A Male Survivor Speaks Out: Faces of #Metoo 1.1
I grew up with him.
We went to the same church and volunteered in the children’s ministry together for many years. We worked at the march break and summer camps together; spending hours upon hours striving to teach, inspire, encourage, and uplift a variety of children from broken communities and dysfunctional families. When we spoke, it usually ended in one joke or another. But little did I know that we were both fighting similar monsters of trauma sprouting from sexual abuse.
When I received a message from him a few months ago that my eBook had inspired him to start speaking about his own survival story—it moved me.
I was shocked. I couldn't believe that he went through what he went through.
His story is far, far, more heinous than anything I have ever known. But my hope is that it will inspire you to think differently about the varying faces of #metoo. #Metoo as a movement has given a platform to marginalized voices who were often excluded from discussions of sexual violence or harassment. Started by African-American Tarana Burke in 2006, the movement gained large traction on social media in 2017, when American actress Alyssa Milano used the hashtag in a tweet. Since then, the movement has been widespread, criticized, and celebrated all in one swoop.
Interestingly, as I was writing this story, I was reminded of a Women’s and Gender Studies course that I took many years back during my undergrad. The class was discussing sexual violence in the form of rape, and out of a class of approximately 30 students—only one was male. This was ordinary within my Women’s Studies courses, but the conversation that erupted was anything but.
The sole male student publicly stated that he had been raped by a woman. The class broke into silence. A few female students openly chuckled. And one responded by sarcastically stating that she “just loved” this male student. The professor didn’t say one word to thank him for speaking his truth, and the conversation awkwardly dragged on. It was wrong. Even though I was uncomfortable, I said not a word.
Years later, that scene remains with me. Why didn't I speak up? Was it the shock in his confession? Was it the silence in the room? Was it the fear attached to being the only voice to speak out against this injustice? Or was it the societal belief that women really can’t rape men?
If a Women’s Studies ethos (culture) which was supposed to represent liberation for the marginalized and neglected voices of history did not welcome or acknowledge men as “legitimate” victims of sexual violence, what other culture would? We know that Gender-Based Violence is overrepresented by male on women violence; but this by no means discounts that men experience sexual and physical violence by both men and women.
Waciira Muya (pronounced “Wah-shira”) was an ordinary 7-year old child who went to a family friends’ house for a sleepover. It was a typical occurrence for the young 7-year old to stay at his parents’ friends' home from time to time while his own parents worked. Only, it wasn’t an ordinary night.
He considered them family. Many Africans are familiar with the cultural tradition of calling our parents friends “aunty” and “uncle” out of respect. This aunty and uncle had a son in his teen years who Waciira considered to be a “big brother” and mentor figure. It was a normal sleepover where they played Nintendo gaming and goofed around. But at night, it was a different story altogether.
“I remember seeing the time on the digital clock at 2:30am. I saw shadows moving in the room. But I just thought that someone was playing a prank on me.”
At that moment, things took a turn for the worse. Waciira’s “big brother” crawled into the bed where he was sleeping and raped him by anal penetration. He was told to keep quiet and that the rape “was good for him.” The next morning young Waciira was battling through a combination of stress and anxiety over what he had experienced during the prior night. While he had hoped to leave immediately upon his parents’ arrival the next morning, things didn't go as planned for him.
Unfortunately for him, his “parents' culture involved endless conversation” when they came to pick him up. He wanted to leave, but his parents told him to go play with his “big brother” while they chatted. He was forced to “play nice” with his abuser and come face to face with the person responsible for stealing his innocence—a person who had pretended that nothing sinister had happened between them that past night.
“It was tough.”
For Waciira, this abuser, “became the typical prototype of the authority figure who instructs his victims to “not tell,” while showering them with gifts and incentives to quiet them.” This childhood rape led to many developmental issues for him. “I was an angry child, and it affected the way that I related with people."
He never told his parents as a child; few children do.
Years later, he became a victim of sexual violence once again. Statistics demonstrate that many victims of child sexual abuse experience revictimization in adult years.
