It was a scorching hot afternoon on a weekday, and our neighbours children came over to play with my brother and I. We’d all been friends far longer than I could remember because our parents worked together. This hot afternoon was like many others, we played several games with each other in our compound.
We raced each other, we skipped, we laughed. It was all fun and games until it was nap time. I went to one of our empty guest rooms to sleep; my brother kept playing with the neighbour’s children.
I don’t know how long I had been sleeping for before I felt something creeping up my legs. I thought I was dreaming about spiders invading my room. I tried brushing the “spider” away, but it kept coming back. Obviously, this interrupted my sleep, and I woke up to a very confusing scene. The neighbour’s son, who was a year older than me, was on the bed with me. He was by my legs; he had his hands on my feet, and he was staring at me. Almost like I’d caught him taking chicken from the pot. He said
“Don’t worry Zara, you can go back to sleep.”
For some weird reason, I didn’t feel comfortable trusting his words. We were friends, yet something felt odd about the situation.
I think my eyes starting closing again before I realised his hands were moving up from my feet to my calves. I remember opening my eyes wide when I felt his hands on my thighs. I remember screaming like someone being tortured. I remember my brother and the maid running into the room. My brother didn’t understand what was happening, but the maid started shouting as she pulled my friend off of my body.
I honestly can’t tell you what happened after that; it’s not something I can remember distinctively, but I remember there being a meeting between our parents. I remember hearing his cries over the wall separating our houses, as he was being punished by his parents. And I also remember that he and his sister never came to play in our house again.
As I got older and less sheltered from society’s issues, I realised what I narrowly missed. I don’t know why I felt like I couldn’t trust what a “friend” was telling me at that moment or what made me scream, but I didn’t trust him and I screamed. And I’m telling you a recount of how I escaped, something that can’t be said for so many girls and women around the world.
It breaks my heart that the percentage of women with my kind of experience is far outweighed by the percentage of those who can’t say that they too escaped. This is a blatant fact in the society we find ourselves in, where it is almost expected that every woman would have a similar experience as mine.
And because it pains me to be a part of the statistic, I think more should be done to stop there even being a statistic to refer to! Our children should be taught to protect themselves; they should be taught how to say NO, they should be taught about the importance of consent. We need to raise a generation that doesn’t just accept this kind of behaviour as standard or accepted. Because rape should be a standard. It should not be expected. And it should definitely not be the norm in any culture.