Sexually Abused At 10 – Marylize’s Story of Healing By Doing Good — LOVINE MBOYA
The year is 2000, a warm Sunday afternoon. After the church service, TEN YEAR OLD Marylize walks home, serves herself lunch, changes into comfortable shorts before sitting down to watch a movie. The rest of the family is out, Sundays being the ideal day to catch up with friends. Just a few minutes after settling down, there’s a knock at the door. It’s her uncle. Marylize lets him in and being the gracious little host, hands him the TV remote control.
‘Can I have a glass of water please?’ he says.
Marylize walks to the kitchen to get him the water. He follows her.
‘I don’t think much of it then. Maybe he just wants to get the water himself.’
But, doubts set in when he suddenly starts touching her.
‘It doesn’t feel right. I don’t like it. So I walk back to the sitting room’
Her uncle follows her back to the sitting room, forgetting the water he’d requested for in the kitchen.
‘I tell myself maybe that has just been a bad moment, and we can continue watching TV as before. I am wrong.’
Her uncle walks straight to where she is sitting, grabs her hands and forcefully pins them behind her head.
‘Then he says I look so sexy today. I have heard that word on TV before, and I know it’s not something uncles tell their nieces. I had never even heard my mum and dad tell that to each other.’
The worst part sets in. He undresses her, and she tries to fight him off. But how much war can a ten-year old girl wage against a grown man? He forces himself onto her.
Pain. Anger. More pain. More struggle. Nothing gives. He doesn’t stop. Until he is done.
‘Then he zips up and leaves. He doesn’t look at me. Never says anything.’
Marylize is left laying on the couch, suddenly numb.
‘It is like my brain just shuts down. I am not even angry anymore. I am just a bloody body on the couch.’
A few minutes pass, and she can feel herself again.
‘The first emotion I register at this point is fear. I am scared of someone finding me there like that, especially my big brother seeing what had happened. I suddenly want to protect myself. From what? I don’t know. At that age I don’t know if what has happened is shameful or not, I just know I don’t want anyone to see it.’
‘I rush to the shower, and under the downpour I stand for a long time trying to clean myself. When I am not scrubbing my body, I’m just standing there, angry, my tears getting washed down by the falling water.’
When she finally walks out of the shower, she finds her mom already back home.
‘My mom asks me why I am showering at that time, and I just break down into tears. I feel I have seen my savior, my mother. I don’t know how to tell her what happened, and I don’t tell her for a very long time. Later on in the day when I finally do, she says is so sorry. And calls my dad to let him know what had happened.
In those days Marylize’s father worked away from home, and would only come during the weekends. But on this day, after he received the news, he came home immediately.
‘The first thing he asked me was WHAT I HAD BEEN WEARING before the incident.’
She was stunned.
‘I was in my shorts! Which is what I’ve always put on when I’m the house. No one has ever said anything about them. Why did it suddenly matter?’
Her father however, was quick to point out where the ‘problem’ was.
‘I have always told you people to dress better. I have always told your mother. Now see, ‘he said.
‘What he was telling me, was that it was all my fault. Me, his daughter, had made my uncle rape me. I had called out to the perpetrator, and permitted him because of the shorts I have worn in the house for years. Me, his daughter, had to be raped eventually. With that kind of dressing inside the house? Yes.’
That was it. The die had been cast. The case had been presented and judged. The victim was the guilty party. She was wrong. She could have prevented the rape by dressing more decently. It would have never happened. The verdict had been passed.
‘That was my father introducing me to the world, telling me this is how it works! That was my father, justifying his daughter’s rape. My own dad, flesh and blood, saying there’s nothing I, the victim can do, that I CAUSED IT.’
Without her father’s support, her mother could not make any independent drastic decisions.
‘I guess that is how it was back then. I feel my mother failed me.’
In that moment, something in her was born. The need to protect herself, knowing she was all she had.
‘I was bitter and angry for a while, but that was soon replaced by something more profound. The need to turn my pain into strength. Instead of my scars being a reminder of the incident, I decided to let them be a reminder that I need to make the situation better for someone else. To be a shoulder one can lean on, a source of strength. Everything I wanted but never had.’
Later on in life, as Marylize became more aware of the vast range of issues girls and women worldwide face but stay silent about, she vowed to dedicate her life to enlightening and empowering these women, with special focus on the young ones, who she was afraid might happen to go through her experience, and fail to know what to do.
‘Children are voiceless. If the parent says don’t, they don’t. If the parent says do, they do. They wouldn’t dare approach another adult and say, ‘my dad said this, or my mom made this choice for me, do you think it is okay?’ This lack of mental independence puts them at a risk.’
Marylize has been part of End FGM Campaign, that seeks to end female genital mutilation practiced in particular communities in Kenya, also Women to Kilimanjaro Campaign that aimed at educating and empowering women on land ownership issues.
Marylize is also a mentor for She For She, a campaign under the national umbrella body Peace Ambassadors Kenya, among a number of other projects.
‘In March this year I will be launching a programme called Through Mentorship. I intend to use mentorship to impart knowledge and empower young women on matters surrounding rape, gender based violence, FGM, sexual reproductive health and education. I want to do unto others what I wished was done for me growing up.’
Marylize describes herself as an activist first, and feminist, having made the choice even before she knew the words that described what she desires.
‘I am doing this for the rest of my life. I am willing and ready to be part of the solution.’