woke up at 2:12 AM.

As I usually would do, I looked through the tweets with a knot forming in my throat, the stories were very haunting — not because they were too strange or unbelievable, but because there were “too normal”. The stories being posted by victims of sexual harassment on the TL were stories I could imagine or had experienced before.

2:25 AM

I came across @miss_laryea2’s #MeToo story. Her story is similar to a lot of the ones being posted; boy visits girl (or the other way around); boy feels entitled to sex; girl refuses; boy forces himself on her; boy cums and then end of the story.

Only, it is not the end of the story.

If anything at all, it is the beginning of the story. The beginning of the trauma and the flashbacks. To put it in perspective, I don’t remember what I wore or ate on my 18th birthday, but @miss_laryea2 remembers the song playing in the background as she was being abused. This, surely, must sound like a small detail, but that song is ruined for her forever as she put it herself,

I can’t even listen to Joey B’s Otoolege cos that was song playing when he was forcing himself on me.

Imagine the memories that come flooding her thoughts anytime a DJ at a party or on a radio station plays the song!

24th August 2019

This was the day I met @miss_laryea2.

I didn’t know her from Eve, but as I was out with my friends at Serallio, I couldn’t help but notice this bulky-looking guy, towering over this petite female, badgering her with asks of taking her home after she had repeatedly denied the request.

In her tipsy state, @miss_laryea2 had repeatedly said no to this dude and seeing as he was relentless, I walked right up to them, lifted her in my arms away from the scene and carried her outside to stand beside our vehicle.

2:27 AM

I clicked on the #BreakTheSilence hashtag to see what other stories were being shared and come across this tweet;

To wit, “You make men visit you too much and you have collected this one too”. This was in response to @miss_laryea2’s story of her abuse.

Victim shaming? No, it is more than that!

This was a burner account, created to specifically respond to @miss_laryea2’s story.

And who would create such an account? Who else, but the deviant in @miss_laryea2’s tweet, who, even though was not named, felt a stirring in him to find a way to respond that, because someone “gives doggy” it cannot be classified as rape?

3:07 AM

Why do most women shy away from reporting their sexual abuse?

For a long time, I could not fathom this out. I remember when @kboakye92, @yawtollo and I had to rush from the office to the University of Ghana campus because a friend of mine had nearly been raped.

By the time we survived East Legon and Okponglo traffic, the abuser had moved on to join the prayer team on Sarbah field as he was a leader of one “Anagkazo” team on campus.

She gave a lot of reasons why we shouldn’t report the case to the police. I remember some of them;

  • “His father is very strict, he will probably beat him and disown him if this comes out”
  • “He is not staying at Kwapong legally, so if they investigate they will evict him”
  • “He is an athlete for the hall, they will just turn it around on me”

Despite the above, we found our way to the police station — but this made it even worse. According to the closest police post;

  • “The issue handled on University of Ghana and thus had to be handled by school authorities”
  • “Since it was attempted rape, and there was no penetration, it is not really a case”
  • “What was she even doing in the boy’s room?”

So why do most women shy away from reporting their sexual abuse? Maybe because of the excuses like the one above, or maybe like sycophants like this below;

Or this one below;

Or just because we do not create conducive environments for the sexually abused to come forward and tell their stories.

Since I have personally started being more open and providing a listening ear, I have been told a lot of sexual abuse stories by my female friends, from the stories of the uncle that would rape her at every family gathering since she was 9 years (because she developed breasts early), to the POPULAR pastor sleeping with barely-legal members of his church, down to your favourite woke pan-African poet, who still felt entitled to ex-partner’s body.

I have this assortment of abuse stories swelling in my head, and sometimes, the chief abusers are the ones of the TL tweeting in solidarity, and I feel like being the one to #BreakTheSilence on these victims’ behalf.

But like I am always reminded, these are not my stories to tell.

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