June* was 16 years old when her father came home one evening, ordered her into his room, and raped her.
Her siblings outside heard what was happening, including her 13-year-old sister, Patience.
Patience had also been raped by her father, and when June reported the abuse to a teacher at her school, it gave Patience the courage to share her story as well. Although their father threatened to kill them if they told anyone, the girls drew strength from each other to testify against him in court. International Justice Mission (IJM) supported them throughout the trial, and their father was sentenced to life in prison. Now, both young women have found strength through counselling, and have high hopes for their futures.
Flashback to the dark day
One evening June was doing her homework when her father arrived home and she noticed the smell of alcohol on his breath when he spoke. She felt something was not right, and she told him she needed to go to sleep because she had school in the morning.
“He was just looking at me and he told me ‘Come,’ let us go to the bedroom. I didn’t like it, but I had to do that because he was wearing that stern face. And I know him when he becomes angry. So I just went.”
He covered her mouth, and June remembers, “[he] told me not to scream or do anything stupid because he’s going to hit me or kill me…he had that strength.”
June has a favourite childhood memory: she and her family all together at a park where they rode on camels and took boat rides.
At school, June loved the music festivals, when she would sing or recite her favourite poems.
June’s little sister, Patience, loved studying English in school, and she dreamed of becoming a journalist one day.
“I liked the language,” Patience says. “And I also liked expressing myself, listening to people.”
As sisters, the two had their moments of rivalry, and also their moments of an alliance. They played hide-and-seek, and were each other’s partner-in-crime for such mischief as sneaking food from the kitchen into their room at night, only to get in trouble when their mother found the crumbs the next day.
While Patience was closer to her mother, June was very close to her father. He was always quick to supply her with everything she needed at school.
“He was that father that anyone could have wanted,” June remembers. She also remembers times when she was afraid of him. “When it came to you’ve done bad, you’re wrong, you will see the other side of him.”
Betrayed by Their Own Father
The night that June’s father took her into his room and warned her not to scream was not the first time that he had violated June’s trust, abusing his power to sexually assault her instead of caring for her and protecting her the way a father should. Meanwhile, Patience heard what was happening from the next room.
“I cried,” Patience recalls. “I even remember what had happened to me because the same thing that she went through, I also went through.”
Previously when her father had assaulted her, June confided in a trusted teacher. This time, the teacher got the deputy principal of the school involved, and they helped June report to the police.
Patience had been quiet when she thought the abuse was only happening to her, but the next day when June told her story to the police, it gave Patience the courage to share as well. There was a relief in not carrying this pain alone, being able to carry the weight together. As they shared their stories in detail, the police believed them.
“It was relieving because you’re not the only one knowing what’s happened. There are others, and they showed support,” said June.
The school officials also helped the girls to seek medical services, where they were connected to International Justice Mission.
Esther, an IJM social worker, provided psychological support and would accompany the girls to court to testify. Even so, the experience of facing their father in court was terrifying.
“Personally, I felt scared because at some point he was shouting at us,” Patience remembers. “We were like, ‘if this fails, he will hunt us and he’s going to kill us.’”
Although she was frightened by what could happen to them if he was acquitted, she and June continued to show up in court.
When asked the reason why they were able to do so, despite their fears and the constant threats from their father, Patience explains: “We were together. We used to encourage each other.”
The girls were at school when they received the call from Esther that their father had been convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
“As for me, I felt great. I felt relief. Patience, how did you feel?” June asks.
“It was a relief,” Patience agrees.
Through IJM, the girls received counselling services that helped them grow in confidence.
“I discovered that I have this courage I didn’t know before, which helped me to come up and stand up for myself,” June says. “These days I can stand up for myself… they helped us bring up the inner us.”
Patience says, “I learned that I’m a special person no matter what happened and that I’m not alone…I can speak for myself, I can express myself.”
Knowing the pain of being hurt by her parent, June imagines the kind of person she will be one day when she has children of her own:
“I just want to be a strong somebody who is known for her strength and courage. And also to stand up for my children…Give them the love that they deserve as my kids.”
Both June and Patience were able to finish school and work as a receptionist for a spa and at a telecommunications company, respectively. They don’t live very near to each other, but when they do meet they love reminiscing about their childhood and the good memories that they shared, together.