I was young, innocent, and intelligent, but I lived in a crooked community. I witnessed theft and its consequences as my community gathered to subject the thief to “justice”. They have shown this same unity in beating a woman caught with another woman’s husband. The torture, name-calling, and violence left me reeling.
My mother took the time to tell me about the ways of life and the importance of education. She placed tools in our hands so that we could escape poverty and pursue our education. She taught me Christian values and also spoke about the dress code. Mother showed us what to wear and what not to wear, and I keenly implemented her advice.
My body began maturing and men had eyes on me even though I had not sought their attention. I was told that if I have contact with a man and my purity is taken, I will become pregnant. I was set on protecting my kingdom.
I cared for my sister’s son while she attended school, but before long, I was being stalked by a man much older than me. He asked me to kiss him and twisted my hand, but still, I refused. Before I knew it, he beat me severely and yelled that I should never refuse him. I walked away shaken and very scared, in tears the rest of the way home. In my mind, I wanted to get home to safety and to tell my beloved family what happened to me. But just because I was a few minutes late after curfew, I was subjected to another beating at home. As I received the beating, I was scolded that I have become disobedient and promiscuous, so I chose to be silent about what happened on my way home. Two unjust beatings in one night. After that night, the violence continued, and my stalker began to threaten my life. Now he would get away with whatever he wanted, and my brokenness deepened.
I was then sexually violated by another man. My mind is filled with the memory of his body against mine, the smell of his hands over my mouth, and the sound of his voice. I came home broken, never to be mended. Again, I wanted to tell my family but came home to a beating and scolding as they yelled at me, calling me a prostitute. A neighbor had told them that they saw me with boys from my school, but I was only friends with him.
One day I went to church for a mid-week service, and the pastor spoke on supporting the broken. This message struck my core. Is this not what the church was meant for? It was as if he was speaking to me. I summoned all the courage left in my tiny body to tell my pastor what I had been subjected to by my perpetrators. He asked me if I screamed or if I have told anyone since. I took a deep breath and simply said no. He firmly and loudly told me that I must have wanted it, pronouncing his judgment against me. He didn’t understand why I couldn’t scream or tell my family. He had no idea what used to happen on my way back from taking my sister’s child every night.
I went to church another Sunday and the sermon topic was about what I had shared with him in confidence. He called the prostitutes, drunkards, witches, and thieves forward for an altar call. That day, I believed that God had no love for me.
Your teachings will always be held and cherished by your children. The evolution of time may have changed views and cultures, but every child desires a relationship with her mother. Build a relationship with your child. Teach her that she has autonomy over her body until it is clear, and teach her to defend herself. You must believe your child over your community if you are to end the cycle of sexual violence. Establish that bond of trust with your child. Be the first to know what is happening in the life of your baby girl.
To the Church:
The Bible has taught us about love, mercy, and grace. The church is the body of Christ and not the judge of humanity. We all will be judged by God, but in no way is a pastor a judge. It is important to note that some perpetrators are within the church. Let us not empower them by victim shaming and blaming the survivor. Let us create a safe space for survivors and educate members on sexual violence prevention within the church. The church has a powerful platform to educate and empower all generations with knowledge about sexual violence. Allow survivors to witness God’s love. It is not the dress code of survivors that perpetuates violence, it’s the unstable minds of perpetrators who need to be held accountable.
To the Community:
Let’s stand in unity to provide justice for the innocent. If we could rally to hold thieves accountable in my community, we can do so towards perpetrators of sexual abuse. Let’s gather together and fight. Let’s raise our voices together and light a fire that will bring change. Let us all hold hands with survivors as a community of advocates and roar. Let us end sexual violence by changing the societal norms that protect the perpetrator instead of the survivor. Let us create a preventive environment, refusing to judge survivors. Let us be intentional in sharing skills that protect girls from sexual violence. Let us create opportunities that protect children by empowering them with education.
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Magdalene Chikanya became a Freely in Hope fellow in 2016. Growing up in Lusaka, Zambia, she was surrounded with a lack of opportunities to pursue her dreams. As a survivor of sexual violence, Magdalene fought to pursue her studies against all odds. In 2020, she was hired as our Program Coordinator to support the development, strategy, and growth of all of our programs in Zambia.