The second time, it was a familial dispute which ended with Waciira (18 at the time) being escorted outside of his home by a police cruiser to a downtown homeless shelter for the night. It was there that the horror began.
The ride to the shelter brought up thoughts of past traumas. The mixture of smells at the homeless shelter reminded him of a mission trip that we took with our prior church’s children’s ministry outreach workers to Los Angeles' infamous “Skid Row” (the largest homeless district in the U.S.). It was a harrowing experience for him both in L.A. and during that night.
One minute, Waciira was arguing with his sister over a laptop, the next minute, he found himself surrounded by homeless people in a downtown shelter—away from family and loved ones. He experienced anxiety as questions began to plague his mind: “Have I hit rock bottom?” At the same time, past traumas triggered him.
“It was the shock of my life.”
The intake worker had informed him that they would be doing bed checks throughout the night; flashlights were a common tool that workers used to shine light into shelter residents' faces. But Waciira experienced something altogether different during that night. A gang-rape. *Trigger warning*.
He had seen flashlights flickering in his room of 8 men, but did not think anything of it, and alluded it to the routine bedtime checks. Then the inevitable happened: someone had put their hand over his mouth. He froze as 3 men took turns raping him. He still remembers the smell of bad breath.
“All I could think was God better just take me now. It was so painful. They told me, “don’t even think to fight back.” I didn’t know whether to cry or not.” Waciira was, “traumatized, speechless, and discombobulated.”
When the three men finished gang-raping him, Waciira packed his bags in haste and left the shelter. “I just grabbed as many of my things that I could and fit it in one suitcase and left. One suitcase had a broken zipper, so I just left it there. It was winter and snowing, and I walked from the shelter all the way to my home which was several hours. I remember just walking and walking. Walking through slush—people probably thought I was a madman.”
The next morning, Waciira dutifully went to church and served in the children’s ministry. He remembers preparing snacks for the young toddlers. “I kept overfilling the cups with juice. My hands were shaking.”
Who could he confide in over such an ordeal?
It took tremendous courage for Waciira to turn his trauma into activism after relocating to Nairobi, Kenya. He now works as a counselling psychologist “who strives for the mental health of children and adolescents.” He takes a specific approach to help children living in Kenyan villages and slums—places often overlooked within our fight to eradicate sexual violence.
His work is incredible, and he has offered some profound tips and information for educators, parents, loved ones, and community leaders to assist children who have experienced abuse.
For more information, stay tuned for the sequel to Waciira’s touching story called, “For the Children: Faces of #Metoo.”
Thank you Waciira for inspiring me to continue “fighting the good fight.”
Thank you Waciira for helping other male survivors who were too ashamed or uncomfortable to speak about sexual traumas that they have lived through, receive hope to speak up and speak out.
I know that your story has not only impacted me, but will touch many lives and encourage others to speak truth to power in their own lives.
From one veteran to another, you wear your badges quite well.
More About Waciira:
Waciira Mahihu Muya is a passionate Counselling Psychologist who strives for the mental health of Children and adolescents. Waciira is a registered member of KCPA (Kenya Counselling Psychological Association ) and associate member KAMFT ( Kenya Association Marriage Family Therapy ). In addition to that he has a Diploma in Early Childhood Development Education, awaiting to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts Counselling Psychology and is currently a Candidate of the Master of Arts In Marriage and Family Therapy at Pan Africa Christian University specialization Track Child and Adolescent Therapy.
In addition, Waciira was re-elected as a Secretary General of PACUSA (Pan Africa Christian University Student Association); and successfully advocated for a University Counselling Psychologist to provide various Psychological and Mental Health services to University Kenyan Students and the community.
Waciira also serves as the Co-Founder of REPCN (Reframe Psychological Counselling Network) which strives to provide psychological services amongst adolescent teenagers and their families. The company has hosted various psycho-education seminars to various slums in Kenya and low-income households as well as various high schools and primary schools in Kenya.