I was four years old and my sister Dorcas was two, when our home in South Sudan was destroyed in an air raid. We lost our everything. Our house, our purpose to live, even our country, because we had to flee to Kenya in search of safety.
In the refugee camp, we lived in a single-room house divided in two by a curtain. Life was tough, but my father, Sabit, was determined to provide for our family. For months, he would leave before dawn to search for jobs, but he couldn’t find any. By God’s grace, he found work as a laborer in the food distribution center, and did his best to make ends meet.
One day, he came home drunk. Nadia, my mother, asked what happened, and he said, “Those useless people have chased me away from their useless job. They think I’ll die, but I won’t. Let them keep their useless job.” I’d never seen my father drunk before. We were all surprised. My mother looked up at the sky, tears rolled down her checks. My sister and I looked at each other because we knew things were not going to be okay from that moment.
My mother gave my father some food and we went to bed. As days went by, I often heared my father talk to himself. He resented having to live in the camp and blamed my mother for our situation. He got lost in his feelings, and grew hopeless about our tough life in the refugee camp, and he became an alcoholic.
One night, my father came home drunk again. Loud banging on the door woke us up. Then a man shouting. I woke up frightened, thinking thieves were trying to break into our house. “Dorcas! Dorcas! Dorcas! wake up sister,” I said. Thieves are outside the house.” We then heard my father calling my mother’s name. We woke our mother. She opened the door and my dad entered.
My dad was very drunk. He had peed in his trousers and he was stinking. My sister closed her nose and my dad slapped her so hard she fell on the floor. When my mother confronted him, he beat her. My sister and I started crying and shouting, hoping the neighbors would hear us. My father was on top of my mother and started raping her. We couldn’t believe our eyes. To this day, that image is stuck in my memory. It keeps haunting me. The love I felt for my father vanished in seconds and was replaced with hatred. I saw my mum was in pain, crying for help, but I couldn’t help her. I ran outside and called our neighbor, Mr. Ben. He worked for IRC as a gender Based Violence community out-reach worker. He ran quickly and pushed my dad from my mum.
“How could do you do this to your wife! This is barbaric Sabit! I didn’t expect this from you!” he shouted at my father.
“She is my wife, and I can do whatever I want to her,” my father shouted back. “As a matter of fact, I am tired of this woman and her useless children. Get out of my house. All of you, get out of my house!” My mother was speechless; all she could do was cry. Mr. Ben took us to his house and we spent the night there. In the morning, his wife, Mama Joy, prepared breakfast for us. Our mother couldn’t drink or eat. We begged her but she refused.
Mr. Ben took us to the local aid organization where he used to work because he wanted my mum to get justice. We all went together. My mum’s body was full of bruises and she was in pain. Her face was swollen, especially her right eye. She couldn’t walk properly. We got on two ‘bodabodas’ and reached the office after ten minutes.
When we got there, Mr. Ben took us to a room filled with toys, where other children were playing. He told us to play there while he went with our mum to the office. I never knew what was going on in that room. We met other children there and played with them.
After about an hour, my mum returned with Mr. Ben and another officer. My mum’s face had changed. She looked relieved and maybe even a bit happy, at least she looked better than before. I was surprised to see a police car coming to pick us up from the office. I was afraid and hid behind my mum. She told me not to worry because everything was going to be okay. We entered the car and they took us back to our house.
We found my father sitting in front of the door with some community elders. When they saw the police car, they panicked and didn’t utter a word. They told my father to pack his clothes and leave the house. He went in the house and did as directed. I initially felt sorry for him, but then I remembered the barbaric act he committed against my mum, and what I felt vanished. The officers and the police officials talked to mum and left. We had our house back, and that was the last day I saw my father. We didn’t know where he’d gone to, and we never got in contact with him. Our family was split, but it was for the best. I couldn’t imagine living with the monster my father had become.
It was hard for us to live without a father because of the kind of environment we were living in. We were abandoned and neglected by the entire community. The children who we used to play with now refused to play with us. No one visited our house like they used to. The women who used to come to our house and chat with my mother didn’t come anymore. No one would even give us space to fetch water from the tap. We were always the last in line, and sometimes there wasn’t any water left by the time it was our turn, because water only came three times a week for two hours. Most of the time, we had to beg for water in neighboring communities.
It was even difficult for us at school, because our classmates mocked us every day. When we told our mother about it, she cried the whole night. She struggled to find work, but with the help of the aid organization, Mr. Ken found her a job as a cleaner in their office. As time went by, we got used to living with all of this, and we understood that what matters most is our own happiness. As long as we are happy in our house, that’s the only thing that matters.
27 June, 2023