“Sometimes, I question God, I ask why He allows such bad things to happen to me. I also have this hatred for men, because of what I have been through. After I was raped by two men, I tried to heal. Years later, I got into a relationship with another man, and he wasn’t any better – I try to move on, but it hits me all the time and I just try to live with it”, Josephine (Not her real name says).
Orphaned at an early stage of her life, she had to move in and live with an aunt in Cameroon’s Southwest region. While at her aunt’s, she would be forced to stop school at the age of 16, when she was getting into Form Five, and preparing to write the Ordinary Level of the Cameroon General Certificate of Education. Though the given reason was that there was no money to send her to school, her aunt’s kids were all in school. The money excuse was just for her. “I was sent to Douala to work as a maid. The contract was that I will work for two years before it would be decided whether I will learn a trade, or continue with my education. That was the first time I went to Douala. I worked for a year and six months”.
As Josephine narrates, she worked for a year and six months before the tragic incident. She said her employer’s boyfriend always frequented the house, and from time to time, will give her money – which she always appreciated. She was then accused by her employer’s sister of having an affair with the man, something she refused. “I told them I was still a virgin and had no affair with the man. I opted that we do a virginity test, but then, they just brushed it aside. On a certain day, after my madam (her employer) had left the house, the man came and started making advances at me and I refused and pushed him away. He went back because he did not live in the same house as us. He returned, and this time he came with a friend. After failing to convince me, he used force on me, his friend held me, while he forced himself on me. After raping me, he too held me, and his friend took his turn and raped me too. I was devastated. I rushed out of the compound to a woman who sold charcoal across the road. My dress was covered with blood because of the several injuries they inflicted on me during the brutal rape. I told the woman what happened and as she was looking for how to help me, I passed out. I only realise myself on a hospital bed the next day.”
Josephine says he employer later showed up at the hospital but refused to believe her story and the other witnesses that helped her. She said the woman rather accused her of trying to soil her man’s name. Her employer left the hospital and never came back again. She never compensated her for the time she served her either. She said the charcoal seller apparently settled her hospital bill, and with frustration, she set sail home back in the Southwest where her aunt had sent her from. “I knew that they may doubt me. I had refused that my dress should not be cleaned up. While at the family house, they would always blame me for any and everything. I went back home with the bloodstained dress and I had no shoes on because that is the way I was when I was taken to hospital. The woman who took me there gave me FCFA 5000, so I used it to pay for transport.
“When I got home, I explained what happened, but no one believed me, they instead blamed me. It became so serious and depressing that I could not cope. I finally had to leave my aunt’s house. I moved and lived with a friend, and no family member cared to know where I was. No one came looking for me – they later did though, and apologised saying they should have believed me, but my life was already messed up. The damage had been done”
Josephine after being so depressed said she pulled herself together and decided to gather and make the best use of what was left of her life. She then got into a relationship with a man who did not treat her any better. They had twins and the man abandoned the kids with her and did not assist, forcing her to do every odd job she came across, in order to fend for herself and the kids. Along the line, she had to leave the man. But then things got tough and she could not afford to take care of herself and the twins, forcing her to take the twins, who were seven years at the time, (2021) to their father’s family. But the man who was still very hostile towards her said he would be bringing back the children to her.
“Sometimes it seems as if a lot of bad things are just happening to me, sometimes I question God and ask why me. Even with the contempt I had for men after the rape incident, I tried to move on from it and then got into this again. The man said he does not want me again and that he wants to take in a different woman. Even his family tried to talk to him, but he refused to listen. I am a strong believer and I know someday, I will have a helper and things will be the way I wish and imagine. I hate to ask for help. I hate to borrow too. I love to do things for myself but jobs are very scarce. At the job I had, I was paid FCFA 35,000 a month, and my rent is FCFA 15,000 a month, but I lost it. I worked as a cleaner for a man, but his siblings came into town and he did not need my services again, because they could clean for him. The pay was not enough, but it helped me. If God blesses me, I will bless some other person too. I have not lost hope, I know I will have a breakthrough one day, and my life will be better”, she said with optimism.
Josephine says her relationship with her remaining family is not very cordial after the mishap and after they failed to believe her story and instead surrendered her to the hostile world outside. She hopes to start a business or learn a trade that will enable her to live her dream life, where her past will just be a memory and not a defining thing about her.
This production is realized with support from Stepping it U – Clearing SGBV Project by HOBET and Women Deliver