‘Robbed of innocence by biological father’

Maxwell warned her against disclosing what had happened to anyone. File Pic

NOT only was her innocence robbed, Grace* was also forced into early motherhood by her biological father at the age of 15.

Grace’s father, Maxwell, is however, not showing any remorse for his actions.

While narrating her ordeal to journalists who attended a meeting organized by the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists and partners recently, it was evident that she struggles to understand why this happened to her.

Grace said on the fateful day, she was left with her father and siblings by her mother who had travelled.

“As we were having supper in our small kitchen, my father passed his phone with a written message that I should see him in his bedroom after we had finished cleaning up for the night,” she said in between tears.

“When I went into the room he asked me to sit close to him; I panicked as I had never been as close as he was asking me to be.

“He asked if I was still a virgin and if I had a boyfriend. I told him I was a virgin and never had a boyfriend.

“My father's words had taken me by surprise; I didn't expect that from a father.”

What happened next was terrifying as he told her he was going to confirm if she was still a virgin.

He switched on the radio and turned up the volume before forcing himself on Grace.

After some minutes, he got up leaving Grace on the bed to bring a bucket of water and towel for her to clean up.

Maxwell warned her against disclosing what had happened to anyone.

That was the longest night in Grace’s life as she could not help but cry, she said.

Grace’s sisters were worried and kept asking her why she was crying, but could not bring herself to open up about the sexual abuse.

“I decided to go to my paternal grandmother to tell her what had happened, but when I got there all I could do was tell her that my father had asked me some worrying questions. She promised to talk to him,” she said.

“When my mother came back, I could not tell her the truth, I just told her that he had asked if I was still a virgin.

“She was not convinced but there was no way she could ask him even though she could see clearly that something else was bothering me.”

After her ordeal, Grace was sent to her father's sister who lives two provinces away as she was told that they had found a donor to pay for her fees there.

The stay was short-lived as she was told to return after two months.

Upon her return, her mother noticed a big change in her.

“Her breasts had become way bigger than they were and generally she was always sleeping from time to time while she never removed her jersey,” the mother  said.

“I asked her if she had been intimate, but she refused. After further questioning that’s when she disclosed what had happened the night her father had asked her if she was still a virgin.”

“I saw my world crumble right in front of me.

“How could a father do that to his own daughter? I thought of pretending that all was well as I waited for my mother to come with the police but that was very difficult to do."

“What I don't understand up to today is the way things happened at the courts.”

The mother said the case was never heard in court.

“We were told to go back home and live in harmony. My husband had been taken to the back of the court and came back without handcuffs; a free man,” she said.

The mother said realising that he had bribed his way out and that they would never get justice for her daughter was even more painful.

Efforts to get her husband to pay for his misgivings were futile and the environment at their house was getting tense by the day.

“I decided to move out with my children and returned to my mother's place,” the mother said.

The mother recalled how history was repeating itself as both she and her mother are child brides, although their circumstances are different.

Grace is stuck at her maternal grandmother's place with her child, a painful reminder of what happened to her on the fateful day.

She hopes to return to school so that one day she can lessen the burden of caring for her and her child as well as her younger siblings from her mother's shoulders.

As for her father, he keeps making threatening calls, promising to kill her mother for exposing him and leaving their matrimonial home.

Eunice Kapandura, a culture activist and mental wellness consultant, said incest has never been a Zimbabwean ritual but a shame.

“It has lifetime psychological damage to the girl, her family, her community and her future. Allow me to call this man a pervert masquerading as a traditionalist father,” she said.

“Only the aunts and grandmothers were custodians of virginity testing.”

‘This ritual was banned many years ago as we all agreed it was a violation of human rights and it did not add value to the community.

“This man is a rapist who took advantage of his powerful position to convince a minor to be quite after raping her, I hope justice will be served.”

According to the United Nations Population Fund, 20 000 underage girls in developing countries give birth daily.

This amounts to 7,3 million births a year. And if all pregnancies are included, not just births, the number of adolescent pregnancies are much higher.

*Not her real name.

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