The healing journey - a rape survivor's story

July 21, 2015, 7:27am

The healing journey - a rape survivor's story

By Nomhle Kangootui

ABOUT 79% of rape cases in Namibia still go unreported each year, according to the police.
Women across the country continue to be victims of criminal activities such as rape which are often not reported to the police and one of these unreported cases is that of television personality and producer Anna Nicodemus. 
When Anna recently opened up about her ordeal on social media, she sparked a heated debate on whether talking about rape experiences in public helps victims heal or harms them further.
Anna however maintains that it is about time rape victims speak out rather than continue suffering in silence.
She says relatives and friends ask her why she talks about her traumatising experience publicly instead of seeing a psychologist about it but she tells them that sharing her ordeal in public is part of the healing process.
The Namibian sat down with the usually cheerful producer and her mood suddenly changed when she spoke about that fateful day.
She was just seven years old at the time but the emotional scars the experience left make Anna vividly recall the day of the beastly attack, the perpetrator, the smell, the pain, and even what she was wearing. 
“It was a cold Sunday evening. I was wearing my favourite blue dress with red flowers. My parents were attending a prayer session at church and the person I was left with was someone I innocently and blindly trusted ... but that evening, he destroyed my whole life. Earlier that evening as we were watching TV, we sat on the sofa under a big blanket that covered us. I was unfortunately the one sitting next to him. He started touching me,” a sad Anna narrated.
She says while he molested her, she just sat there paralysed by fear and not knowing what to say or to do. She added that later that evening he came to her bed and continued molesting before raping her.
“It was excruciatingly painful ... I am not sure what was happening. I wanted to cry but I didn't and don't know why I didn't cry. I guess I froze in shock. I was just lying there until he was done and had left the room,” she said, trying to keep her composure.
Anna says although she was only seven then, she knew instantly that what had happened was wrong and she told herself that it was her fault that it had happened. She did not say a word to anyone. The following morning she woke up early to go to school. 
“I went to school and was in pain the whole day. When I returned home, my mother noticed that I was walking with a limp and she asked what was wrong. I did not tell her anything at first ... I did not know what to say or how to say it, but she forced me to talk,” a tearful Anna recalled.
Her mother took her to an empty room where she asked her to undress and inspected her.
“She saw that I was bleeding and called my father and told him about what she had just discovered,” said Anna as she broke down but bravely tried to suppress her emotions.
After she regains her composure, she continues her narrative. After her mother told her father about the attack on their daughter, he left home in a huff because he was very angry. He only returned a week later.
“I was confused. I did not know what was going on. Dad left home for a week and mum did not say anything and the rapist continued living in the same house. Life went on,” she says sobbing.
Believing that she was to blame, she kept the ordeal to herself for years.
When she was in her mid-twenties and had given birth to her first child, Anna decided to face the demon wreaking havoc with emotions inside her. She went to see a psychologist and her healing process started, albeit slowly.
“It was not easy, but my psychologist assured me that I was not to blame for what had happened to me, and that I was innocent,” she started crying again. “I was just a child. No one supported me. I was all alone and confused.” 
When she turned 30, Anna decided to take a bolder approach and confronted her father for the first time about the issue.
“... He was in the room reading when I asked him about what had happened then. There was silence and we both cried. He later told me that if he had done something, he would have killed the man who had molested me. 
“He explained that he was a pastor at the time and as a man of God there was not much he could have done. He also said he prayed about the situation that is why he left home for a week because the pressure was too much for him,” she said.
Anna slowly started forgiving her parents, especially her father, for the ordeal she went through.
“I felt they did not love me enough and that they were pushing me away because I had been raped. The forgiving process for my parents started. I forgave them but it was not easy,” Anna says.
Rape is a very sensitive and complex matter. It is very difficult for victims to meet their attackers, and Anna says she cannot get herself to forgive her attacker yet although he sometimes visits her parents' house. 
“Maybe one day I will, but for now I am still angry with him. I know my journey towards healing includes forgiving him but not yet. He is married and has children and I cannot get myself to greet them or look at them. I cannot even play with his children. I know they didn't do anything to me but I just cannot approach them. That is the next step I am working on,” she says.
Anna has waived her anonymity and bravely spoken about her predicament. She says it was probably the most challenging thing she has ever done in her life.
“Most scary yes, but not as frightening as keeping this inside and be a bitter person. I am talking about this because I refuse to be controlled by this demon. I want to be a better mother to my daughter. This rape demon has taken so much from me and I refuse to allow it to take anymore from me,” Nicodemus concludes with confidence.

The Namibian