I was holding my school books in my hand and carrying my school bag over my shoulder. It had been a long day at school and I had a lot of homework. I also had to write an essay for the Literary Society. I was only in my first year of senior secondary school, but I was already accustomed to work and I was fast-becoming a workaholic.
I was the last person left in my classroom and I had been given instructions by the teacher to shut the doors very firmly before I left in case of rain. As I headed out of the class, I heard some noise coming from the opposite classroom. I noticed a couple of my friends- boys and girls- had remained in the class to catch up on homework and the latest gossip in school. I wanted to work alone in the dormitory, so I ignored their calls and I started the lonely walk to the dormitory.
Deafening thunder rolled as rain began to fall. I had two choices- walk as fast as I could to my dormitory at the risk of getting wet and ruining my notebooks or to return to the school block and try to do as much work as I could until the rain subsided. I hadn’t decided what to do when I saw him. He was in my year; I had only spoken to him maybe once or twice. We were not in the same social circle – he was not in any social circle. He made me uncomfortable with his gaze. He always had a fierce look in his eyes, like he was on a perpetual hunt. I instantly decided to return to the school block. The hostel was still afar off and the road was lonely.
The rain clouds continued to gather, darkening the sky. As I moved quickly towards the nearest classroom blocks, I could hear him behind me. He was breathing very heavily and I knew he was right behind me. I had just begun to run when he grabbed my arm.
He was smiling. I told him he was hurting me. I looked around but nobody was there. I should have screamed, I should have struggled harder but I was paralyzed. Physically and mentally, I was paralyzed. This was the beginning of stories I had read about in The Women’s Society journals and newsletters- it was something I empathized with. But at that point, it was about to be my reality. He wasn’t going to stop and I was defenseless.
He had a very strong grip. I begged him in whispers, in whimpers to let me go. I wouldn’t report anything if he would just let me go. He held me and pushed me into a small classroom. It was ther that I began to scream. The rain put a lid on my screams. The sky was too dark for just 4pm. I could see the streets flooding. The classroom I had been bundled into was very far away from where my friends were. I prayed and prayed that one of them would stray away from the class, hear my screams, and rescue me.
He pushed me onto the teacher’s table. It was a hard long mahogany table. I began to fight back. I kicked, I threw some of my notes at him and I screamed loud. Lord knows I screamed loudly. I will never forget that he touched me. He just put me on the table and started to touch me. Throughout this time, he never said a word. I closed my eyes, it was a nightmare. It was a bad dream and I would wake up in my dorm room and thank God that it was just a dream. But it wasn’t. I started shouting again. He used one of his palms to cover my mouth and struggled to use the other to unbutton my school uniform shirt. I could feel blood in my mouth; I must have cut myself when his hands clasped my mouth shut.
I used his moment of struggle to wrestle out of his grip; two or three of my buttons fell off with his hand. I jumped off the table, but not quickly enough. He held onto my waist and pulling me to the ground. A flash of lightning tore open the sky. He seemed to have gotten angrier.
I was worn out. If God wouldn’t rescue me, nothing I could do would be of any help. He was unbuckling his belt. I knew what was going to happen. How would I show my face in public? He raised up my skirt. I struggled and screamed again. The rain refused to hear me. The rain refused to stop falling, to give me a chance. He unzipped his trousers. I began to cry. This was about to be my reality. Even in security of my expensive boarding school where I tried to be a model student, I was about to be robbed. Where were the security guards? Even within the classroom block, there was no safe haven. He pinned me down, he didn’t have to. I was spent.
I heard footsteps, I screamed one more time. I saw the Vice Principal before I realized that the boy was no longer on top of me. He had been caught, he had been stopped. I remained on the floor and cried. I don’t know who took me to school clinic. I had passed out.
The Vice Principal visited me three times in the clinic. I was not allowed to go home until the school had finished their investigation. They didn’t realize that I was the one who had gone through a traumatic experience. The Vice Principal initially thought that I was having sex with the boy. She thought we were trying to use the cover of the rain to hide ourselves and I had screamed when I heard her coming so that I would put only the boy in trouble. Perhaps, the boy supported this theory as well. She said that girls were known to be ‘sexually crafty’. I couldn’t believe it.
Although many of my friends had visited me, I was stigmatized. They had imagined that both the boy and I had agreed to a sexual relationship. I was appalled. Very few people believed that I had nearly been raped. I argued that I had too much to lose by putting myself into that kind of situation.
The near-rape was judged my fault. Why had I tried to go to the hostel by myself when it was so dark? Why didn’t I stay with my friends? If I was uncomfortable with it, why didn’t I run? They forgot that the strength of an average sixteen year old boy is three times that of his female counterpart.
Nobody remembered that I was a straight A student or that I didn’t have any track record of relationships with boys. As long as I was the female, I must have tempted him with a tight shirt, or a short skirt or a seductive gesture. Even though the boy was later found guilty and expelled from the school, I could no longer remain there. The students didn’t want to relate with me, the male teachers looked at me like I was the mother of all succubae and the female teachers seemed to glance at me every time they brought up the subject of keeping one’s hymen intact.
I have started home schooling. I never want to be in a position to tell anyone about my past, I never want to come across other person who would judge me what isn’t my fault. Mentally, I wear my veil- dark and heavy. I know someday I will have to fight my demons, to come out and say my experience in order to save another young girl. But until that day, I wear my veil- dark and heavy.
Photo Credit: http://fungaineni.wordpress.com/
Nneoma Nwankwo, is 16 years old and was Head Girl in Atlantic Hall before graduating last June.