Virginia Wanjiru, has gone through sexual abuse, rejection, battering and abduction, all of which have inflicted deep scars that most people would not easily recover from. The mother and first born to three siblings spoke to Mwaura Muigana on how her family helped perpetuate her pain, their rejection and physical abuse at the hands of her husband. Virginia has learnt to pick up the pieces and make the best of her life.
“My life has been tough since childhood. I was only four when my mum fell sick. She had a delicate operation and was admitted in hospital for three months. My dad, a local butcher at our village at the time in King’eero, Kabete, asked one of his sisters to move in with us and care for me and my siblings.
I recall waking up one night with a startle and felt my auntie caressing my body. At that age, I didn’t understand what she was doing and out of fear I let her go on. I later came to understand that I was sexually molested. This went on for the next three months until mum was discharged from hospital and assumed her parental duties. I sustained serious injuries on my genitals from the things my aunt did to me. I became frightened when I started getting a vaginal discharge. It was difficult to tell my dad about my ordeal as I did not have an open relationship with him.
I would have told mum but wasn’t allowed to go and see her in hospital. And so I persevered while my wounds deteriorated to a point that I could not walk. It was then that I opened up to my grandmother hoping she might take me to hospital. But she neither reacted openly nor sought medical help for me. Finally, I vaguely told dad that aunt was doing bad things to me but he probably didn’t understand what I meant because he didn’t take any action.
A mother’s unwavering love
On mum’s first night at home from the hospital, I tried and completely failed to pass urine and opened up to her about the sexual abuse. Shocked, she examined me and took me to hospital the following morning. The doctors were baffled that at that age I was having a vaginal discharge.
Realising that I had been sexually abused, they interrogated mum assuming that dad had taken advantage of me. They put me on treatment and demanded that dad takes me for the next hospital appointment determined to have him arrested if he was the culprit. During the appointment the doctors quizzed me as dad waited outside. They later called him in and although I never got to know details of their conversation, he appeared unmoved. Then one day he dared us to report the matter to the police.
Mum saw me through the recovery period and for the next six years Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) became my second home. Throughout my teenage and adulthood, I constantly sought mum’s assurance that I would one day become a mother, considering the injuries I had sustained.
Shrouded by depression
As I grew up and fully grappled what my aunt did to me, I became miserable. Dad thought I lied about being sexually abused and was very suspicious of me dismissing me as a loose girl. I was traumatised and developed severe stress and eventually depression. For days, I would wander away from home and school unaware of my surroundings before coming back to my senses and returning home. My parents assumed I was reckless and their negative response towards me grew by the day. Depression completely took hold of my life.
During one such episode when I was in class seven, members of the Mungiki sect kidnapped me in Juja, near our new home. They locked me up in their well-guarded hideout and married me off to one of their own. Soon after one of their gang members raped me and in the circumstances, I couldn’t seek medical attention. This sexual violation inflicted a deep wound in my heart leaving me humiliated, feeling dirty and unworthy of living. I blamed the ordeal on my parents for their rejection and lack of parental love.
By a twist of fate, a fire started in the neighbourhood and the sect members ran out to help put it out. In their rush they left the gate open and I dashed out and pleaded with a woman who operated a kiosk close to the house to provide me refuge. Understandably, the Mungiki members were revered and she dared not risk the dire consequences for facilitating in my escape.
She also did not agree to contact the police but agreed to contact my family. I instructed her to get in touch with my grandmother since I mistrusted my parents. She urged me to quickly go back to the house lest she was found talking to me. She lived up to her promise as a week later policemen stormed the house, rescued me and arrested all the sect members.
No let up
I never got along well with my father who seized every opportunity to put me down. When I joined Kambaa Girls High in Githunguri in 2000, he accused me of practicing lesbianism. Other than what my aunt had done to me when I was a child, I had no idea what lesbianism was neither had I been practicing it. Frustrated, I confronted my mother one day demanding to know if indeed dad was my biological father. My life felt dismal and I drowned my sorrows in alcohol before attempting suicide by consuming poison. I almost died.
