When life is different to the way you expect it to be
She kept her eyes down, avoiding contact as she entered into my office. When she sat down, she did not settle into a comfortable position in the wingback chair. Hands closed, feet together, the young, slim woman waited for me to speak. She softly answered the questions on name, age and phone number. I put my pen down and asked the question she possibly never wanted to hear – “Why are you here?How can I help you?” She trembled lightly and held her still closed hands silently in my direction. Slowly she opened her fingers, one by one.
In the palm of her hand she had written the letters HIV in ballpoint-pen. As slowly as she had opened her hand, the opposite slamming shut of her hand into a clenched fist gave an idea of her deep distress. Only then she met my eyes. “I don’t want anyone to know! Please do not write it on my card!” With this, the eyes, wide with terror, filled with tears. She sobbed and wailed. “What is going to happen? I have two daughters who are still small. My mother is old and ill and will not be able to support us when I have to stop working.” Her small frame rocked back and forth. The pile of well-used tissues was growing in my wastepaper basket. When the initial outpouring had eased, she told me that she had been home one day when she answered a knock on her front door. A man, posing as a public servant, asked to enter to check the electricity supply to her home. He was dressed in a way which made her trust him and she allowed him to enter. Once inside, he pretended to look at all the electrical appliances, asking her to show him the way. In the bedroom, he turned on her and raped her. He left, threatening to do the same to her daughters if she went to the police.
She cowered in her house all day, terrified to do anything more than continuously washing herself. That night she decided to talk to her confidant, her sister, who accompanied her the next day for all the usual examinations and statements to the police. Because no traces of semen were present the next day, nobody was particularly interested in her story. She laid a charge of assault against the man, which to this day has never been investigated. She regularly sees this man walking the streets, threatening her to “Stop, or else”.