Woman recounts how she survived three suicide attempts after being gang-raped

MENTAL HEALTH |
It is easy to assume everything will be okay if one survived with no physical harm. This assumption is a danger to one's mental health. [iStockphoto]

Belinda Kimani* is today inseparable from her eight-year-old daughter whom she has single-handedly brought up from the day she was born. 

But before it was not the case for the 29-year-old mother of one from the time she delivered the child who was born out of a rape case. 

Belinda vividly recalls a day in April 2013 where four men gang-raped her as she was walking home from work. 

“I was working at a hotel in Nakuru. On the fateful day, at around 9pm, I was waylaid by four men who held me down and raped me in turns. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognise any of them. No suspect was ever arrested,” said Wairimu. 

Following the harrowing ordeal, Belinda said she sought treatment only to later realise that she had fallen pregnant. 

“Terminating the pregnancy was not among my options. I decided to keep the child though I knew this would be a constant reminder of the painful experience I had gone through,” said Belinda. 

When she was due, Belinda underwent a caesarean section and delivered a baby girl who despite bringing her joy, brought such pain in her early years of motherhood that she sank into depression. 

“I was happy to hold the child in my arms. Things changed weeks after I was discharged from the hospital. My love for the child changed into hate as memories haunted me,” said Belinda. 

She revealed that it was a challenge for her to accept herself as a rape victim -- a label that left a scar in her life that made her hate herself to the extent of contemplating suicide and killing the baby. 

“I tried ingesting poison three times but, miraculously, I survived the attempts. I stopped breastfeeding the child regularly and fed her with water. She miraculously remained healthy and strong,” she said. 

In an attempt to get over the ordeal, she moved to Nairobi in 2015 where she had another brief stint in the hospitality industry before she started battling with mental health issues. 

Depression took a toll on her as she moved in and out of different hospitals where the doctors couldn’t pinpoint what had led to her deteriorating health. 

“I didn’t realise I was depressed. Instead, I was put under different types of medication which were of no help. I had become so weak that I needed help with everything,” she said. 

In 2017, her family linked her with a counsellor whom she says was pivotal in changing her perspective about her life and that of her child. 

Belinda enrolled at a Nakuru college for a technical course and graduated last week. She hopes to start a tailoring shop where she can put her skills to good use. 

"Hopelessness at the beginning of my studies affected my performance. I now feel that my scars have to a great extent healed. I have a great love for my daughter whom I spend time with whenever I am free," she said.

She revealed that she is currently working on changing her perspective about men for whom she developed strong resentment since her ordeal.

Her greatest task ahead remains opening up to her daughter when she raises the question about her father in future. 

"I hope this will not affect my daughter when she finally learns the truth. My counsellor advised me to disclose the information to her at a certain age before she personally poses the question," she said. 

While her case is representative of many other incidents of gender-based violence (GBV), Belinda has urged similar victims to seek counselling in good time. 

"It is easy to assume everything will be okay if one survived with no physical harm. This assumption is a danger to one's mental health," said Belinda. 

She added that there is need for people around such victims to give them hope and hold their hand as they seek to move on with life after the ordeal. 

"Never blame a person who uses strong negative words to describe perpetrators of GBV. It is the responsibility of all around them to help them wade through the challenges with both short and long term strategies," she said.

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the minor

At a glance:

- According to Section 10 in the Sexual Offences Act No. 3 of 2006, any person who commits the offence of rape or defilement under this Act in association with another or others, or any person who, with common intention, is in the company of another or others who commit the offence of rape or defilement is guilty of an offence termed

-Gang rape and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of not less than fifteen years but which may be enhanced to imprisonment for life.

Trauma counselling 

According to the National Guidelines on Management of Sexual Violence in Kenya, trauma counselling entails:

• Contracting with the survivor and initial de-briefing
• HIV pre-test counselling
• HIV post-test counselling
• Adherence counselling for PEP, STI prophylaxis and treatment, and other management
• Counselling on Emergency Contraception and unwanted pregnancies
• Psycho-education
• Adherence to follow-up sessions
• Psychosocial support e.g. support groups for survivors, family and relatives
• Information given on survivors’ rights, legal redress and referral linkages  

kgachuhi@standardmedia.co.ke  

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