By Patience Loum,
There are events that change your life upside down, this is Sira’s life-changing story which left her traumatized and completely broken. The real names of the people in this story has been changed to protect their identity.
Despite the gruesome incident that happened to her, Sira fought through it all and began a new chapter in her life. She was only 24 years old when she was raped and abused by her own Doctor. Her ordeal would bring anyone to tears.
Born in rural Gambia Sira explains how she struggled from an early age after her mum sent her to live with her relative in urban Gambia. A few years later, one of her relatives passed away forcing her return to rural Gambia with some of her relatives. In the few years that followed, she started her primary school education however she faced difficulties levelling up to junior high and here’s why;
An Illness Leading to a Disaster
Sira had terrible period pains growing up. So terrible that it would attack her in school and at home. At one point, everyone thought she had demons which prompted her family to take her to a local marabout to check her situation; she never had any of that she recounted, this was all the severity of her condition; It was all period cramps.
In November 2018, following years of suffering from Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), she visited a local herbalist as recommended by one of her relatives. After drinking the concoction that the herbalist gave her, she started having severe pains in her vaginal area. A few days after using the medication, her vulva started swelling causing her endless pains.
A few weeks following that painful experience, her sibling got admitted to the hospital. This forced her to take turns with another relative, spending time with her sibling at the hospital. During this period, Sira got acquainted with Binta whom she later learned was a family relative. Sira recounted that through various encounters, a bond was created. During one of their conversations, Binta asked Sira what was disturbing her because she could tell that she was suffering from something. Sira confided in Binta about her ordeals with the herbalist and Binta recommend that she visits a gynaecologist instead.
From One Thing to Another (What Really Happened)
That same year, Sira had to attend a one-week training organised by a reputable Institution but her guardian refused. So, she asked Binta to call the guardian and let her know that she was gonna spend some time with her as she was to take her to the hospital. Her guardian agreed and Sira used this opportunity to attend the training and from there, headed over to Binta’s house in Lamin.
The following day, Binta gave her a doctor’s telephone number and asked her to visit ‘Njabort’ clinic in Westfield.
“When I reached the clinic, I called the doctor but he said he was busy in the library as he was undergoing exams. So he directed me to a midwife at the time. She welcomed me into her examining room and started examining me.”
Sira said the test that the nurse tried doing on her did not work because she was “a virgin” at the time. She said the nurse called the doctor and he gave her an appointment for the following week.
“The following week when I went to see the doctor again, the same thing happened; he told me he was studying and referred me to another clinic but this time around to a different doctor.”
“But when I went to the clinic, the queue at the clinic was so long and I could not stand it. So I notified the first doctor who called the doctor he referred me to. After the call, the doctor came out and called out my name,” she recounted.
She said in the doctor’s office, he started asking her about her medical history which she recounted. He asked her to undress and lie down so he can examine what truly was the issue, she said she did as she was done but when the doctor saw that she had a menstrual pad on, he got irritated and asked her why she didn’t let him he know she was on her period.
“He asked me when I normally stop bleeding and I told him. From there he gave me an appointment for the following week when I will be done with my period.”
“Because I didn’t want to go through the same challenge of waiting in the queue, I asked him to give me his number. He started making weird statements like ‘hope you won’t be afraid of my wife’, and very weird questions. I told him that that was not the intention and we shared contact details.”
The following week, she showed up for her appointment as indicated on her medical ticket. Also, this time around the doctor wanted to use the same procedure that the midwife used (inserting a speculum in her vagina) but she cried out in pain and he got irritated again and “started asking me very weird and personal questions,” but when she replied that she was a virgin, he made a statement.
“You decide, which do you want to save, your illness or your virginity?”
But Sira’s cultural background compelled her to preserve her virginity. In response to the Doctor’s question she said no, she won’t go ahead with the examination. He got furious and told her he was going to tell the first Doctor that the patient was not cooperating and she said yes, she was fine with that.
“But he later calmed down and wrote some medical prescriptions for me to buy at any pharmacy. I couldn’t find any of the medications he prescribed anywhere,” she added.
But that same night Sira said she had a call from the doctor which she found very awkward.
“He said he called to ask if I got my medications.”
Days following that, he would call and message me sometimes at very odd hours. My cousin reminded me that it’s very awkward for a doctor to call his patient, especially after hours.
“I could remember on this particular day he called; I was with my sibling. I put the call on a loudspeaker and as he was speaking, he mentioned he liked me and wanted to be with me. I was so stunned that I had to abruptly cut the call. From that day, I stopped communicating with him.”
A Bitter Journey (The Incident)
Sira was packed and ready to return to rural Gambia when she received another call from the Doctor. Her cousin told her to not pick, and her instincts agreed. What she couldn’t fathom though was why, of all the other days, he decided to call her now. Curiosity got the better of her and she picked.
“When I picked up he asked where I was and I told him that I was packed and ready to leave for home. He said he had my medications and that I can go collect it before leaving. I paused. I am very uncomfortable around this doctor but then again… He has my medications.”
“I was excited yet nervous. And he could sense my hesitation. He said manipulatively that if I don’t want it I can forget it and then hung up.”
“I didn’t know it was manipulation then. Although something in me was telling me no, I got excited. I finally managed to get medication for my years-long illness, how exciting! I picked my belongings and hurriedly headed towards Banjul.”
