Before this week, I thought rape was some far-off concept, an event that only happened to the blonde girls in movies or women who walked alone at night. Never would I have guessed that it could happen to me and by someone I knew and trusted for years.
The back-story: I am an American woman living in Accra. I completed my master’s degree at the University of Ghana last year when I met Professor Kwame* through a mutual friend. After our initial introduction, Professor Kwame and I quickly became friends and colleagues. Though based in different departments, we would have lunch or dinner monthly to discuss life, academia, and campus gossip. I admired the fact that the professor-student hierarchy ubiquitous at Legon did not pervade our relationship; he treated me like an equal, not like a student. As our friendship grew, I began to edit articles Kwame submitted for publication while he offered me advice on how to complete my graduate research.
I completed my master’s program in August 2012 and returned to the US. Professor Kwame, on sabbatical from Legon, was also in the US and we maintained regular contact. This March, I decided to return to Ghana from the US. Upon my arrival to the country, Professor Kwame invited me to dinner at his house with his wife, in-laws, and family in Accra one Sunday afternoon. After meeting his family, I marveled at how two people of the opposite sex could have such a great friendship and professional relationship.
Soon after, Professor Kwame’s demands for my time increased. Instead of our normal monthly lunch, Kwame began to want more. He complained that I was not spending enough time with him and called constantly throughout the week to ascertain what free time I had available. I thought Kwame’s new behavior was strange but dismissed it as signs of a friend who truly missed my company.
Last week, Kwame and I planned to eat lunch on Saturday. Our schedules conflicted, so we rescheduled for Monday. Monday came, and I stood up Professor Kwame. Feeling bad, I suggested we go to dinner on Wednesday. I met Kwame on campus and we drove to our usual dinner spot. This evening, however, Kwame seemed distracted and in a hurry. We ordered our food and after waiting for a couple of minutes, he suggested that we get it as a take-a-way. I thought nothing of Kwame’s request; I assumed he needed to get home in a hurry. It was not until we were in the car heading to my house that Kwame suddenly decided that we should go see a movie in a movie house.
The scene of the crime: Hearing Kwame’s suggestion of the movie house, I felt a little uncomfortable. I had never been to one, but I remembered my Ghanaian friends telling me that people go to movie houses to have sex. “It’s just a movie, nothing will happen,” my mind insisted while my gut insisted otherwise. Upon entering the movie house, management ushered us to a room in the back of the complex, with a big TV on the wall, a couch on the back wall, and washroom in the corner. Kwame locked the door, and I realized it was a very intimate set-up for two friends but I thought I would be fine.
The movie started, and all was well. Kwame and I were both seated on the couch with a foot of space separating us as our eyes were glued to the TV. Twenty minutes into the movie, Kwame’s demeanor changed. He started talking and asking questions about the movie to divert my attention away from the screen to him. As I responded to his fourth question, Kwame replied, “It doesn’t matter. We will have to watch the movie another time”. Before I could ask, “Why,” Kwame’s arms suddenly enveloped me as he pulled my body close to his to kiss me.
“Stop it,” I yelled, as my pleas fell on deaf ears. Kwame was a man on a mission, a mission to enter my pussy with or without my permission. I struggled to stand up, and as soon as I was successful, Kwame pinned me down to the couch trying to push his torso in between my legs. I crossed my legs fervently and pleaded with Kwame that we were just friends.
Distracting him, I explained why I would not have sex with him. Fixated on my mouth, Kwame’s attention moved from my body to my words while I wrestled myself free and stood up. The distraction was over. Seeing me stand up, Kwame pinned me up against the wall and tried to kiss me again. I turned my face away from him as he planted unwanted kisses on my lips, face, and neck. I screamed and protested for him to stop, but he continued his journey south. Reaching inside my dress, he grabbed my right breast and proceeded to suck it. Though normally a man sucking my breasts is a turn-on, Kwame’s fondling disgusted me, and I realized that if I did not fight back harder, my pussy would be his.
Seizing the moment, I pushed against Kwame, releasing myself as I frantically looked for my purse. I found it and ran towards the door. Kwame blocked my path again and pinned me against the wall. Ignoring my protests to stop and let me go, he inserted his tongue into my ear, as if I were a willing participant who needed to be turned on before penetration. As if his forced kissing was not enough, he gyrated his hard-on down my legs so that I could feel the depth of his intentions. I pleaded with him again and again, and he finally let me go. I left the movie house and went home. Finally I was safe.
Though a week has passed, this fateful night keeps replaying over and over in mind. How could, Kwame, someone I trusted try to rape me? What did I do to deserve it? What could I have done differently? These are some of the questions that plague my conscious. Though I know that I am not at fault, some part of me thinks that I somehow brought this on myself. Maybe I’m too attractive or maybe my clothes are too tight insists my misogynist side.
I know that I did nothing wrong but the memory of the event depresses me. After confronting Kwame via email on Friday, he showed up at my house Saturday morning demanding to speak. We spoke, and he apologized but I was left with a sinking hole in my soul. I laid in the bed for two hours after his departure blaming myself, ridiculing my body, and crying out to my God.
I was frozen in my bed. I couldn’t move; I was hungry and thirsty but found no comfort in facing the world again. In the still of the morning, I knew that I could not let Kwame win by hiding in my room and hiding the story of the attack.
So here is my story, the rape that almost happened. I write today for my spirit, that my soul will be healed over time and I will one day be able to trust men again. I write for women and men who have been victims of sexual assault and are afraid to bring their assailants to the light. Finally, I write for women like me who think rape or attempted rape only happens to silly women.
Rape is a painful event that violates your body, your soul, and your mind. I am not a victim but a survivor, a storyteller, a daughter, a friend, and a lover. I pray that one day the thought of sex will lose its putrid taste, and I can willingly give my body to a lover again.
*I use a pseudonym.