Have you ever used wet newspapers as a pad when you couldn’t afford pads? Have you ever been sexually assaulted by your own father? Have you ever had to walk over ten miles to get to school while heavy with a child you conceived through rape?
I haven’t gone through these experiences either and I know most of the readers haven’t but I’ve had to sit through an interview session with various sexual abuse victims. I went as a camera assistant my work merely to make sure the mic was on, take a few pictures and to observe. It’s a miracle that I did not cry but I’ve figured that there is no more time to cry it’s now a time for action. All that I need is an admission, for someone even if it’s just one to speak up. For someone to know that it isn’t the victims that need to feel the shame.

My first memory of sexual abuse was from my step brother. We were playing hide and seek and he hid with me in a lower decker and tried to kiss me . I stayed stiff not knowing what to do. After that I never had interest in playing with him or any of his friends and I never told anyone because I didn’t know that it was a big deal. At a later age while staying at my grandmas place , a distant relative came to stay with us he was about 17 -19. There’s one incident I remember when he touched me in my cousins room. This is an image I kept in my head from as long as I can remember and I can’t think of my childhood without that picture haunting me. I see a small girl being touched by a very tall boy in a dark room saying words that I can’t recall. As an adult I’ve seen him twice, and he never greets me. I don’t know if he remembers but I’ve always wanted to confront him and beat him up for not knowing that I was so young that I’ve lived all my life thinking that maybe I led him on. That I was once thankful that he didn’t do anything else, but I’m not the only little cousin he had. Did he do more than that with another innocent soul? Sometimes when the assault is minor, we tend to discard it . I’m here to say it’s assault nonetheless. I’ve never discussed this with anyone other than the pages I tore out of my journal. I always felt horrible and disgusted with myself. I’ve been able to forgive these people but I have not entirely healed. My teacher once sent my friend to ask me if I had been raped while I was young because I never smiled and I was too shy at first I was offended but then I started to think what if? What if these two incidents of assault subconsciously affect me?

Anna(not real names) talked about being used by her father and how much she dreaded the holidays, she says her father was so tough and she was afraid of him. She got pregnant, and confided in her teacher who helped her and took her to an organization that helps girls that are victims of sexual abuse. I’ve grown up making myself believe that these things only happen to a certain group of people, people that live in faraway regions. Another girl, 13 years and 7 months pregnant, raped by her uncle. Another assaulted by a man she thought loved her and so many other stories. At the university, someone told me about a girl that got raped by her friend while she was drunk. There was a time when someone accused a certain boy of raping her , putting her claim on Twitter which encouraged so many other girls to speak up about their experiences with the same boy. This and other stories made me realize that while sexual abuse is a huge problem, the bigger problem is the fact that WE DON’T TALK ABOUT IT.

I know and understand that boys also face sexual abuse but I can not speak for them. I speak for girls because then I can speak from an informed point of view. An adult friend of mine once told me that there was a time when she was too broke to afford pads. This seems to be a constant problem for so many Ugandan girls but when you live in the city, some things seem alien. You know they happen but they are so distant it feels like they are in a different world from yours. If you are in a position to afford more pads than you can use, to speak up when you feel abused in anyway , to afford the luxury of driving back home and not having to deal with the hundreds of perveted men on the streets you should consider yourself privileged and then find ways to help other girls to benefit from your privilege.

It’s so easy to make a difference, the first and most important being to SPEAK UP. Speaking up encourages others to speak up. It also helps you realize that these things have no power over you. Next is VOLUNTEERING you can always volunteer with different organizations. This can be by teaching skills to these girls. Look up organizations near you and find ways to help. Another way is through DONATION you can either donate physical products such as pads, food and any other things. You can also make a cash donation. And if finding an organization seems like to much work then start with the girls in your community.

A good number of girls in Uganda and all over the world have to deal with sexual abuse as well as other inconveniences such as poverty, degradation, discrimination and so many others.

Dear girl (or boy) that is reading this if you have never experienced sexual assault I pray that you never do. If you have then I strongly advise that you find someone you trust to talk to , seek counseling or at least write it down until you are ready to talk to someone. Being sexually abused does not mean that something is wrong with you. It means that something is wrong with your abuser.

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