Sira called the doctor back and told him she was going to pick it up. He directed her to the same clinic they met. But when she reached there, the clinic was locked and there was no one in sight.
She said she called him but he said he forgot to tell her that he was actually in his call room.
A call room? What’s that she wondered? But he gave her directions. And ordered her not to knock when she reached, the door was already opened he said.
Sira said upon reaching the room one could tell this is a doctor. He was seated at his desk working on a series of files. She said she could observe some files on the table but couldn’t tell if they were for her.
“After a few wait, he asked to undress and lie down. He came towards me and inserted his finger in my vagina and said, “you are sealed.” I didn’t know what that meant and on top of that, I was feeling very weak and seemingly out of senses.”
“He came up to me and forcefully tried penetrating me. I was crying and in absolute pain. He got up and made some noises to distract my screams. But even with that, I couldn’t get up and shout for help.”
“I was helpless, I was weak, and I felt like a fool, I wasn’t myself. It was as if he did something to me. I don’t know. All of these thoughts were ringing in my head when he came back and this time around held my mouth and forced himself in me with all his might.”
“Pain. Was that only pain? I cannot even tell you what I was going through. I felt like I was going to die. What’s happening?”
She said when he was done, he asked her to get up and wash herself. But she couldn’t get up. Her whole body was in absolute pain. She was shivering and sweating. Her back and thighs were hurting so bad she was close to collapsing.
“I could see patches of blood on me but on top of all the pain, I was confused. What just happened? The doctor became very scared and pleaded with me to try and get up and wash myself. After what took like forever, I got up and carried myself to the restroom.”
But the Doctor said if she didn’t leave right away “I will get him arrested, I don’t know what he meant by that. I was confused, I was angry, not at the doctor, but at myself”.
“I should have done better. I disappointed my family but more so my culture. I have created shame for myself and my family. What am I going to tell my family?”
Police Report and Intervention
A few weeks following the incident, one of her relatives back home started noticing something was off about her. After confronting her and giving her reassurances to spill the beans, Sira opened up about her ordeal with the doctor.
“My relative got furious and decided to report him to the Police Station. The case was taken to the Serious Crime Unit at the police headquarters in Banjul and the doctor was asked to report to the station” she said.
When the hesitant Doctor finally decided to show up he came with the first Doctor. “He however denied knowing me. After a series of interventions by the police, he agreed that he knew me.”
Following the intervention, Sira, accompanied by some CIDs and other witnesses, was taken for a Sexual Assault Nurse Examination (SANE). It was later confirmed that a form of penetration was made and in fact…
She was pregnant.
“I couldn’t hold back my tears. I felt like the world was falling down on me. I was angry at myself and I wanted to end my life,” she said.
“After a series of dialogues with my family, the perpetrator and his family, an agreement was made that he would take care of me and the pregnancy. He was in remand for four days and later bailed.”
In the months that followed, Sira said her perpetrator would call endlessly to beg her to bring down the case and that if she doesn’t, he might lose his license and be jailed. All this time, she said the only time she remembered him providing for her was when he brought one crate of eggs, a bunch of bananas and one apple together with his friend, not the doctor.
All this time, her family and the perpetrator’s family were communicating in a series of dialogues regarding the pregnancy and what needs to be done.
“At some point, my family wanted my perpetrator to marry me because he deflowered me,” all this while not considering what I want or if my life matters at all. I was traumatized and suicidal but no one made mention of me just the pregnancy and what needs to be done.”
She said the perpetrator and his friend were very nice to the family but when it comes to her, he was a different person.
“He called me one day that wherever I might go in the world if he wants to have sex with me, he will and nothing will come out of it. It’s his word against mine.”
“I became very scared. One day he called to tell me to change my statement and tell everyone that it was consensual. That same feeling of weakness came all over me again. That same feeling I had the day I was raped. Weak and out of my senses, I called out to my uncle and told him it was all a lie; it was a consensual act.”
“I called everyone I knew, the ones that needed to know and the ones I never had any business with, I went to the police and changed my statement. Yes, I did!”
Pregnant and Abandoned
“My family left me. My cousins and my aunts, and everyone that was on my side turned against me. I was alone and desolate.”
Sira said following the statement she gave, things started to take a new turn; a dark one. At this point, I didn’t think I was worthy to live. This was the darkest period of my life, or at least I thought it was”…
A New Rebirth, Until…
“I kept having minor cramps which became more and more unbearable. I packed and headed for the hospital. My relative warned me to go to the nearest health centre but I insisted that I rather go to Banjul because that’s where I did my antenatal visits; this was the same department my perpetrator worked at. Turned out I was in labour. But I had a premature labour.”
“I was the in the hospital for two weeks. It was hell. But after the challenges, I finally gave birth to a bouncing baby boy. I didn’t know it was a boy at first. My mum was there and she mockingly told me I had a girl and we even decided on the name to be given to the child. All this time, I did not see my child. I asked my mum and she said he was fine.”
“Three days later… The nurses told me, my child, had passed away… I was speechless, confused, I was devastated. I never saw my baby, I never knew who he was or what he looked like.”
When asked if she saw the body she explained that the child’s remains were never given to her and she never saw the body. This means that there is a possibility that the child may not have died after she gave birth.
“Three years later, I am still in darkness. My statement at the police was the last time I heard from my perpetrator or his family. I’ve been abandoned by everyone. Sometimes I wish to end my life. I keep asking myself, what’s my purpose in life?”