EVERYTIME 21-year-old Lisa closes her eyes, she sees her rapist forcing himself on her, tearing her clothes and telling her not to scream.
When she goes to work, she pretends to be happy. But Lisa cannot even focus on her work as she sees her attacker on a daily basis at work.
Lisa was raped by her boss at their workplace in a storeroom.
She did not tell anyone about the incident and neither did she report the matter to the police.
Her experience reflects the sad realities of many woman who are raped, have their dreams shattered and their cases go unreported.
In 2012, Harare alone recorded 824 women and girls who were raped.
Many victims said in interviews they did not want to talk about their ordeal, fearing rejection and humiliation by society, hence they let their perpetrators go free.
Lisa said she feared losing her job.
“I failed my ‘O’ Level and I could not continue to ‘A’ Level or supplement since my family could not afford. I decided to look for a job as a salesperson in one of the shops in downtown Harare,” she said.
“If I had better educational qualifications, maybe I could have reported my attacker.”
Rape victims are often denied help by their community and on the few occasions they do get help, it is usually never enough. They are overcome with doubt and are traumatised.
Women’s fear to report rape also stems from some of the myths society chooses to ascribe to this terrible ordeal.
Such myths include the belief that women actually bring it upon themselves through the way they dress.
Some say women lie about having been raped as a form of revenge against a man.
A victim may even be told that she is not a credible witness and that her story was not believable. All this contributes to self-doubt and aggravates her trauma.
Tariro (27), a maid in one of the low-density suburbs of Harare, is also a victim of a sexual attack.
She could not report the matter because she was afraid to prove herself since there were no witnesses when her employer raped her.
“I could not and still cannot report the crime since it is going to be hard to prove it. There were no witnesses, it was just me,” said Tariro with a resigned shrug of her shoulders.
Some would think that “ordinary” Lisa and Tariro did not report because they come from the lower rungs of Zimbabwean society without any education and as they eke out a living working in some shop in downtown Harare for some exploitative foreign owners and as a maid respectively.
But as the case of Stella James — an Indian law graduate — shows, the fear of the stigma associated with rape or people knowing you have been raped knows no colour, race or even social distinction based on education.
Stella recently blogged about how a retired esteemed Supreme Court judge assaulted her while she was his intern.
She dared not report the case when it happened and is only talking about it now, years later.
She says that the problem of rape is real and not uncommon among the judiciary and senior bar.
However, she is clueless about how it can be tackled.
Stella, who graduated from the National University of Judicial Sciences (NUJS) Kolkata this year, wrote about the alleged incident of physical sexual assault by an unnamed retired Supreme Court judge in late 2012.
This is according to her blog of the NUJS Journal of Indian Law and Society on November 5 2013.
“Concern about whether legal action would have any effect, he is a Supreme Judge if it’s going to be his word against my word, he has more credibility so to speak,” wrote Stella on her blog, adding that, “It is often one person word against another person’s word, and a lot of people tend not to take word of a young lawyer against a senior advocate who has made his reputation for 10-15 years, there is balance of power thing going on.”
Some women and girls do fear to report rape since they would be scared of losing their marriages and relationships which are promising, since very few man can understand and sympathise with their spouses when they get raped.
Instead, many a man would blame the woman to have caused it and in most cases, such woman are likely to be divorced.
“I was raped by a stranger in a bush while I was on my way home from the grinding mill. I told my husband about the rape and he battered me like a snake and he called on an emergency family meeting and he told my relatives that I was cheating on him and that I had confessed to him,” said Amai Tanya, a divorced woman who stays in Budiriro 2.
“I was embarrassed and divorced in front of my children and respected relatives, being accused of infidelity yet I was raped by a stranger. So I lost my marriage through disclosing
rape. I do not advice married woman to disclose rape since they are likely to lose their marriages.”
Not only woman and mature girls get raped. Young girls are at the risk of being raped by people they know or strangers.
Thirteen-year-old Gamuchirai from Kuwadzana suburb was attacked by a man who covered her mouth to stifle her screams.
The person who raped her was her uncle. He threatened to kill her if she was to tell anyone of what had happened, hence the case went unreported.
Director of Girl Child Network (GCN), Edinah Masanga, said talking about rape cases was not always easy.
But she said this was part of healing and victims should confide in the people they trust.
“At times, the victims are will be afraid to report the case because the perpetrator will be a family member, but it is important that you talk to someone you trust, who will listen and believe you,” Masanga said.
“It could be a teacher, friend, member of community, professional counsellor, religious leader or police officers.”
She added that GCN has been dealing with such cases and was assisting the victims with legal procedures.
“We offer counselling, police and court escorts and monitor the prosecution throughout until the conviction has been made,” Masanga said.
She emphasised the importance of reporting sexual attacks as one would require medical assistance immediately.
Masanga said victims, even those badly hurt, should not wash themselves and must keep the clothes as these would be used as evidence in court.