Debunking stereotypical, often racist views, about going abroad to Uganda for an internship was something I pushed for. Now after what happened I’m constantly terrified to hear, “You shouldn’t have gone to Africa.” Not only for bigots to feed their hatred, but I’m also worried it will get to my head and I will end up blaming myself.
Staying in a compound, with walls around the house with barbed wire, two guards and two guard dogs, never made me feel unsafe. Even when I wasn’t at the compound, the locals still made me feel safe enough. I witnessed the beauty Uganda offers first hand.
When our compound got broken into by eight men, earlier believed to be a gang, now believed to be locals who had this planned for a while, everything changed.
The dogs would bark often, but this time around, it sounded different. I still remember the sound of the wind through the window and the dogs running around in desperation, trying to wake us up, or maybe just trying to escape the situation themselves. I remember taking out my earplugs, being frustrated and half asleep, but soon realizing there was some trouble happening upon us. At this point me and my three friends were awake. We all slept in the same room. The flight instinct in me was real. I wanted to get out of the (gated) window.
This is where it all went downhill so fast.
My friend opened the door to see what was going on after hearing another lady in the house scream. She saw a man coming in with a bow and arrow. She ran away from the door and I locked it. The lock had just one latch and did not stand a chance.
We laid in bed two on two with each other. My one friend tried to hold onto me, trying to calm my flight instinct, since we couldn’t go anywhere. The break-in, with loads of chaos. My memory here is selective, but I remember them yelling for “Money, I want money.”
We looked for our cash, jewelry, laptops, anything they would want. We’d speak in our native language about opening the safe. My friend opened the safe but it wasn’t enough. For some reason, one guy forced me to go with him and open other people’s safes, but I didn't have the code for them. He kept yelling for me to open them, and then continued to walk with me to other rooms. Note, I quickly put on a shirt before they broke in, as I usually sleep naked.
I tried explaining while crying, I gave everything I had, and I didn’t know about other people’s stuff or safe codes. He threatened me with a sharp object to my neck, while grabbing my breast. I don’t remember what I thought, but I remember the feeling of knowing, "I'll probably get raped sooner or later."
He took me, hostage, in the kitchen, punching me so hard on my chin/jaw area that my tooth broke. I let out a scream. He pushed me to the ground and took off his belt and pants. I froze, tried to go along just to stay alive.
He jammed his fingers inside of me, to get me wet I think. He penetrated himself in me and demanded I would say "Fuck me." So I did. It still haunts me. He continued shoving his tongue down my throat.
I think this is where he realized his other monster friends were done robbing the place, so he left. I don’t remember how long it lasted, but to make myself feel better and downplay the whole thing, I keep saying "It only lasted 5-10 minutes."
He got out of me and said, "You’re lucky."
To this day, it keeps me up at night, trying to understand what made me lucky? Was I lucky that he ‘had’ to stop? Was I lucky cause he raped me? Was I lucky that he didn’t finish it by killing me? I honestly think it wouldn’t have made a difference for him, my being dead or alive.
Getting up on the floor I realized my hair was slippery from blood. I don’t know how I got the cut. Doctors assumed it happened because of a sharp item, but I don’t remember him hitting me with something. But it probably happened.
I walked up to the bathroom, where someone else from the house was waking up after being knocked out. He comforted me, apparently, as we waited a while to make sure that they were all gone. I was put down on the couch, being dressed by my friends, waiting for help.
I remember to keep telling my friends "I need an HIV test, I need my blood tested, I need an STD test." They put anything from the freezer on my head, and stayed with me. Others were also hurt but I won’t get into their details. It was true madness, chaos, everyone was on their own fight/flight/freeze mode. Trying to keep it together until help came. One guard almost died.
My heart never blames my friends for not ‘saving’ me from being raped, but my mind does. I just can’t help thinking, "Where were you?" They were trying to stay alive. How can one person possibly blame them for that? I don’t want to blame them, but in weak moments, I get frustrated and wish it went down differently.
I’ll never forget having to ask my friend to look at my vagina, because the doctors ignored me, but the blood on my leg scared me, so I didn’t dare to look at it myself.
After getting my head stitched up and a CT scan done, it took hours before the gynecologist helped me. Then it took even more hours before I was put on PEP medication. After nearly fourteen hours I got PEP medication. This was still on time, but in the aftermath of it all, trying to heal, this is frustrating. I should’ve gotten it way sooner.
It was clear the police also didn’t know what to do. They just asked me what happened and wrote down our stolen stuff, but they forgot to include my soul being stolen.
Later they looked for a nail clipper cause they remembered they probably should perform a rape kit. The officer asked me if "I was a strong girl and scratched my attacker?" I tried staying alive, so of course, I didn’t. He said, "Of course you did." And he looked for a nail clipper, not a hospital one, no, a personal nail clipper. Probably from some woman’s purse, since it was used before and had pink accents on it.
I was waiting for them to cut my nails, only to realize I had to do this part of the rape kit myself. Mind you, I was in a random waiting room, no place to put down my cut nails. Someone got a cup from the water dispenser and handed it to me, to put my nails in. I got angry at the situation, the DNA wouldn’t have been useful one bit. I threw my nails in there and shoved the cup in this cop’s hand. I wonder what they did with it.
The next day (and after a horrible night trying to stay awake because I was so afraid of nightmares) I received my ‘fit to fly’ and we flew home. Christmas 2019 was spent getting HIV tested and waiting for results. I tested negative.
I thought the hardest part would be trying to process the trauma of what happened to me, which was, don’t get me wrong, incredibly hard. But trying to pick up my life and continue living is what is hardest for me. I feel like some part of me died. Looking at old pictures of me, before what happened, doesn't feel like me anymore. Looking in the mirror doesn’t feel like me anymore. It feels like I have to mourn...me, even though I’m safe at home now.
My future feels okay until I realize I’m gonna be ‘that’ aunt. I’m gonna be ‘that’ statistic. Growing up as a woman, I don’t remember when I first learned about rape. I think it’s something most girls growing up are aware and fearful of. Weirdly, I almost believe I manifested it. I would always be afraid, in any ally alone, biking home from going out, making sure not to leave friends alone when clubbing. As a girl, I would spend a good part of my life, trying not to get raped. Now that it happened, it feels like I lost. Accepting this happened requires strength I’m not sure I have.