Conceived by incestuous rape then abused by her uncles, young woman fights to break the cycle

Left in the custody of my grandmother, from the age of nine until 16, two of my uncles repeatedly raped me. My uncles would threathen to kill me if I reported their actions to anyone. My first sexual encounter drove sharp pain throughout my body. I cried so much.

  • 2 weeks ago
  • May 30, 2024
4 min read
A woman prays. | Photo courtesy of Diana Simumpande on Unplash A woman prays. | Photo courtesy of Diana Simumpande on Unplash
Woman in the shadows. Anonymous photo.
Orato World Media has granted the story subject anonymity for her protection. The journalist who conducted the interview confirmed her identity and the details of her account. The interview subject, fathered by incestual rape, was then sexually abused by her uncles for a decade. She eventually reported the crime, one uncle was arrested, and the other fled.
A 2023 report from UNICEF Zimbabwe said over a third of girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18 years in the country. A May 2024 article from the Daily Mail indicated that courts in the district of Binga in Zimbabwe are experiencing a heightened number of cases of incestuous rape particularly involving cousins. According to the nonprofit advocacy organization RAINN, incest is often underreported. Survivors can find support and group meetings at Survivors of Incest Anonymous.

HWANGE, Zimbabwe ꟷ Born 22 years ago in the remote village of Hwange in northwestern Zimbabwe, the story of my birth remains well known. My birth was marked by disappointment, shame and horror. Throughout my life, I fought unending battles to break the cycle of incestuous rape by which my mother conceived me. I am not only a product of rape, but also a survivor. My life has been incredibly difficult.  

My grandparents divorced when my mother turned 16 years old. To make a living, my grandmother left her three children in the village, two boys and a girl, and moved to the city in search of a job. That move became the beginning of the shameful story which marked me for years.

Read more stories on sexual assault and violence against women from around the globe at Orato World Media.

After being born of rape, my uncles spent a decade sexually abusing me

Without parental guidance and proper monitoring, my mother’s uncle raped her repeatedly. The abuse continued until she conceived a child. When the issue came out, my mother’s family protected the perpetrator, keeping it a secret. Since the village did not have strong evidence, the case went cold. At the age of 17, my mother gave birth to me, the product of her uncle’s evil deed. 

She dropped out of school to nurse me and after two years, lost her confidence to return. Soon, she started working as a housemaid. Faced with the challenge of single handedly raising me, she decided to marry. My mother’s partner, who had never been married before, promised to love and care for her on one condition: that she leave me behind. My mother agreed to leave me with my grandmother who had returned to the village after a decade in the city.

From the age of nine through 16, two of my uncles repeatedly raped me. They threatened me with death if I told anyone. My first sexual encounter drove sharp pain throughout my body and I cried endlessly. My uncle bought me some sweets and promised to give me money. The experience traumatized me, but he forced me into silence. 

Thereafter every sexual encounter came with threats. To make matters worse, my mother wanted nothing to do with me. She seldom visited me in the village and refused to see me in the city. My grandmother protected her sons, leaving me with no one to talk to. My presence reminded her of the traumatic past and without professional counseling, she simply forgot about me. Forsaken and neglected, my uncles raped me day and night for almost a decade.

Unable to bear the abuse, woman considers taking her life

At the age of 16, I attempted suicide and got a referral to an adult rape clinic. There, I finally I opened up about the abuse during a counseling session. I also fell ill and soon showed early signs of pregnancy. My world tuned on its head as history repeated itself. With counseling and support, I became brave enough to file a police report. While society denied my mother the right to be heard, I forged forward.

When we appeared before the courts, they granted me permission to terminate the pregnancy. The police arrested one of my uncles but the other one escaped. No one has seen him since. Day and night, I work hard to leave behind the life I lived for the better part of my childhood. That life caused me to hate myself. Though not easy, I feel like I am winning now. I still feel a sense of hopelessness, but went through intense trauma and psychological counseling. Some days hope springs forward, and other days, I see no sunshine at all. Through it all, I know I must keep telling my story, not just for me but for others. Opening up like this feels like a positive outcome and gives me some form of relief.

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