Soon after my forth form exams in 2003 at the age of 21, I met a young man whom I introduced to my family as a friend. Suspicious, dad humiliated me by stating in front of the young man that I was a bad example to my siblings and the earlier I was out of home the better. He trashed all the plans he claimed to have made for me to join college. To escape this corrosive family situation, I moved in with this young man into a one-roomed structure in Uthiru, Kabete.
We started off with nothing except the four walls that protected us from the cold at night, a stove and one sufuria. Luckily he got a job soon after and we moved to a better house. In December 2007, we visited his parents in Murang’a and I realised they were not ready to let go of their son. I learnt they had identified a girl for him in their neighbourhood and therefore did not accept me.
When we returned to Nairobi, our relationship was never the same. He started taking alcohol and often came home late into the night. I was already pregnant by then but that didn’t stop him from beating and neglecting me. So severe was the battering that neighbours often intervened. When it was too much they approached the local chief for intervention but I still stuck on hoping he would change. My mature married women friends encouraged me to persevere, telling me his behaviour was common with men and that he would eventually change but there was no change forthcoming.
An older woman who was the proprietor of his popular kumi kumi drinking den became his mistress. One day he invited me to his drinking den for a meal and I found him in the arms of his mistress. I literally ran back home crying and when he came home he beat and nearly strangled me to make sure I didn’t broach the subject. His drinking problem soon cost him his job.
With no income, he couldn’t afford rent or medical care for my difficult pregnancy, let alone food. He asked me to temporarily return to my parents’ home until he got another job. I declined, suspicious that he would move in with his mistress. Life became so difficult that eventually I agreed to live in his rural home hoping his parents would change their mind about me for the sake of the child I was carrying.
That was wishful thinking. I gave birth to our daughter Daisy in October 2008 and had to care for her all by myself. Daisy’s father got another job in Nairobi but left me to live upcountry with his parents. He resumed his drunkardness and neglected us totally.
East west, home is best
Fed up, I decided to return to my parents’ home when my daughter was eight months old. His parents were happy to see the last of us. At home my parents were shocked at my emaciated state. Mum literally confined me to the house and fed me until I put on some weight.
With the only Ksh 700 I had, I bought some biscuits and started hawking them to commuters in Nairobi’s Industrial area whenever there was a buildup of traffic. Before I fully settled on this job my husband approached my parents for reconciliation. They gave their nod and I moved back with him. To my horror, he had sold all the household items to finance his drinking and now lived in a mabatistructure.
Back into the frying pan
Apprehensive that our daughter might get sick and malnourished, I took her back to my mother while we hustled to eke a living. We picked her up when the situation improved.
My husband’s relationship with his mistress was still on going in spite of my protests. I don’t know why bad things always happened to me. I remember being abducted by three women in a car near Uthiru Shopping Centre one evening as I walked home. They grabbed and forced me into their car before injecting me with a drug. I lost consciousness and when I came to, I was lying in a valley in Kinoo near Uthiru. Nothing was stolen from me. A woman walking from a nearby market rescued me and alerted my husband who came to pick me up. Instead of seeking medical help for me, he took me home and returned to his drinking den.
A neighbour heard my cries and summoned help to take me to the police station where I recorded a statement before being taken to hospital. Although I got some medication, the effects of the injected drug persisted for a long time. I lived in a daze and my speech was slurred. It was after prolonged treatment and prayers that I recovered and was able to talk properly.
Now fully aware of the danger I lived in, my parents pleaded with me to leave this man and go back home, but I would hear none of it. My mother took our baby with her to compel me to go back home but I refused, still hoping my husband would change. Nothing really changed as the physical and psychological battering continued. One time, my husband carelessly and deliberately wounded me while having sexual intercourse. It was our maid who helped me to hospital.
This incident was an eye opener that he might one day kill me. I walked out of the marriage with my baby and moved back home with my parents. I have never looked back.
Picking the pieces
To fend for my baby, I started hawking biscuits in Nairobi’s industrial area until a confectionary firm – House of Manji – employed me as a sales promoter in supermarkets in Nairobi. With a more rewarding job, I let go of the bitterness against my husband and worked on regaining my self-confidence. I later moved on to my a sales job for a computer firm in Nairobi. I am picking up the pieces and my life has gradually changed for the better and I thank God.”