As we reflect on basics this Mental health awareness month, it is important to expose or name the basic issues causing mental health struggles currently. 1 in 5 womn have faced sexual assault on some level and are left carrying this trauma years after these incidents have occurred. Here is a story from our correspondent in Gulu on sexual assault and the toll it has had on her mental health years later.
My name is Akol Winnnie Ekwam. I am 30 years old, a single mother, a resident of Gulu city.
I would love to share my story, it was in mid 2018 when I was raped by a soldier that had returned back from Somalia during an outreach of HIV testing and counseling of LGBTIQ at a hotspot in one of the suburbs of Lira City, he had always known about my sexuality and he was alwas tracking me and sending threatening messages of being my partner and at times he sends his people to threaten me. As we where in for the outreach he took a chance when I went to ease myself and it happened when he was at the hotspot. He followed me to the urinary. He was wearing his army uniform and had a knife, he threatened to starb me if I had not given in to his demand. He forced me into sex with him.
It so happened that the natives of the area where around but none of them was ready to be in the gap for me as a witness, as a mother it was also so hard for me to seek for justice as I was feeling how hard it is for my children to hear as it would torment them for the rest of their lives absolutely it was a hard decision to take at that time but gratefully he was arrested but because of shame I couldn’t make it go further for matters of my own security, children and the entire family.
Since then I get flashbacks of this incident, I am afraid to do the work I am so passionate about in some spaces because I know even if I face harm no one in security agencies would be interested in helping me. To this day, I get night mares of this incident and have sadly resorted to ways mental health practitioners would frown upon to be able to sleep at night.
I don’t know if there will be a day this will stop being the first thing I think about when I wake up!