My school friend lured me into a rape den

Pauline Juma. PHOTO | POOL

What you need to know:

  • At 16, a naïve Pauline Juma went to visit her pregnant friend, only for her to betray her trust.
  • Today, after a tumultuous past, she has picked up the pieces and set up a charity for women who face violence.

“At 25, I finally left my marital home in Kibera three years ago. I was a jumbled ball of emotions. I abandoned a life that was filled with violence and pain carefully crafted by my first husband. The kind of violence and pain you got easily sucked into and feel almost grateful for.

I grew up at a humble home in Kibera and appreciating what life offered was hammered into our heads. I dreamt of an education scholarship and opening a children's home.

In retrospect, as a 16-year-old, my naiveté was self-inflicted and should have been more fine-tuned owing to my growing up surrounded by scavengers my whole life.

While in form two, in a High School in Murang'a, my school friend and neighbour in Kibera got pregnant. She had to drop out so I visited her frequently during the holidays. The days went by fast enough and on opening day I went to hang around and bid her goodbye. I found that she had planned to visit her brother so I happily joined in. Her brother lived in Langata which by then was not as developed as it is now; a large mush of bushes, murram muddy pathways, and hidden mini-bungalows. We went musing, making silly stories, occasionally spewing sweet nothings.

On arrival, she got eerily quiet. It was odd, but I went ahead to knock. I was about to give a huge smile in greeting when I was violently pushed and the door swiftly locked. On turning, I looked at her brother; the man who I had gotten so accustomed to and even considered my brother had such an angry, evil look on his face. I called out his name but was met with a stone-cold stare. The only feeling I can vividly remember was blood-curdling fear.

"You're going to join my sister. Unajifanya wewe pekee yako ndio unaweza soma?"

Those words are etched into my being for eternity. I was dumbfounded. In a panic, I tried to run to the door but he grabbed me and landed a heavy slap on my face. I turned to the living room to make a second run for the back door when I saw four other men, waiting. They had knives and machetes. Cornered, I was defiled.

They then kicked me out amid threats to kill my mother if I ever told anybody what happened. I briskly walked home, took the longest, harshest shower of my life, wore my school uniform, and boarded a matatu to go back to school in Murang' a.

I stayed on my own brewing in the hate of men. My once cheerful, engaging psyche was nowhere to be seen and my learning took a hit. After a third failed suicide attempt I was finally suspended and switched schools, but the revulsion prevailed.

Once I cleared high school, I ran from home and had a come-we-stay relationship with a man I barely knew. Pregnant, I was thrown into the clutches of a toxic relationship. In the stew of our short standing love-fest and a five-month-old pregnancy, I told my boyfriend of the assault. Soon, little by little our home turned into a pit of torture with snide remarks maturing into hurtful words. On the six-month pregnancy mark, he came home one day, rained blows on me professing that he was going to kill the thing that was making me stay at his house. I crawled back home. My mother simply hugged me and whispered that I knew where home was. A week later showered by gifts and apologies, I was lured back. What was promised to be a one-time event, proved not?

On my sons' first birthday, push came to shove. I had faithfully taken daily beatings that year so we celebrated at my mother's house. From a drinking spree, my husband went home and found a bank slip I had hidden, discovering my secret savings. We came back home to a raging bull. He wanted the money retorting that we had been leeching off his hospitality, so we owed him. On the first punch, a switch went off, and as I got up from the floor, without thinking, took hold of a knife.

Miraculously, as I leaped forward charging at him, my baby boy cried out. All my anger immediately dissipated and my attention sprung to our son. Summoning all my strength, I picked my baby up and fled at 1am in the night. I had nothing to pack as my husband had soaked our belongings in water.

Fighting the tears, the sight of my husband shouting obscenities at us, and neighbours' leering eyes, I walked back to my mothers' house for the last time, pledging we would never go through such ever again.

I am beautiful and I am amazing became the mantras for my new life.

My charity, Eagles Modeling Foundation was born within the year. Although a Modeling Foundation by name, I set it off to provide a safe haven for victims suffering from fear of their abusers. We quickly became a close-knit family, each day growing bigger and tighter as we grew. It was with their encouragement that I revealed the story to my clueless mother. We learned to turn our scars into stars. At Eagles, every new day came with new possibilities, a fresh page to be written, and a new opportunity to live in spite of our pasts. After all, we are all chosen to overcome, to conquer, to build, and to connect. My life is now bliss.

This is not just a fairytale; this is my real-life story and that of millions of other people who have dealt with violence in their lives. My life was marked with transition and uncertainty—unpredictable, frightening moments that catapulted me in the direction I was meant to go. The experiences I have collected and the miles I have traveled might not have been where I initially set out to go as a bushy-tailed starry-eyed teen, but they transformed me into what God needed me to be, a beam of light to Kibera's dark corners.”