Sitawa Wafula has been through a heartbreaking experience. Eleven years ago, her boyfriend's friend raped and drove her into depression. She dropped out of university and lost her job. She told Cate Mukei how she pulled through.
What is your poem, Sunday 15th all about?
This was the day I was raped by my boyfriend’s best friend. It was the saddest day of my life.
What exactly happened?
My boyfriend had left me in his house to run errands. He later sent me a text that his friend would keep me company. I did not suspect anything amiss. I served him tea and we engaged in small chitchat. At some point, I left the room and that is when he spiked my drink. After taking two sips, I became unconscious. When I woke up, I was naked and he was there dressing slowly. I was so disgusted.
What was your boyfriend’s reaction?
I don’t want to talk about it. It’s better if I forget about him and his friend.
Did you report the matter to the police?
I was only 18 and did not know about the 72-hour period that victims ought to report to police. I went home and showered hoping to rid myself of the ‘dirt’ and disgust I felt.
I did not talk to anyone about what had happened. I just wanted to be alone. I hated myself.
I remember I staying indoors for three months (June to August, 2003). I later enrolled for a course in Actuarial Science at the University of Nairobi.
You kept this secret to yourself?
Yes. I suffered from depression and tried to overcome it by writing a lot of poems. That’s how I started my blog.
How did you manage school under the circumstances?
I did not graduate. I dropped out of school and tried to get a job. Unfortunately, the job did not last either.
There was this time I went to meet a client. I had a seizure due to my epileptic condition. I think the client was too scared and a few days later, I got fired.
Was the epilepsy as a result of the rape?
No, I was already epileptic in high school, but it was not pronounced. The condition later lead to bipolar disorder.
At some time, I lost all the energy and wished someone could just take me away to an unknown destination.
So how did you get back on your feet?
It took me five years to recover. I was really withdrawn and just wanted to be alone. What kept me going was blogging.
However, after going through all these by myself, I felt I had reached rock bottom. I first opened up about it on my blog in 2008.
What was the reaction after people read your blog?
I got overwhelming responses. It was so much that I even had to bring down the post. Initially, I did not expect such overwhelming support from my readers. It was such an uplifting time.
Was it positive response?
Well, some people encouraged me to talk about it. Others claimed they could relate with not only my rape ordeal, but also epilepsy and bipolar.
On the other hand, some said that I was a pretender and an attention seeker. They wondered why I was talking about such an intimate matter on a blog.
Is this how you became popular in media circles?
Well, after my poetry and blog posts, I received numerous calls from the media who wanted to air my story.
I received feedback from people all over the world who were encouraged by my story.
Tell us more about your ‘My Mind My Funk’ initiative
During my healing journey, I discovered there were so many rape victims who suffered in silence. Most of these victims suffered from depression and were too embarrassed to talk about their nasty experiences.
I decided to help victims and that is how the initiative was born. I offer counselling services and my offices are based in Ngong’.
I also came up with a free SMS line, 22214, through which victims can call for help.